Tamara Morshchakova calls for those who infringe defence lawyers' rights to be held accountable

posted 11 Oct 2015, 13:19 by Rights in Russia   [ updated 11 Oct 2015, 13:54 ]
7 October 2015

Source: HRO.org (info)
The media has reported that ‘the question of introducing legal accountability for hindering a defence lawyer’s execution of his or her professional activity is being looked into,’ the press service of the Federal Chamber of Defence Lawyers of the Russian Federation reports, citing the concluding statements from Thursday’s session, in the Kremlin, of the Presidential Human Rights Council.

As reported by Pravo.ru, Tamara Morshchakova, a member of the Human Rights Council, and now a retired judge of the Constitutional Court, stated at the Human Rights Council meeting that a defence lawyer is, at present, heavily dependent upon the investigating officer.

‘If the prosecution does not agree, none of a defence lawyer’s requests will be permitted, and not a single document will be included in the file of the criminal case. This demonstrates that measures need to be introduced to significantly strengthen the procedural guarantees of a defence lawyer’s equal rights in the criminal justice system.’

Tamara Morshchakova also referred to the repeated infringement of the rights of defence lawyers who, despite their immunity, are subject to searches and the seizure of documents, in violation of their legal status, which includes the assumption of the confidentiality of their work. And what is more, according to Morshchakova, attempts are made to question defence lawyers as though they were parties in their clients’ cases, and even to hold them criminally responsible if, in arguing their case, they produce evidence that the investigating officers ‘find slanderous’.

In view of this Tamara Morshchakova considers that it is necessary to introduce legal accountability for hindering a defence lawyer in his or her execution of their professional duties.

In his turn President Vladimir Putin told Tamara Morshchakova that he had already received her proposals, which he support, and he had passed them on to the Legal Department of the Presidential Administration for finalizing.

In addition Yuri Kostanov, a member of the Human Rights Council, touched on the problem of the defence lawyer’s access to a client. ‘According to the law, on entering a jail I should show an identity card and a warrant, but I am still not allowed in, with the words “Show us the permit from the investigating officer”.’ But, Yuri Kostanov reminded the Human Rights Council, in the Constitution it is stated that any detainee has the right to the services of a legal representative from the moment of detention, not to have to wait while the investigative officer is found.

President Putin, at the meeting of the Human Rights Council, replied to Yury Kostanov ‘If further decisions on the part of the Supreme Court of the Russian Federation are needed to make additions to the law, let’s do that’.

Translated by Mary McAuley