General Congress of the European Bars Federation: The Lawyer in Dialogue with the European Court of Human Rights
European capital and symbol of the values advocated by the Union, Strasbourg welcomed the General Congress of the European Bars Federation from 12 to 14 May. Taking place at the European Court of Human Rights, this was the chance to explore and question the role and place of lawyers, and also to raise the concerns that weigh upon the profession within the current difficult context.
“This is your House, and you are welcome here”: with these words, Guido Raimondi, President of the European Court of Human Rights, opened a rich, dense congress with the theme “The Lawyer in Dialogue with the European Court of Human Rights”. Placed under the presidency of Françoise Tulkens, a former judge and Vice-President of the Court, the morning was the chance to insist on the crucial importance of the role of lawyers in the implementation of the Convention. “Behind the most beautiful pages of the Convention, there is the work of the Court and its judges, and also that of lawyers”, insisted Maître Frédéric Krenk, also emphasised by Françoise Tulkens for whom “lawyers are not auxiliaries of justice but partners”.
Lawyers as “actors of justice”, whose conditions of exercise and independence are protected by a certain number of principles and case law (in particular, the right to a lawyer from the first hour, or Salduz case law, which was the subject of a speech by Maître Jenneret). Lawyers who are subjected to the current context where the spectre of terrorism and security imperatives leads us to fear a risk of regression in terms of rights for the defence, professional secrecy and respect for ethics.
After lunch at the Council of Europe, the afternoon speeches, under the presidency of the former President of the Court, Jean-Paul Costa, turned the spotlight on searches, seizures and the phone-tapping of lawyers, signalling the end of the lawyer’s office as a sacred and inviolable sanctuary. Yet, “the fears must not lead us to reduce the rights of the defence”, insisted Dominique Attias, Vice-President of the Paris Bar, who pointed out the “misguided ways” associated with the Intelligence Act, “suspect act” and the concerns over the progressive implementation of emergency legislation.
The day ended with a presentation on the role of the lawyer before the European Court of Human Rights followed by a debate between lawyers and judges of the Court, which, amongst other topics, raised the limits of the principle of subsidiarity and the “formal straight jacket” of the filing of petitions.
The Congress ended on the Saturday at the Order of Lawyers with the General Assembly. However, the “dialogue” between lawyers and the European institutions still has plenty of life, as it will continue in October in Luxembourg, followed by The Hague in June 2017.