UHHRU: prosecution of lawyers for their critical rhetoric casts doubt on the ability of the Bar of Ukraine to accomplish its tasks

Ukrainian Helsinki Human Rights Union expresses concern regarding the attempts of the responsible executives of the National Bar Association of Ukraine to bring the director of the Coordination Center for Legal Aid Provision Andriy Vyshnevskyi to disciplinary responsibility for expressing his viewpoint regarding the situation in the Bar.

As it was understood in UHHRU, on July 2, 2015 Qualification and Disciplinary Bar Commission of the Region of Kyiv initiated a disciplinary case against lawyer Andriy Vyshnevskyi based on appeal of the National Bar Association of Ukraine. The reason of the appeal was the following public statement – “…the main risk for the free of charge legal aid system, and the main risk for the realisation of the constitutional rights of people to obtain legal aid free of charge and the ability of the state to hold that right is, as we can see, a pitiable state of the Ukrainian Bar, which was spoken about by my colleges. This means low ethical standards and proficiency level of Bar, the fact that nowadays a lawyer is the main corruptive link; this means that the National Bar Association does nothing regarding militia lawyer phenomena and doesn’t even give any evaluation of the problem, and there is still much to talk about, but I won’t stick to that point. The Bar reformation is of a vital importance. Because the situation in the Bar system today can slow down the realization of judicial reform.”

That was preceded by the appeal of the executives of NBAU “to all lawyers of Ukraine, leaders of organs of Bar self-government, Minister of Justice of Ukraine and all persons involved with the announcement of inadmissibility” of such statements and invited lawyers “to express their viewpoint”. Some of the Bar councils and delegates of the Bar congress “actively” reacted to this statement.

UHHRU sadly notes, that the tendency to form totalitarian Bar system, that was vividly shown in 2013, established in the National Bar Association of Ukraine. On April 2013 we expressed concern “about suppression of any dissensions inside Bar in unsafe ways”. The founded lawyer prosecution caused deep concern of authoritative international organizations, which expressed reasonable doubts about self-government and independence of the Bar system in Ukraine.

Today’s co-ordinate campaign, which is aimed at bringing Vyshnevskyi to disciplinary responsibility for his statement, who is protected from the prosecution by the Constitution and Convention on Human Rights, and which is an ordinary evidence of the development of the totalitarian tendency in the Bar. If the lawyer is brought to responsibility for his estimation of the situation in the Bar, that will became an obvious evidence of the “deplorable state of the Bar”.

We consider the repetition of an extract from UHHRU appeal of April 2013 to be appropriate: “We considered the Bar to be the association, where the viewpoint pluralism is the main principle of its activity, the association, which has to cherish the ability of the lawyers to express disagreement and to persist in their opinions, and we can’t imagine the Bar without this. The best lawyers always differed with their courage to express their own viewpoint, even facing the majority. The main purpose of the Bar is to maintain such opportunity for lawyers.”

Ukrainian Helsinki Human Rights Union emphasizes:

1) Bringing a lawyer to responsibility for critical remarks is the violation of the rights to speak and to think, and it is inappropriate in the activity of the Bar.

2) Attempts to create unanimity of viewpoints in the Bar by force and threatening destroy the fundamental principles of the independent Bar and casts doubt on ability of the Bar to accomplish its tasks.

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