International and foreign bar associations: what they do, why they are needed and how they support Belarus
Published May 18, 2022
Over the past few years, the names of various foreign bar associations have appeared more and more often in the news about the legal profession in Belarus. Organizations called upon to be the voice of the legal profession respond to events taking place in Belarus to the best of their ability. However, for the most part, these organizations are not very well known within Belarus. The "Right to Defence" project studied what international and foreign lawyer associations exist and how they react to the ongoing repression of lawyers in Belarus.
Why do lawyers unite?
According to the Basic Principles on the Role of Lawyers, lawyers, like other citizens, have the right to freedom of expression, belief and assembly. They have the right to take part in public debate on matters relating to law, the administration of justice and the promotion and protection of human rights, and to be members of or to form local, national or international organizations and to take part in their meetings, without being subject to restrictions on their professional activities as a result of their lawful actions or membership in a lawful organization. In exercising these rights, lawyers in their actions are always guided by the law and recognized norms and professional ethics of a lawyer.

The creation of national and international professional legal organizations whose priority goal is to promote high standards of professional practice and protect their members from violations of their rights is a generally accepted practice in democratic countries. The activities of professional organizations have a direct impact on the development of law and shape the future of the legal profession throughout the world.

The situation with pressure on Belarusian lawyers, repression, deprivation of their right to practice, and, accordingly, the issue of the availability of legal assistance for their clients have become the focus of attention of the world legal communities, expressing their condemnation of the disregard for compliance with the basic guarantees of professional activity in Belarus and support for Belarusian lawyers and human rights defenders with relevant statements.
The Council of Bars and Law Societies of Europe (CCBE)
The largest European legal community is the Council of Bars and Law Societies of Europe (CCBE).

Founded in 1960, the Council of Bars and Law Societies of Europe (CCBE) is an international non-profit association that, since its inception, has been at the forefront of promoting the views of European lawyers and defending the legal principles on which democracy and the rule of law are based.

The CCBE includes lawyers and law societies from 45 countries of the European Union, the European Economic Area and Europe as a whole. The organization consists of 32 member countries and another 13 associated and observer countries. Full members of the CCBE are the national lawyers and law societies of the 27 members of the European Union, 3 members of the European Economic Area (Norway, Liechtenstein and Iceland), as well as Switzerland. Following the United Kingdom's exit from the European Union, a new form of affiliate membership was created which allows the UK delegation to remain a member of the CCBE with certain restrictions, particularly on matters relating to EU policy.

In addition, lawyers and law societies from the Council of Europe countries participating in formal negotiations on accession to the European Union are associate members, and from other Council of Europe countries are observer members.

The CCBE is recognized as the voice of the European legal profession, representing through its members more than 1 million European lawyers.

The CCBE represents European Bars and Law Societies in their common interests before European and other international institutions and other legal organizations throughout the world.

Regulating the profession, protecting the rule of law, human rights and democratic values are the most important tasks of the CCBE. Areas of particular concern include the right of access to justice, digitization of judicial processes, development of the rule of law and client protection through the promotion and protection of the core values of the profession.

The management staff of the CCBE, headquartered in Brussels, consists of a President and three Vice-Presidents, who are elected for a term of one year. There is a general secretary who manages the day-to-day affairs of the organization through a secretariat of 11 full-time employees.

Specialist committees and working groups (27 in total), consisting of candidates and experts from national delegations, conduct research and report on a wide range of issues affecting the European legal profession. Topics include legal ethics, competition as it affects the legal profession, free movement of lawyers, training of lawyers, international trade in legal services and human rights. In recent years, working groups have focused on topics such as money launderingMoney management, legal aid, divorce, European contract law, alternative dispute resolution and corporate social responsibility.

Of practical interest to the Belarusian audience are the following committees:

Access to Justice Committee

This committee deals with a wide range of issues such as collective redress, legal aid, alternative dispute resolution and generally any EU initiative that may affect citizens' access to justice.

Deontology Committee

The committee studies the ethical rules of lawyers throughout Europe. Constantly reviews the CCBE Code of Conduct for Lawyers for Cross-Border Activities and the Charter of Fundamental Principles of the European Legal Profession.

Human Rights Committee

This committee is involved, among other things, in the selection process for the CCBE Human Rights Award, as well as initiatives in support of endangered lawyers around the world, and collaborates with other advocacy organizations in this area through its Defense of the Defenders network.

