The CCBE, which represents lawyers’ organisations in 45 countries, has urged European institutions and EU member states to move quickly to reactivate justice systems throughout Europe.
The body said the fundamental right of any person to due process within a reasonable time had been interrupted, with numerous cases and proceedings cancelled and postponed due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Justice must be recognised as an immutable duty for member states,” the CCBE said, calling for the judiciary to be reactivated to the greatest extent possible in the first phase of every country’s reopening strategy.
The group also called for urgent investment in justice and legal aid, particularly court staff and IT, to help justice systems throughout the continent to deal with a significant backlog of work.
The CCBE also urged financial support and tax relief measures for lawyers and law firms, particularly sole practitioners and small and medium-sized law firms.
It said these had suffered dramatically from the confinement and coronavirus crisis, due to the lack of new cases and late or non-payment of invoices by clients.
“While statistical data is not yet available initial soundings taken suggest that about 25% of European lawyers are significantly adversely affected,” the organisation said.
“Justice must be accessible to all at any time. Any person, including the most vulnerable, must have access to legal advice and be able to seek justice within reasonable time if needed,” said CCBE president Ranko Pelicarić.