The Council of Bars and Law Societies of Europe (CCBE), represents the bars and law societies of 45 countries, and through them more than 1 million European lawyers. The CCBE places great emphasis on respect for human rights and the rule of law and is particularly concerned by the situation of human rights defenders in the world. The CCBE takes initiatives in support of lawyers under threat worldwide.
Lawyers play an essential role amongst professions as actors in the system of justice and so by their contribution to protecting the rule of law, ensuring access to justice for fellow citizens, and protecting fundamental rights and freedoms. For the same reason, the legal profession can come under considerable pressure from the executive and legislative powers, as well as sometimes the judiciary, and non-State actors.
Therefore, when a lawyer is a victim of human rights violations, the CCBE alerts the relevant national authorities and their embassies in Brussels. All CCBE letters of support to endangered lawyers are available in the CCBE Human Rights portal “Defence of the defenders”: https://www.ccbe.eu/documents/defence-of-the-defenders/
In some cases, the CCBE joins additional initiatives, in cooperation with other Bars, national and international lawyers organisations as well as human rights NGOs working. These other initiatives can be consulted on the CCBE Human Rights portal under “other intitaives”: https://www.ccbe.eu/actions/human-rights-portal/
The CCBE also regularly relays these information to key actors at the European Union, the Council of Europe and United Nations.
Furthermore, all the letters sent by the CCBE and joint initiatives in support of endangered lawyers are regularly published on its social medias (Twitter, Facebook and Linkedin).
Since June 2020, the CCBE sent more than 30 letters and joined several initiatives in support of endangered lawyers in Bahrain, Bangladesh, Belarus, Cameroon, China, Egypt, Haiti, India, Iran, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Mexico, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Sudan, Thailand, Turkey and Zimbabwe.
A particular focus was notably given to the situation of lawyers in Belarus, Turkey and Iran with the increasingly worrying situation of Nasrin Sotoudeh - the 2019 CCBE Human Rights Award with Iranian lawyers Abdolfattah Soltani, Mohammad Najafi and Amirsalar Davoudi – who started a hunger strike on 11 August 2020 to demand the release of political prisoners threatened by the COVID-19 virus
In Belarus, the CCBE has been following and condemning the recent arrests of several lawyers in the context of the recent presidential elections:
- 10/09/2020: Joint statement in connection with the detention of Belarusian lawyers Ilya Salei and Maksim Znak
In Turkey, the CCBE was saddened by the recent death of Turkish lawyer Ebru Timtik as a result of the hunger strike she had started in January 2020 fighting for a fair trial for her and her colleagues. The CCBE followed and supported her case and those of her colleagues since the beginning of their trial:
- CCBE Human Rights letters:
- Sentencing of 18 human rights lawyers (26/03/2019)
- The upholding of the 159 years prison term given to 18 lawyers (07/11/2019)
- Hunger strike of 8 imprisoned lawyers (14/02/2020)
- CCBE Letter EU Delegation to Turkey (07/05/2020)
- Alarming situation of lawyers Ebru Timtik and Aytaç Ünsal (07/05/2020)
- Death of lawyer Ebru Timtik and continuing hunger strike of Aytaç Ünsal (28/08/2020)
- Other intiatives:
- Turkey: Fact-finding mission on CHD’s trials
- Joint statement in support of Turkish lawyers Ebru Timtik and Aytaç Ünsal
- CCBE President statement in support of Turkish lawyers Ebru Timtik and Aytaç Ünsal
- Letter to UN rapporteurs in support of Turkish lawyers Ebru Timtik and Aytaç Ünsal
- CCBE Press release (31/08/2020): Turkey: Following the tragic death of lawyer Ebru Timtik, the CCBE calls on the EU and Turkish authorities to take urgent measures to prevent the death of lawyer Aytaç Ünsal
- Décès de Ebru Timtik et situation des avocats en Turquie (02/09/2020)
Also in Turkey, the CCBE recently expressed its serious concerns about the adoption of a new bill, now law no. 7249, which entered into force on 15 July 2020, modifying the electoral system of the chambers of the bar and further restricting the independence of bar associations and the legal profession in Turkey:
- 29/06/2020: CCBE Press release: Turkey: Independence, integrity and freedom of expression of the legal profession at stake