The International Union of Lawyers (UIA) is a global and multicultural organization for the legal profession created in 1927, which today is composed of members present in more than 110 countries. It promotes the rule of law while facilitating professional development, training and networking of lawyers. The organization has a clear commitment to defending the independence of professionals and their freedom to exercise their profession. It has been, in fact, the first to use the expression “defense of the defense” to refer to the need to stand up in solidarity to protect the legal profession wherever it is threatened.
Without free and independent lawyers, the right to effective judicial protection and, ultimately, the protection of all other rights cannot be guaranteed. We are convinced that supporting and protecting the role of lawyers is one of the fundamental pillars of the rule of law and the protection of human rights.
However, in countries on all continents, the independence of the legal profession is under attack. We note with concern that more and more professionals face threats, intimidation, retaliation and interference in the exercise of their profession. They are exposed to the arbitrary application of criminal, civil and even disciplinary sanctions.
Pedro del Rosal
Independence and freedom in the exercise of this office can also be threatened through accusations and imputations made to lawyers in general from the highest levels of a State, accusing lawyers of representing groups or interests contrary to the project or vision. policy of the leaders of a country at a given moment in its history. From the UIA we are clear and we say it clear: everyone, nationals or foreigners, individuals or legal entities, has the right to a professional defense in law, and this defense must be provided by a united, free and independent legal profession of any people who hold power at any time.
Threats often appear after the adoption or implementation of laws aimed at combating terrorism, drug trafficking, corruption, money laundering or transnational organized crime. Even the exceptional measures taken in time of COVID have been in many cases used as a pretext to intimidate lawyers dealing with sensitive cases or human rights violations. The UIA firmly believes that the international legal community must show unity and solidarity in the face of these attacks.
Even the measures adopted by COVID have been used to intimidate lawyers who defend human rights violations.
The first attempts of the organism to establish mechanisms of support and solidarity between the bar associations and associations culminated in 1987, with the “Charter of Defense Rights” and the creation of the Defense Defense Commission with the aim of intervening before competent authorities or before their peers when a lawyer is threatened in the exercise of professional activity.
The creation of the Institute for the Rule of Law (UIA-IROL) in 2015 constituted an additional step in strengthening the commitment to the promotion of the rule of law. Through the UIA-IROL, the organization supports lawyers, judges and human rights defenders who suffer threats or persecution for the exercise of their profession.
The UIA also endorsed the mission of raising awareness and defending those international instruments that establish the set of duties and guarantees that apply to our profession and, in particular, the United Nations Basic Principles on the Role of Lawyers, adopted in 1990 Thus, it actively participated in the commemoration of the thirtieth anniversary of these Principles, which concluded with a call to action demanding concrete actions from the States so that the promotion and protection of the rights, duties and guarantees of lawyers are a reality in law and in practice.
It is essential to advocate for the defense of our profession in international forums such as the relevant United Nations bodies and, in particular, the Special Rapporteur on the independence of judges and lawyers, the mechanisms of the Council of Europe and other international organizations. The UIA has also joined the mobilization for the adoption of a future European convention for the legal profession, within the framework of the Council of Europe.
We are aware that respect for the essential principles of the legal profession will not be possible without a firm commitment on the part of the States. The road is still long, but professional bar associations and associations we have a responsibility to continue our fight against arbitrariness and for the free, independent and safe exercise of the legal profession. An unwarranted attack on one of us is a threat to our profession and its principles. For this reason, Spanish lawyers can count on the unconditional support of their UIA colleagues.
* Jorge Marti Moreno is president of the International Union of Lawyers