We have initiated a new project in which we will publish a series of brief interviews with prominent European lawyers, academics and executives of judges’ associations. Our first interview is with Adv. Francesco Caia, who is the Coordinator for Human Rights and International Relations of the Italian National Bar Association (CNF) and Vice-President of the International Observatory for Endangered Lawyers.
Q1: Today, we would like to first speak about the worrisome decline in terms of the independence of the judiciary in Europe. For instance, there has been a political intervention into the judiciary in Poland for 3-4 years. It has reached the point where Polish judges are persecuted in so-called disciplinary courts. What should we do to prevent this decline from spreading to other countries?
Mr Caia: The average level of education of citizens must be raised, investing in education, universities and research. The number of hours dedicated to the study of subjects such as history, law and constitutional law should particularly be increased. Only educated and knowledgeable citizens will prevent the decline of the rule of law
Q2: The independence of the judiciary and lawyers exists to ensure the right to a fair trial for individuals. How can we better explain this to fellow citizens?
Mr Caia: I believe the answer to this question is the same as that given to the first question.
Q3: As the COVID19 pandemic poses an imminent and severe risk to the lives of individuals and society in general, many countries have declared a state of emergency and introduced emergency measures.Could you share your observations as to the state of emergency measures? For instance, were those introduced in Italy proportionate? In your opinion, is there a risk that these emergency regulations may become the new “normal”?
Mr Caia: In Italy, the core measure adopted against the spread of COVID 19 consisted in a decree-law issued by the Government authorising the Prime Minister to issue several emergency decrees. The decree-law was then approved by the Parliament within the time limit set out by the Constitution. The country is still worried, and the National Bar Association organised a webinar to raise awareness of the subject. There is a risk that some emergency measures become permanent; in any case, we must be vigilant, so that the principles of transience and the adequacy of the emergency legislation are respected, as stated by the Council of Europe and the UN.
Q4: Our last two questions are about Turkey. For four years, we have enjoyed the incredible solidarity offered by our Italian colleagues, who have shown great interest in the problems of arrested Turkish lawyers. As a lawyer who has great insight into the human rights situation in Turkey, especially relating to awyers, and the legal profession as a whole, what would you like to say to our European colleagues as to how they could help their Turkish colleagues?
Mr Caia: I believe European lawyers, including Italian lawyers, should increase the chances for an open debate on the violations of human rights in Turkey, also engaging the general public and acting in synergy with journalists and the judiciary, professions that are also being affected by the repression.
Q5: In December, 2019, the European Council adopted a human rights sanction regime. Can it produce accountability, to some extent, for those responsible for gross human rights violations, and help to improve the situation in Turkey?
Mr Caia: I believe the Magnitsky Act is a step forward, but its approval alone will not be enough.