Addressing the CCBE standing committee (pictured above) on 28 February in Vienna, O’Flaherty spoke on fundamental rights and the rule of law.
O’Flaherty reminded the audience of the massive role of lawyers in asylum procedures, including appeal procedures, and encouraged the CCBE to continue its response and assistance in the migration situation, notably in Greece.
O’Flaherty also spoke on what he called a striking lack of solidarity and mutual support in the field of migration policies.
On the question of artificial intelligence, O’Flaherty pointed to the need for the CCBE to provide input, most notably on the issues of quality and adapted regulation and the need to ensure the protection of human rights by effectively invoking the Charter of Fundamental Rights.
The Fundamental Rights Agency is committed to case studies of AI-related technologies to better understand where fundamental rights are impacted.
Attacks against the legal profession
On 19 February, the European Parliament’s sub-committee on human rights held a hearing specifically dedicated to attacks against the legal profession.
Every day lawyers are harassed, threatened, prosecuted, imprisoned or even murdered, simply for carrying out their professional activities, the CCBE has said.
These attacks have intensified in recent years around the world, including in Europe. The hearing highlighted the different types of persecution against lawyers, drawing on examples from countries where lawyers are victims of human rights violations, such as Azerbaijan, China, Kazakhstan and Turkey.
The chair of the CCBE’s human rights committee, Patrick Henry, stressed to the sub-committee the need for strong initiatives from the EU to support lawyers who work every day to protect human rights.
Sub-committee chair Antonio Panzeri, said “Any attack on a lawyer or the legal profession is an attack on justice and the fundamental principles of the rule of law.”
In other CCBE news, in January, the Council of Europe decided to launch a feasibility study on the case for drafting a European Convention on the profession of lawyer, following the 2018 recommendation of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) calling for such an instrument.
Professor of Human Rights Law
Michael O’Flaherty has been director of the EU Agency for Fundamental Rights since December 2015. Previously, he was Established Professor of Human Rights Law and Director of the Irish Centre for Human Rights at NUI Galway.
He has served as Chief Commissioner of the Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission and from 2004-2012 and was a member of the United Nations Human Rights Committee.
He is currently adjunct Professor of Law at NUI Maynooth and has been a member of the British Foreign Office’s advisory bodies on freedom of expression and the prevention of torture and the Irish Department of Foreign Affairs’ human rights advisory committee.
The Council of Bars and Law Societies of Europe (the CCBE) represents the bars and law societies of 45 countries, and through them more than one million European lawyers.