In April 2016 the Council of Bars and Law Societies of Europe (CCBE) published Recommendations on the protection of client confidentiality within the context of surveillance activities. CCBE introduces the document as follows:
The purpose of this paper is to inform legislators and policy makers about standards that must be upheld in order to ensure that the essential principles of professional secrecy and legal professional privilege are not undermined by practices undertaken by the state involving the interception of communications and access to lawyers’ data for the purpose of surveillance and/or law enforcement.
Part I outlines the meaning and scope of client confidentiality by putting it into the context of the rights enshrined under EU law and the European Convention on Human Rights, as well as the approach taken by the European courts. The paper demonstrates that the confidentiality of communications between clients and lawyers is protected both under the Convention and EU law and accorded particularly high importance by the European courts and other relevant European bodies. Confidentiality is seen not only as the lawyer’s duty, but as a fundamental human right of the client. Without the certainty of confidentiality there cannot be trust, which is key to the proper functioning of the administration of justice and the rule of law.