Respect for fundamental rights is at the heart of the CCBE’s work
The respect for fundamental rights is among the core missions of the CCBE. One area of special concern includes the defence of threatened lawyers worldwide. When a lawyer is a victim of human rights violations, the CCBE calls on the relevant national authorities and alerts key actors at the European and international level, when required. But the CCBE’s work for fundamental rights does not stop there. Respect for fundamental rights is a key element at the heart of all of the CCBE’s activities.
Lawyers are defenders of fundamental rights
Lawyers are the embodiment of human rights as one of the main guarantors of citizens’ fundamental rights and freedoms. They must be able to carry out their professional duties without fear of reprisal, hindrance, intimidation, harassment or even fear for their lives. Following the Taliban takeover, the situation of lawyers in Afghanistan has become extremely worrying. Many Afghan lawyers are being targeted due to their active role in defending Afghan citizens’ basic rights. The CCBE decided to grant an exceptional Human Rights Award to all endangered lawyers of Afghanistan. This award will be officially granted on 10 December 2021 by the CCBE President, at the CCBE Plenary Session in Berlin. The CCBE has also participated in a joint call in support of lawyers in Afghanistan. The CCBE and several bars and lawyers’ organisations, together with the UN Special Rapporteur on the Independence of Judges and Lawyers, has urged the relevant stakeholders to urgently provide adequate protection to endangered lawyers in Afghanistan and underlined the need to ensure the maintenance of an independent legal profession and Bar in Afghanistan, to preserve the independence and integrity of the administration of justice and the rule of law. Furthermore, the CCBE co-signed a joint statement on the situation of lawyers in Belarus, calling on the Bar Association of Belarus to reverse its decisions to disbar lawyer Natalia Matskevich and to end the practice of disbarment of lawyers for carrying out their professional duties.
Furthermore, the CCBE recently supported endangered lawyers in China, Iran, Nicaragua, Nigeria, the Philippines, Thailand, Tunisia, and Turkey. More information on the CCBE’s initiatives in support of endangered lawyers is available on the CCBE Human Rights portal.
Artificial Intelligence (AI) must not lead to an erosion of fundamental rights
AI is becoming increasingly prevalent in day-to-day life, including in the field of justice. Following the presentation by the European Commission of their proposal on the Artificial Intelligence Act, the CCBE issued its critical position paper, asking for detailed provisions on the use of AI, in the field of justice. Amongst other things, the CCBE called for the decision-making process to always remain a human-driven activity and for human judges to take full responsibility for all decisions. Moreover, while stressing the urgent need to comply with the principles of transparency and explainability, the CCBE strongly opposed the use of AI tools that may infringe a person’s fundamental rights or violate access to social rights and benefits. The Commission’s proposal should definitively exclude the use of AI tools which may infringe a person’s fundamental rights; for example: for the purposes of so-called “predictive policing”, for determining risks of future offending as an aid to make decisions on granting bail, the imposing of a sentence following conviction, the making of decisions concerning probation and, generally, during prosecution and trial. Furthermore, the output of an AI system should not, of itself, be treated in judicial proceedings as having the status of evidence.
Migration and respect for fundamental rights
On 21 September 2021, the CCBE officially became a member of the Frontex Consultative Forum. Frontex is the European Border and Coast Guard Agency. Its Consultative Forum brings together key European and UN agencies, the Council of Europe and international and civil society organisations, providing independent advice to the European Border and Coast Guard Agency on fundamental rights issues. This membership is an excellent opportunity for the CCBE to ensure that the voice of the European legal profession is heard, in fundamental rights matters.
Procedural safeguards and the right to a lawyer in asylum and migration procedures are fundamental rights that must be guaranteed to all persons requesting international protection at EU borders, as stressed by the CCBE in a recent Statement on the situation in Afghanistan.
About the CCBE
The CCBE represents the bars and law societies of 45 countries and through them, more than 1 million European lawyers. The regulation of the profession, the defence of the rule of law, human rights and democratic values are the most important missions of the CCBE. More information on the CCBE’s activities is available here.
Karine Metayer, Head of Communication, CCBE