The government may have breached international standards on the treatment of lawyers by naming and demanding apologies from those who acted for core participants in the Al-Sweady inquiry, the head of an organisation representing the bars and law societies of Europe has said.
In a Gazette blog post published today, Jonathan Goldsmith, secretary general of the Council of Bars and Law Societies of Europe, says that the UN’s Basic Principles on the Role of Lawyers, states that ‘lawyers shall not be identified with their clients or their clients’ causes as a result of discharging their functions’.
On Wednesday, the defence secretary, Michael Fallon (pictured), told parliament that the allegations investigated at the inquiry were a ‘shameful attempt to use our legal system to attack and falsely impugn our armed forces’.
He was speaking after the inquiry found that the allegations of abuses of detainees by British troops in Iraq had been found to be ‘wholly without foundation and entirely the product of deliberate lies, reckless speculation and ingrained hostility’.
Goldsmith notes that: ‘If lawyers have misbehaved, there are well-known and well-accepted routes to discipline them. If lawyers who bring cases against governments are, on the other hand, shamed in parliament, with the inevitable consequence that the government’s friends in the press will monster them, then all of the legal profession should take careful notice.’
Newspapers today reported that Public Interest Lawyers (PIL), one of the firms acting for the Iraqi claimants, had been previously criticised by judges for bringing ‘flawed’ cases to court.
The Daily Mail reported that both PIL and personal injury firm Leigh Day had donated money to the Labour party, while columnist Richard Littlejohn called for PIL’s Phil Shiner to be prosecuted for treason.