The Board of the German-Russian Lawyers’ Association met on 16/17 February 2024 in Halle/Saale for its annual strategy meeting. The meeting focussed on the future direction of the association’s activities.
A few days before the second anniversary of the start of the Russian full-scale war of aggression against Ukraine and at a time of continued and intensified use of legal norms to suppress freedom of expression and the civil society activities of political dissidents, the DRJV has to recognise that close cooperation with Russian professional colleagues is unfortunately only possible to a very limited extent and cooperation in an institutional format is no longer possible at all. The fact that the Board meeting took place on the same day as the death of Alexei Navalny, a lawyer and the leading figure of the Russian opposition, under cruel circumstances in a penal colony in north-eastern Russia, which is classified as particularly inhumane, underlines like no other example the abuse of the law in Russia and the impossibility of cooperation with state institutions in the field of research and education and state-controlled professional organisations.
We would like to continue our intensive professional and personal dialogue with colleagues who also feel a lasting commitment to the fundamental values to which our association is committed – the rule of law, human rights and democracy. As far as possible, we make sure that participation in and cooperation with the DRJV has as far as possible, no negative consequences for our Russian members and colleagues.
The rule of law, human rights and democracy – these are the values that the association’s Board considers to be the only possible basis for the activities of the DRJV. At the Board meeting, it was decided to reaffirm and strengthen these values. The Board will propose to the General Assembly that these values be anchored in the basic rules of our association by means of an amendment to the Articles of Association.
The Board of the DRJV regards the continuation of professional engagement with the law of the Russian Federation as a reasonable and legally as well as politically indispensable task. Even though economic relations between Germany and Russia have greatly diminished and German law firms are hardly active in Russia anymore, the need to deal with developments in Russian law from a professional and critical perspective clearly persists. This is not least due to the fact that German academic institutions have irresponsibly abolished or dramatically reduced the formerly world-leading research on Eastern European law in recent decades. The DRJV can continue to work in both directions: it can keep knowledge of the law of the Russian Federation up to date and report on it accordingly in its publications, and it can use publications, social media and webinars to teach Russian lawyers about the law of the Federal Republic of Germany and the rule of law as foundation of our association’s activities.
In addition, other new topics have become particularly important as a result of current developments. These are the comprehensive sanctions regulations against Russia, their interpretation, application and legality, their impact on other legal areas such as banking law and payment transactions, judicial and arbitration proceedings or intellectual property law as well as, for example, migration law issues.
The DRJV will continue its work with commitment, but in a different form and with different content. Supporting Russian emigrants in Germany and, in particular, Russian colleagues living here is a high priority. The DRJV will continue to see itself as a central association for people with professional knowledge and experience of Russian law. We will not give up the hope that the dictatorial and hostile to the law conditions in the Russian Federation could come to an end and that genuine bilaterality, an equal exchange between experts from both countries, will once again be possible.
Decided in Halle/Saale on 17 February 2024
For more than 33 years, we have dedicated ourselves with great commitment to the legal relations between Russia and Germany. In countless conferences, meetings, publications, etc., we have worked for law and justice in both legal systems. Our website with extensive, freely accessible information and a large archive bears witness to this. The current events have deeply shocked us. Please refer to the statement of the board of the German-Russian Lawyers’ Association on the current situation below. In this situation, we cannot continue to operate as usual and are suspending our activities. We will watch the developments of the next months very carefully and hope to be able to adequately advocate for the law and German-Russian legal relations again soon.
The Board of the German-Russian Lawyers Association e.V. is dismayed by the war waged by Russia against Ukraine and disapproves of it. We cannot see any reasons under international law, political or otherwise, which would allow the destruction of the peace order in Europe. The constitution of the Russian Federation also does not permit a war of aggression against Ukraine. We firmly reject historical declarations that intend to question the state borders of Ukraine and its national sovereignty, as they lack any conceivable legal basis. The Board of the German-Russian Lawyers’ Association calls on all those directly or indirectly involved in this war to return to reason and de-escalation. Only the recognition of existing borders in Europe and only diplomacy and dialogue are capable of bringing peaceful and long-lasting solutions.
We lawyers are committed to law, justice and the rule of law. We reject and fight against arbitrariness and violation of the law in the strongest possible terms. The German-Russian Lawyers’ Association will continue to offer an open platform for different professional opinions. We love to discuss factually and professionally. Our association will continue to oppose the abuse of law and legal nihilism to the best of its ability.
Our sympathy remains with our professional colleagues and the people in Ukraine and Russia who are striving for the rule of law and justice. We stand in solidarity with our partner organisation, the German-Ukrainian Lawyers’ Association. We extend our deepest sympathy to all those who have suffered pain, loss, grief and sorrow as a result of this terrible attack on Ukraine.