UNITED NATIONS BASIC PRINCIPLES ON THE ROLE OF LAWYERS

The Basic Principles are considered to be a “soft-law” instrument

The Basic Priciples on the role of lawyers were adopted by the Eighth United Nations Congress on the Prevention of Crime and the Treatment of Offenders, Havana, Cuba, 27 August to 7 September 1990.

According to the preambule professional associations of lawyers have a vital role to play in upholding professional standards and ethics, protecting their members from persecution and improper restrictions and infringements, providing legal services to all in need of them, and cooperating with governmental and other institutions in furthering the ends of justice and public interest, The Basic Principles on the Role of Lawyers, which have been formulated to assist Member States in their task of promoting and ensuring the proper role of lawyers, should be respected and taken into account by Governments within the framework of their national legislation and practice and should be brought to the attention of lawyers as well as other persons, such as judges, prosecutors, members of the executive and the legislature, and the public in general.

One of the main purposes of the Basic Principles is to assist States in their task of promoting the proper role of lawyers and ensuring lawyers’ functioning without any improper interference. Rules 16 and further deal with the guarantees for the functioning of lawyers. Rule 16:

Governments shall ensure that lawyers ( a ) are able to perform all of their professional functions without intimidation, hindrance, harassment or improper interference; ( b ) are able to travel and to consult with their clients freely both within their own country and abroad; and ( c ) shall not suffer, or be threatened with, prosecution or administrative, economic or other sanctions for any action taken in accordance with recognized professional duties, standards and ethics.

Rule 23 of the Basic Principles:

Lawyers like other citizens are entitled to freedom of expression, belief, association and assembly. In particular, they shall have the right to take part in public discussion of matters concerning the law, the administration of justice and the promotion and protection of human rights and to join or form local, national or international organizations and attend their meetings, without suffering professional restrictions by reason of their lawful action or their membership in a lawful organization. In exercising these rights, lawyers shall always conduct themselves in accordance with the law and the recognized standards and ethics of the legal profession.

Information on the Basic Principles, including literature and case law, is fragmented and not easily accessible. Lawyers for Lawyers seeks to alter this and has created a database to remedy the situation. For further information click here.

Karel Frielink

(10 November 2011)

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