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International Association of Lawyers adopts basic principles on refugees at Budapest congress

The International Association of Lawyers (UIA – Union Internationale des Avocats) adopted “Budapest Principles” on the status of refugees at annual international congress held in the Hungarian capital.

Laurence Bory became the first woman to be made president of the UIA in Budapest.

“Given the observation of the mass violation of the human rights of migrants currently and the fact that the status of refugees is being called into question, even in the most democratic countries, UIA’s aim is to review the concept of ‘refugee’ through these principles,” the UIA said in a statement. The association is asking that the global community of lawyers also adhere to these principles. 

“The international community must set up solidarity mechanisms that make it possible to share the pressure resulting from the crisis equitably, in order to help the most affected countries to manage it,” said Jean-Jacques Uettwiller, outgoing UIA President. “That is why UIA calls upon states to honor the commitments made, in particular in the September 2016 New York Declaration.”

The association elected its first female president in its near 90-year history during the closing session in Budapest. Laurence Bory, a lawyer at the Geneva Bar and one of the founding partners of the law firm Bory & Associés, has been involved with the UIA since 1993. In her investiture speech she urged congress attendees to think deeply about the importance of the rule of law, and the dangers of using the public interest as a pretext to reduce the protection of individuals. She acknowledged the “remarkable work” of her predecessor on refugee rights and stressed the role of the legal profession in defending the rule of law: “I therefore urge each of you, in your respective countries, to fight so that the separation of powers becomes or remains a reality.”

The 60th Congress of the UIA ran from October 28-31 at the Marriott Hotel Budapest.

More than 300 international speakers from 70 countries shared their expertise in sessions attended by more than 1,000 legal professionals. Business law, human rights, art law and robotics law, as well as the general practice of law, were among the topics addressed, with the key themes being compliance and data protection.

The local organizers were delighted with the way the event went, and particularly with the feedback they had received. The tone was set at the opening ceremony held at the Academy of Music, including “an elegant combination of speeches, celebration and music”. That continued at the informal evening, which featured several partners of local firms dressed in traditional Hungarian folk costumes, and performances by Fono Folk Ensemble, Fricska, and various artisans.

For congress president András Szecskay, founder and managing partner at Szecskay Attorneys at Law, personal highlights included the turnout of local legal dignitaries, including the presidents of the Curia (the highest judicial authority in Hungary) and the Constitutional Court, as well as Minister of Justice László Trócsányi and former Minister of Foreign Affairs János Martonyi, both lawyers by training. “We were able to bring into the limelight Hungarian lawyers who had an opportunity to speak at the congress, which isn’t something you get to do very often. Another very nice moment was the forum for CEE countries where representatives of the various bar associations talked about the state of the legal profession in their country.”

Judit Budai, a partner at Szecskay Attorneys at Law and also part of the organizing committee said the congress was a great showcase for the capital. “I think it is important to bring international conferences like this to Hungary because it proves that we can handle, at a minimum, 1,000 people. Unlike some venues, you are right in the heart of the city here, there are world class service providers, you are surrounded by culture and entertainment, which is important for the spouses who come with the delegates, and there are easily accessible excursions. People who had never visited before, or who had not been here for many years, were surprised and delighted with what we can offer.”