Oral statement to Human Rights Committee on the Russian Federation
28 February 2022

Oral statement to Human Rights Committee on the Russian Federation

Russian Federation

Today Lawyers for Lawyers delivered an oral statement during the 134th session of the Human Rights Committee for the review of the Russian Federation’s compliance with its international human rights obligations, and more in particular the implementation of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.

In January 2022, Lawyers for Lawyers submitted a report to the Human Rights Committee in which we highlight key areas of concern about the failure of the government of the Russian Federation to comply with its international human rights commitments to guarantee effective access to legal services provided by an independent legal profession. Moreover, in September 2020, prior to the adoption of the List of Issues on the Russian Federation, Lawyers for Lawyers submitted a contribution to the List of Issues on the Russian Federation, particularly in relation to the obstacles to the independent exercise of the profession of lawyers and violations committed against them.

Read the full oral statement below:

Lawyers for Lawyers wishes to bring to the Committee’s attention the failure of the authorities of the Russian Federation to uphold the necessary guarantees for the proper functioning of the legal profession in practice.

Lawyers play a vital role in the protection of the rule of law and human rights. It is the responsibility of lawyers to protect and establish the rights of citizens from whatever quarter they may be threatened. Their work is indispensable for ensuring effective access to justice for all. To fulfil their professional duties effectively, lawyers should be able to practice law freely and independently, without any fear of reprisal. 

Lawyers in the Russian Federation who are working on sensitive cases, are sometimes subjected to attempts by investigative authorities to harass and disrupt their work. Often lawyers are facing difficulties with accessing their clients in detention, and the principle of lawyer-client confidentiality is often not respected.

Some lawyers face threats, intimidation and (physical) attacks. Recently, three lawyers from Chechnya were physically attacked by Chechen officials while they were trying to provide legal assistance to their clients.

There are also lawyers that are subjected to arrests, criminal investigations and proceedings, and disciplinary proceedings inconnection with their legitimate activities as attorneys, often in connection to grounds such as the expression of critical viewsor the nature of the cases they are involved in.

These various forms of harassment of lawyers, create a “chilling effect” on the legal profession; lawyers are increasingly wary of working on sensitive cases. Various lawyers left the Russian Federation due to the fear of persecution.

Another issue of concern is that the “foreign agents’ law, which has been heavily criticized by various international institutions, is now more and more being applied against lawyers and lawyers’ organizations. The danger of this law is that it may lead to lawyers not being able to give the legal assistance and defend human rights activists as they did before they received this label.

Lawyers for Lawyers calls on the Human Rights Committee to reiterate its earlier recommendation to the Russian Federation to immediately take steps to provide, in practice, effective protection to lawyers whose lives, safety and security are under threat due to their work in monitoring and reporting on human rights issues and other matters of legal and public interest, and refrain from taking any measures that may constitute harassment or persecution or undue interference in the exercise of their work or of their right to freedom of opinion and expression.

Click here for the PDF version of the statement.

 

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