The CCBE is committed to the protection of the rule of law, the protection of fundamental human rights and freedoms, including the right of access to justice and client protection, and the protection of the democratic values inherent in such rights.

CCBE closely monitors the situation in the Belarusian legal profession, promptly expressing its position regarding the pressure on Belarusian lawyers.

From 2020 to the present, the CCBE has published at least 23 statements regarding the inadmissibility of putting pressure on Belarusian lawyers and human rights defenders.

CCBE appeals can be found on the official website here, as well as on the website here.

The CCBE annually presents awards to lawyers who have made significant contributions to upholding the principles of the profession.

The CCBE Human Rights Award 2021 was awarded to Belarusian lawyers Liliya Vlasova, Maxim Znak, Dmitry Laevsky and a human right defender Leonid Sudalenko, as well as all endangered lawyers in Afghanistan.

You can read the press release about the award to Belarusian lawyers by following the link.

An important part of the CCBE's activities is the preparation of regular reports on the state of the rule of law in Europe. You can view the document via this link.

Our website has an entire section dedicated to international solidarity.
Lawyers for Lawyers (Netherlands)
Lawyers for Lawyers is an independent and non-political Dutch foundation operating globally.

Founded in 1986, Lawyers for Lawyers is an independent, nonprofit organization of lawyers who value the fundamental principles that underpin the legal profession and advocate for at-risk fellow lawyers around the world.

The organization has its origins in a campaign of solidarity with lawyers in Argentina who "disappeared" or were detained without trial during the military junta from 1976 to 1983. The campaign was initiated by Dutch lawyer and cartoonist Willem van Manen during an international congress of lawyers held in Buenos Aires.

It showed that international legal solidarity can play an important role in protecting and defending fellow lawyers from attacks, especially as lawyers are bound by the universal core values that underpin their profession.

The foundation has a board of directors consisting of (former) lawyers and human rights specialists. The chief executive and a group of employees are responsible for the day-to-day management of the organization. In addition, Lawyers for Lawyers works with 50 highly motivated and experienced volunteers, consisting primarily of practicing lawyers.

Lawyers for Lawyers supports endangered lawyers by bringing international attention to the situation.

Main activities:


Lawyers for Lawyers supports lawyers around the world, monitoring and identifying violations of lawyers' rights, advocating for their cases locally and internationally, publishing reports, and keeping a close eye on lawyers who have been jailed for their work.


Lawyers for Lawyers connects lawyers with their colleagues in the Netherlands and further supports colleagues around the world by sharing knowledge and experience, including training in the mechanisms of international law.

Sharing best practices regarding the core values and ethics that underpin the legal profession; providing interactive training sessions and reference materials on international human rights law and international, including regional, mechanisms for the protection of human rights; development of tools, including the Lawyers for Lawyers database; Promoting access and opportunities for exchange between international networks of lawyers, bar associations and other interested parties is the organization's activities in the educational field.

Making an impact

Lawyers for Lawyers regularly speaks at the Human Rights Council in Geneva, and also actively communicates with representatives from efficient governments.

Lobbying governments to adopt, implement and enforce effective remedies and change laws that impinge on the independence of lawyers is an important part of the organization's work.

Lawyers for Lawyers very actively supports Belarusian lawyers who have come under repression.

In reports and statements, the organization actively expresses its position on the inadmissibility of pressure on the Belarusian bar, expresses its legal position on the violation of the rights of Belarusian lawyers (on the situation with human rights in Belarus, on the deprivation of D. Laevsky, N. Matskevich's licenses, on increasing pressure on the legal community) .

Other statements can be viewed at the link.

Every two years, the Lawyers for Lawyers Award is awarded to a lawyer or group of lawyers who have worked exceptionally to advance the rule of law and human rights and have been threatened because of their work. In 2021, it was awarded to Belarusian lawyers.
American Bar Association ABA
The ABA is a national voluntary association of US lawyers. Despite the name, it accepts as members not only American lawyers, but also lawyers from other countries of the world, and is one of the largest associations in the world.

The ABA, founded in 1878, has approximately 410,000 members.

The ABA is committed to promoting the rule of law in the United States and beyond by providing practical resources for lawyers, law school accreditation, model codes of ethics, and more.

Among its main goals, the organization declares the development of legal education standards for specialized universities and the development of ethical standards for lawyers of various specializations.

