Submission to UN Human Rights Committee – Russian Federation
During its 134th session, from 28 February to 25 March 2022, the Human Rights Committee will consider the eight periodic report submitted by the Russian Federation and adopt concluding observations that will assist the Russian Federation in the implementation of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR). In the context of this review, Lawyers for Lawyers submitted a report 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.
On 14 August 2020, the Human Rights Committee adopted a List of Issues in relation to the eighth periodic report of the Russian Federation, in response to which the Russian Federation submitted a reply. 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. With our new report, we wish to provide a concise update to our report submitted before the adoption of the List of Issues.
Since submitting our report for the adoption of the List of Issues in May 2020, new cases of interference with the work of lawyers have been brought to the attention of Lawyers for Lawyers. New types of interferences with the work of lawyers have also emerged since submitting our report, amongst others in the form of labeling lawyers as “foreign agents”. The issues mentioned below are highlighted in our report. All issues are illustrated by individual cases of lawyers.
Firstly, new cases of lawyers facing difficulties in accessing their clients were brought to the attention of Lawyers for Lawyers. These problems particularly emerged during the large-scale protests that took place in the beginning of 2021. Secondly, lawyers in the Russian Federation who are working on sensitive cases (often with a political dimension) are sometimes subjected to attempts by investigative authorities to harass and disrupt their work. They face threats, intimidation and (physical) attacks in connection with their legitimate activities as lawyers.
Furthermore, some lawyers are subjected to arrests, criminal investigations and proceedings, in connection with their legitimate activities as attorneys. We have also identified that lawyers have been threatened with or subjected to disbarment or other disciplinary proceedings on improper grounds such as the expression of critical views or the nature of the cases they are involved in.
One of the emerging issues that has been reported, is that lawyers have been targeted specifically by the “Amendments to Legislative Acts of the Russian Federation regarding the Regulation of the Activities of Non-profit Organisations Performing the Functions of a Foreign Agent”, also known as the “foreign agents’ law”. According to reports received by Lawyers for Lawyers, the “foreign agents’ law” is now more and more being applied against lawyers and lawyers’ organizations. The practical implications for lawyers can be found in our report.
We conclude our report by stating that the authorities of the Russian Federation do not always uphold the necessary guarantees for the proper functioning of the legal profession in practice. Lawyers are regularly subject to improper interference and harassment. Some lawyers are even subjected to criminal proceedings, in connection to their legitimate professional activities. Furthermore, lawyers are being disbarred and designated as “foreign agent”. As a result, lawyers are not in an equal position to represent their clients, in violation of Article of the 14 ICCPR. The recommendations that have been made to the Russian Federation can also be found in our report.
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