Statement of Wm. T. (Bill) Robinson III, President, American Bar Association Re: Threats to the Independence of Belarus’ Legal Profession
WASHINGTON, D.C., June 19, 2012 — The American Bar Association is concerned about violations of international law in Belarus that present ongoing threats to the independence of the legal profession. Not only is there a concern that lawyers and the legal profession are under attack, but also that the Belarus government’s actions will enable other human rights and international law violations in the country to continue and to escalate.
Belarus’ retaliation against lawyers for representing political opponents and human rights activists, and the country’s interference with the administration of the Minsk Bar Association, contravenes fundamental human rights enshrined in the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. The government of Belarus has also violated the right to freedom of expression by retaliating against lawyers speaking on behalf of their clients, and it has violated the right of these lawyers to associate with colleagues and clients without undue interference.
These developments are in clear breach of the legal profession’s core principles, namely the independent regulation of the practice of law recognized in Europe, the United States and internationally.
With nearly 400,000 members, the American Bar Association is the largest voluntary professional membership organization in the world. As the national voice of the legal profession, the ABA works to improve the administration of justice, promotes programs that assist lawyers and judges in their work, accredits law schools, provides continuing legal education, and works to build public understanding around the world of the importance of the rule of law.
Please click here to see the letter sent by Robinson to Ambassador Jeppe Tranholm-Mikkelsen, permanent representative to the European Union, or here for the letter sent by Robinson to Mr. Thorbjørn Jagland, secretary general of the Council of Europe.
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