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Member states should ensure that detainees have access to a lawyer

The PACE Standing Committee, meeting in Madrid, has underlined the importance of detainees’ access to lawyers as a guarantee of the rights of the defence and the right to a fair trial. Adopting a report by Mariette Karamanli (France, SOC), parliamentarians noted that it is not infrequent for detainees’ access to a lawyer to be impeded in Council of Europe member states.

The PACE calls on states to ensure effective access by detainees to a lawyer from the very outset of detention – regardless of the nature and seriousness of the offence or crime.

The parliamentarians emphasised in particular that the presence of a lawyer from the outset of deprivation of liberty – in whatever form – and throughout the whole proceedings is the best defence against torture and inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.

The Assembly stressed that a self-incriminating testimony obtained in the absence of a lawyer, or if access to a lawyer has been impeded, “should in no case be accepted as valid evidence before a court or serve as a basis for convicting a defendant”.

The Assembly further called on member states to investigate promptly, effectively and entirely independently “all allegations of threats to, intimidation of or violence against lawyers, including allegations of murder”.