Code of Conduct
Regional HIV Legal Network - Code of Conduct
We, the undersigned members of the Regional HIV Legal Network, are united by our intention to help protect, uphold and fulfill the rights of people living with HIV or affected by HIV in Eastern Europe and Central Asia, as well as key populations most at risk of HIV infection, such as, but not limited to, men who have sex with men, transgender people, people who inject drugs and their intimate partners, people in prisons and other closed facilities, sex workers (hereinafter client, clients).
We, the undersigned, express our commitment to provide quality legal services to the clients free of charge, within the scope permitted by the national laws of the respective country, and, where applicable, regional and international law, as well as within the scope of our agreement with each client. We, the undersigned, recognize that the clients are often discriminated and stigmatized. In order to ensure the quality of legal services provided to our clients, without displaying any form of discrimination, we the undersigned adopt the following code of professional conduct.
- No Stigma and Discrimination
Lawyers and staff of the Network members shall not stigmatize clients and shall not discriminate against clients.
- Lawyers and staff recognize the human dignity of each client regardless of the social circumstances.
- Lawyers and staff shall examine their behavior for prejudice and shall attend courses, or read literature on gender and age sensitivity in work with clients.
- If a Network member finds that a lawyer of its staff display prejudice against client and/or stigmatizing/discriminatory behavior the Network member takes necessary measures to stop such behavior, if it is found impossible, takes some steps to replace a lawyer/staff by another lawyer/staff with the same, or comparable competence who does not display prejudice and and/or stigmatizing/discriminatory behavior regarding the client.
- If a lawyer/staff cannot or does not want to perform services to a client due to personal, moral, religious or other motives, the lawyer/staff shall withdraw from the case and be replaced by another lawyer/staff with the same, or comparable competence.
- No Harm to Clients
Lawyers and staff of the Network members shall do no harm to a client.
- Lawyers/staff shall only provide services to a client if they are competent, and, where applicable, licensed to provide these services.
- Lawyers/staff shall not engage in behavior that is reasonably likely to be harmful to a client even if the client agrees.
- Informed Consent, Limited Scope of Legal Services, Prevention of Conflict of Interest
- Lawyers shall always obtain informed consent from the client prior to representing the client.
- The client can sign a written contract for limited scope of legal services at no cost prior to being represented by a lawyer.
- The lawyer shall explain to the client in plain language the meaning of this contract before the client signs the agreement.
- In particular, the lawyer shall explain that free legal assistance may still entail associated costs such as court fees, tax stamps, and other similar expenses which can not be provided by a Network member.
- The lawyer shall explain that the lawyer cannot represent the client in case of conflict of interest (for example, but not limited to, the representation of an opponent by the Network member).. A clause on conflict of interest shall be included in the agreement for limited legal services.
- The lawyer shall explain that some services, such as, but not limited to, collection of documents, completion of forms, interviews, filing of documents, can be carried out by a Network member staff who is not a lawyer – for example legal assistant, paralegal, office assistant.
- The Network member shall strive to find interpreter if necessary and shall, in each case, instruct the interpreters on stigma, prejudice and discrimination. Interpreters shall sign confidentiality agreements.
- The rules for interpreters shall apply to guardians of underage persons in need of free legal aid, or persons with disabilities, whose condition require assisted or substituted decision making. The lawyer/staff shall make sure that the guardian duly represents the person in need of free legal assistance.
- Confidentiality and File Maintenance
- Lawyers/staff shall keep the client’s identity confidential and disclose it only when required by law.
- Lawyers/staff shall not discuss with other persons the HIV status of the client, or any other confidential information such as, but not limited to: health status, sexual orientation and gender identity, sex practices, drug habit, criminal record, unless these lawyers/staff are part of the client’s case.
- Lawyers/staff shall keep all clients’ documents confidential and display them only when required by law. Network members shall provide the security of clients’ documents. When making copies of documents, unless revealing confidential information, including the identity of the client, is required by law, lawyers/staff shall erase this confidential information.
- Whenever an original document is no longer needed, lawyers/staff shall return this document to the client. When the relationship between the client and the Network member (lawyer/staff) is over, because the services have been performed, or for another reason, lawyers/staff shall immediately return all original documents to the client.
- Lawyers/staff shall keep files confidential under the rules of this code even after the relationship with the client is over, for as long as it is required by law. After this period expires, the lawyer/staff shall destroy these files in a manner that does not allow the acquisition of any information from the destroyed files (e.g. through shredding, incineration, etc.).
- Lawyers/staff may ask for advice another lawyer/staff of the Network member, or of another organization. In doing so, they shall use hypothetical that does not allow to disclose the identify of the client.
- Relationship with the Client
- A Network member provide the legal aid to client in the scope of the mandate of the organization.
- Prior to signing a contract for a limited scope of legal services lawyer/staff carries out an initial assessment interview of the person requesting fee legal assistance. The information disclosed during this initial assessment interview is confidential even if the person requesting assistance does not become a client.
- The lawyer/staff has the right to reject a person requesting free legal assistance if the Network member does not have the capacity/competence to provide good quality assistance, if this type of legal aid is out of the scope of mandate of the organization or if there is a conflict of interest.
- The lawyer/staff has the right to reject a person requesting free legal assistance if the person does not agree with the terms and conditions set forth in the agreement for limited scope of legal services.
- The lawyer/staff cannot reject a person requesting free legal assistance because of HIV status, gender identity and/or sexual orientation, sexual preferences, or practices, criminal record and other similar categories.
- The lawyer/staff can terminate a relationship with a client if the client repeatedly violates the terms and conditions set forth in the contract for a limited scope of legal services and were warned against it; if a conflict of interest is disclosed; if the client becomes a serious threat to the life, health and well-being of the lawyer/staff or others at the Network member. In such cases the rules for termination of the relationship applies regarding documents and recommendations of further services.
- In case of death of the client, the lawyer/staff member shall strive to hand over original document to the legal heir(s). If this is not possible, originals shall be stored at the Network member’s office, or another appropriate location (e.g. bank, notary office) until they have to be disposed of as prescribed by law.
- Engaging in Advocacy and Strategic Litigation
- Network members and their lawyers/staff are allowed to get engaged in advocacy, including legal advocacy for the rights of people with HIV and key populations most at risk of HIV, if the client agrees and this advocacy does not violate the rules set forth in this code of conduct. The same applies for strategic litigation, which shall be understood as representing a client before one, or more institutions, including international institutions, in order to establish a legal precedent, or obtain another decision that is likely to overturn legislation, case law and practices and ultimately achieve a positive changes on the system level .
- Typical legal advocacy activities are, but not limited to: writing explanatory letters and legal opinions, preparing publications on legal matters, amicus curiae briefs and other materials, giving presentations, reports, lectures, joining forces with other Network members and other organizations to address regional/international legal issues and others.
Робин С. Шарма