Basic Principles on the Role of Lawyers
What are the Basic Principles
What are the Basic Principles?
The Basic Principles on the Role of Lawyers define the fundamental requirements to guarantee that everyone has access to independent legal counsel. The Basic Principles for example determine that everyone has the right to call upon the assistance of an independent lawyer of their own choice. But they also affirm that lawyers are entitled to practice their profession to their best efforts and in accordance with recognized ethical standards.
The Basic Principles specify both lawyers’ and governments’ rights and duties to ensure a fair trial, including governments’ duties to ensure that:
- lawyers are able to perform all of their professional functions without intimidation, hindrance, harassment or improper interference;
- lawyers have access to the information, files and documents required to provide their clients with effective legal assistance;
- there is no discrimination based on grounds like race, sex, religion or political preference with respect to the possibility to become a lawyer;
- lawyers are not identified with their clients as a result of discharging their functions;
- communications between lawyers and clients are recognized as confidential.
The Basic Principles were established by the United Nations in 1990. The Basic Principles are considered to be a “soft-law” instrument (as opposed to “hard law”): they are not legally binding. However, the Basic Principles are held in high regard and are broadly accepted. For instance, the United Nations, several non-governmental organisations and (regional) courts of justice refer to the Basic Principles. Furthermore, some consider that the Basic Principles can be qualified as a material source of law, or even as a reflection of international customary law. The rights included in the Basic Principles are also largely included in binding international or regional human rights treaties, including:
- International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights;
- Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhumane or Degrading Treatment and Punishment;
- International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights;
- European Convention on Human Rights;
- American Convention on Human Rights;
- African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights