796 Belarusians signed an appeal to the Special Rapporteur on the independence of judges and lawyers with a request to protect Belarusian lawyers from reprisals

 

OHCHR-UNOG 
8-14 Avenue de la Paix 
1211 Geneva 10 
Switzerland

Mr. Diego García-Sayán,

Special Rapporteur on the independence of judges and lawyers

 

From:

Public institution "Belarusian Documentation Center",
Director Raisa Mikhailovskaia,

The civil initiative "For a fair trial in Belarus",
coordinator Luidmila Kuchura,
The civil initiative "Movement of mothers 328",
coordinator Larisa Zhigar,

 

Dear Mr. García-Sayán,

We, Belarusian citizens, have already faced injustice of the judicial system in our country. Falsified criminal cases, disproportionately severe punishments, and, as a result, broken fates of thousands of Belarusian citizens. In this situation professional, principled, conscientious lawyers who defend citizens in courts are the only support and protection for us. However, now in Belarus citizens are being deprived of the opportunity to protect their rights with help of a professional lawyer.

The situation around the bars that should be independent by law, but in practice are subordinate to the Ministry of Justice has not changed. This part of the recommendations of the Special Rapporteur on the independence of judges and lawyers have not been implemented. The state does not meet the requirement to reform the Bar association to guarantee its independence in accordance with international standards. The procedure for access to the legal profession in the Republic of Belarus does not comply with international standards. Analysis of the provisions regulating disciplinary proceedings also leads to the conclusion that lawyers do not have any independence under the current legislation of Belarus. The Ministry of Justice has too wide jurisdiction to control as the Bar activities as a whole, as the activities of certain lawyers through its issuing licenses to practice law.

Despite the adoption of new Law on the Advocacy, favorable conditions for effective performance by lawyers of their functions to protect the rights of citizens have not been created in Belarus. As before, lawyers are under strict control of the state judicial authorities and are not free from interference in their organizational and professional activities.

A glaring example of such interference is extraordinary certification of  lawyers by order of the Ministry of Justice which followed its inspections.

On 12 September 2017, certification of 19 lawyers of the Minsk City Bar association was carried out. Only 13 of them were confirmed "to comply with the requirements of the law." In relation to four lawyers it was revealed "incomplete compliance," therefore their certification was postponed for half a year as they need to improve their qualification. Two more lawyers, Anna Bakhtina and A.Litvin, cannot continue their work "due to insufficient qualification" by decision of the certifying commission of the Ministry of Justice [1].

The next stage of the certification took place on 25 September 2017. As a result, the commission made positive decisions in relation to five lawyers and eight lawyers received decisions with statement "on incomplete compliance with the law with postponement of certification for six months provided the implementation of recommendations." In fact, all the lawyers mentioned have repeatedly worked in socially resonant politically motivated cases[2].

We, citizens of Belarus, express our concern over the interference of state bodies in the activities of the Bar and demonstrate support the lawyers who were deprived of the right to professional activities.

In this regard we, civil society representatives, ask the Special Rapporteur:

-       pay close attention to the cases of pressure on lawyers in Belarus, urgently call on the Belarusian authorities to refrain from interfering in the activities of the bar associations;

-       oblige the State to stop immediately the interference of state bodies in the activities of the Bar and ensure its independence at legal level by amending the current legislation;

-       stop pressure on the lawyers of defendants in politically motivated cases and cases related to human rights protection;

-       cancel the decision of the certifying commission of the Ministry of Justice which is an obstacle for the exercise of professional activities by Anna Bakhtina and other lawyers.

                                                                                             

October 2, 2017

Public institution "Belarusian Documentation Center",
Director Raisa Mikhailovskaia

 

 The civil initiative "For a fair trial in Belarus",
coordinator Luidmila Kuchura
                

The civil initiative "Movement of  Mothers 328",
coordinator Larisa Zhigar

 

Annex:

796 signatures of citizens of Belarus



[2] http://spring96.org/ru/news/87913

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