The most important stated activities of the ABA are the establishment of academic standards for law schools and the development of model codes of ethics associated with the legal profession.

Actively involved with pro bono, noting that access to justice for the poor in both urban and rural areas is an integral part of a fair legal system.

The governing structure of the American Bar Association consists of the House of Delegates, the Board of Governors, the President, the President-Elect, the Chairman of the House of Delegates, the Secretary and the Treasurer.

The ABA also pays considerable attention to the situation with the Belarusian legal profession, regularly issues reports on violations of the rights of Belarusian lawyers and statements on the inadmissibility of pressure on lawyers in connection with their professional activities.

You can view the documents using the following links:

Lawyers Under Threat - Increasing Suppression of the Legal Profession in Belarus

Preliminary Report on the Disbarment of Alexander Pylchenko

Analysis of Arbitrary Disbarments of Liudmila Kazak, Konstantin Mikhel, Maxim Konon, and Mikhail Kirilyuk

ABA Center for Human Rights, other legal groups denounce attacks on the Belarus legal profession

Statement of Patricia Lee Refo, president, American Bar Association Re: Independence of legal profession in Belarus
International Bar Association IBA
The IBA is the leading organization of international lawyers, bar associations and law societies. Founded in 1947, shortly after the creation of the United Nations, the IBA was born from the belief that an organization composed of the world's bar associations could promote global stability and peace through the administration of justice. The IBA is made up of more than 80,000 individual international lawyers from most of the world's leading law firms and around 200 bar associations and law societies, covering more than 170 countries.

The IBA has significant experience in assisting the global legal community and, through its global membership, influences the development of international law reform and shapes the future of the legal profession around the world.

The main goals and objectives of the IBA are:

facilitating the exchange of information between legal associations around the world;

supporting the independence of the judiciary and the right of lawyers to practice their profession without external interference;

supporting human rights for lawyers worldwide through its Human Rights Institute.

Members of the Association may include lawyers, members of the judiciary, legal advisers, government lawyers, scholars and law students.

Since 1947, the IBA has had special consultative status with the UN General Assembly and the UN Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC).

The IBA is primarily divided into two divisions - the Legal Practice Division (LPD) and the Public and Professional Interest Division (PPID). Each of these divisions, in turn, unites various sections (committees) and forums, the professional area of which includes the legal practice of a particular legal spectrum. Some committees deal only with certain areas of law, while the scope of activity of other sections includes more global legal problems and issues. Members of various committees are constantly in touch with each otherom, exchange information and opinions regarding the laws, practices and professional responsibilities associated with the practice of business law throughout the world.

The Public and Professional Interests Division includes the Bar Inquiry Commission (BIC) and the Institute of Human Rights (IBAHRI).

The BIC was founded in 2004 and is made up of representatives from bar associations and law societies from around the world. The Bar Council (BIC) supports the interests of IBA member bodies. This includes organizing events to discuss current issues affecting lawyers around the world; working groups that develop information materials and guidelines for bar associations, and a Policy Committee that advises the IBA Council on key IBA resolutions and statements.

The International Bar Association Human Rights Institute (IBAHRI) was founded in 1995 by Emeritus Chairman Nelson Mandela. IBAHRI's mission is to "promote, protect and respect human rights within the framework of just rule of law. IBAHRI operates out of a belief in the fundamental right of the world's citizens to fair hearings and an independent judiciary, and the right of judges and lawyers to practice freely and independently.

The IBA Council is the main governing body of the Association. It elects the IBA President, Vice-President and General Secretary; proposes, discusses and makes decisions; and receives reports from all IBA departments.

The day-to-day management of the Association is carried out by a Board consisting of four IBA officers (President, Vice President, General Secretary and Treasurer) and representatives from the BIC Division, including the Chairman, BIC Senior Vice Chairman and BIC Immediate Chairman.

The IBA plays an important role in creating various codes and guidelines for international legal practice.

The main objectives of the IBA are to increase the role of law in the life of countries, develop the protection of human rights and exchange legal experience between lawyers around the world.

The situation with the Belarusian legal profession is constantly in the focus of attention of the organization.

Reports, statements and appeals in support of Belarusian lawyers can be found here.

The IBA Award is awarded annually to a legal practitioner who has made outstanding contributions to the promotion, protection and advancement of human rights.

In 2021, the award was given to Belarusian lawyers for their commitment to defending democratic principles and human rights in Belarus.
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