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On June 9, the EU-funded project “Support to Justice Sector Reforms in Ukraine” held a roundtable on “Protecting the Professional Rights of Advocates: Findings and Recommendations”. The purpose of the event was to highlight findings and recommendations related to the problems caused by violations of the professional rights and privileges of Ukrainian advocates. Participants in the roundtable included senior government officials, and representatives of the bar self-government bodies, professional associations of advocates, and international organizations.

According to the findings presented by the EU experts, Ukrainian advocates constantly face two key challenges: a) judges are not always impartial, and b) prosecutors, investigators, and law enforcement officials are too powerful and often fail to comply with the law and manipulate the system. As a result, the professional rights of advocates are systematically and regularly violated, and the human rights of their clients are compromised.

Among the most persistent violations are denying advocates access to their clients and access to information, intruding upon the confidentiality of communications between advocates and their clients, abusing the position of advocates in the criminal process, abusing professional disciplinary procedures, and initiating unwarranted criminal proceedings against advocates.

The EU experts recommend creating a sound and comprehensive system to prevent and provide redress for violations of the professional rights of advocates. It should include uncovering, addressing, publicizing, and castigating all violations of advocates’ rights and the human rights of defendants.  Participants in the roundtable supported this recommendation.

“Such a system will strengthen the rule of law, the adversarial process, and the right to due process. It must be based on transparency and access to information. It must enable advocates to perform their duties confidently and without hindrance or fear,” – believes Rytis Jokubauskas, the Expert of the EU Project “Support to Justice Sector Reforms in Ukraine”.

According to Mark Segal, Project Key Expert, advocates should invest more time and energy to protecting their working rights and privileges, and defending their profession. “Advocates should know what to do, who to address, and how to use all available mechanisms in response to violations of their working rights,” – he notes.

A full version of the key findings and recommendations on protecting the professional rights of advocates is available here.