Initiative 2018: The Federal Bar Association against advocates

28 May 2024

Statement by the board of Initiative 2018, an interregional civil society organization of advocates and lawyers

Source: Facebook Page of Initiative 2018

Very soon, on May 31st, 2024, many representatives of the legal community intend to ceremoniously mark the so-called “Day of the Russian Bar.”

The choice of this date has its origin in the resolution of the 2nd All-Russian Congress of Advocates, where it was proposed to celebrate May 31st “in commemoration of the day of the adoption of Federal Law No. 63 ‘On the work of advocates and the bar associations in the Russian Federation’.”

In 2024 a multitude of celebrations are planned for the announced date.

According to an advertisement for one of them, advocates [trial lawyers or barristers – ed.], having paid a set fee, alongside a concert program accompanied by dances and popular songs, can, in “special circumstances,” take the opportunity to “promote themselves at the event,” as well as not only participate in the presentation of awards named after eminent human rights advocates, but also raise a toast to the fact that on this day, as asserts the specially created website of the website of the Federal Bar Association, “an independent, self-governing professional corporation was formed, for the first time in history bringing together advocates from across the country.”

In the meantime, advocates must know, or at least not forget, that the Federal Bar Association is not a professional union of advocates, and cannot be such, insofar as these advocates themselves are not members of this organization, and it, in turn, is not beholden to them.

It should also be remembered that as a direct result of the implementation of Federal Law No. 63, the bar associations in Russia have lost their and becomes and become an appendage of the system.

Under threat of loss of status and forfeiture of the right to practice, advocates are forced to comply with the decisions of the officials and bodies of bar associations and the Federal Bar Association, which they themselves are paying for.

Rather than adhere to and advance the principles of democracy, the rule of law, and human rights, uphold justice and combat corruption, and defend the rights and interests of Russian advocates, the corporate bodies of practicing advocates are steadily becoming irremovable and unaccountable, with a clearly built-in vertical power structure.

With every passing day more and more phenomena encroaching on the independence of advocates manifest themselves – authoritarianism, suppression of democracy, increased state influence, censorship, corruption and financial misconduct, discrimination, repressive corporate policy-making and disciplinary proceedings against advocates, neglect of the goals and tasks of bar associations and legislative initiatives that go against the interests of advocates. This is also accompanied by the de facto abandonment of effective systemic protection of the rights of advocates who are persecuted by state bodies for expressing their opinions and carrying out of professional activities.

In these conditions the effective defense of legal rights and interests of our citizens, that is, the very essence of the work of advocates, becomes impossible.

Are such entertainments and other manifestations of hedonism appropriate in circumstances when our colleagues sit guiltlessly in prison, and the profession of advocates is experiencing the most profound crisis and real loss of independence?

Translated by Alyssa Rider

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