The ECBA Spring Conference 2012 was held in the beautiful lake-side city of Geneva, Switzerland.
The traditional start of the conference was Friday evening’s reception, this time hosted by the Lalive Law Firm. After a welcome and a brief outline of international legal developments regarding the position of Swiss Banks by Marc Henzelin, partner of Lalive, the conference delegates were formally welcomed by ECBA Chair Prof Dr Holger Matt. The last speaker was Mrs. Nancy Hollander, a ECBA’s US member, who informed us on the activities of the National Association of Criminal Defence Lawyers (NACDL), a US organization also open to European members.

The conference itself was held in the Hotel Royal. After welcoming speeches by Prof Dr Holger Matt, Chair of the ECBA and Dario Zanni, Prosecutor with the Financial Unit of Office of the Geneva Attorney General, the floor was given to the first keynote speaker. Retired Judge of the European Court of Human Rights Prof. dr. Giorgio Malinverni from Switzerland, discussed  new developments in the ECHR’s case law on defence rights. His analysis of some of the Court’s recent cases led to a lively discussion on a variety of subjects, and especially on the interpretation of the ECHR’s decision in the Salduz case.

The second part of the morning’s business was filled with the reports from different ECBA working groups and related professional organisations. Caroline Morgan and Dian Brouwer discussed the European Commission’s efforts to arrive at a draft for an EU Directive on legal aid, and outlined the initiatives of the ECBA in this field.  Jodie Blackstock (JUSTICE) discussed the interim report of the joint project of Justice, the ECBA and the International Commission of Jurists, describing the practical difficulties of access to justice in European Arrest Warant cases.  Jonathan Mitchell put forward a plea to compile a list of trusted EAW practitioners across Europe.  Marion Isobel (Open Society Justice Initiative) presented her organisation’s template briefs. Finally, Scott Crosby highlighted the New Journal of European Criminal Law.

The first slot of the afternoon session was reserved for the second keynote speaker, Judge Kevin O’Higgins of the European Court of Justice.  Judge O’Higgins discussed the ECJ’s approach to cases involving asset freezing and competition law, as being the closest to traditional criminal legal issues, and, more generally, the role of defence counsel.  The discussion following Judge O’Higgins’ contribution focussed on the changing relationship between the ECHR in Strasbourg and the ECJ in Luxemburg with the accession of the EU to the European Convention on Human Rights.

Next, attention was focussed on the state of play of Measure C, the draft EU Directive on access to a lawyer after arrest and detention. In a panel discussion, Mr. Mauro Miranda of the EC Criminal Justice Unit, outlined the status of the draft and its process through the EU political institutions.  Vânia Costa Ramos presented the ECBA view on the issue and James MacGuill provided a practical perspective from one of the member States - notably Ireland.

The closing session is traditionally reserved for an overview of recent developments and proposed reforms affecting the legal profession in different member States of the European Union,  and provided everyone with useful updates on key developments in criminal law and criminal procedure. Speakers were Elmar Kresbach from Austria, Alan McCreadie and William McVicar from Scotland, Janis Rozenbergs from Latvia and Janusz Tomzcak from Poland.

The conference was formally concluded by the ECBA General Assembly, and informally with a dinner in the pleasant venue of Restaurant Du Parc des Bastions.

The ECBA thanks everyone who attended and contributed to the success of this conference.


Report by Dian Brouwer