British Law Society joins campaign in support of rights activist Aleh Volchak
The Law Society, a professional body representing more than 150,000 solicitors in England and Wales, has joined a campaign in support of human rights defender Aleh Volchak, BelaPAN said.
In an open letter sent to the Presidential Administration in Minsk on
February 15, Law Society President John Wotton says that the
organization is concerned by recent events concerning Mr. Volchak.
Mr. Volchak, a former prosecutorial investigator who chairs a Ukrainian-registered organization called Legal Assistance to the Population, was arrested in Minsk on January 27 and sentenced to four days in jail on a charge of disorderly conduct on January 30.
The police seized the keys to Mr. Volchak’s home during his arrest. Upon his release, Mr. Volchak found out that his passport had disappeared from his apartment. The activist believes that the police seized the passport to prevent him from participating in international conferences abroad.
“His arrest and the seizure of his passport prevented him from traveling to the UN in New York on the 30th January to discuss a case he had submitted to the UN Human Rights Committee regarding the forced closure of his organization,” said Mr. Wotton.
“The confiscation of Mr. Volchak’s passport will also prevent him from taking part in an international conference in London in February,” he said. “Therefore, return of his passport is required urgently so that he can attend.”
Mr. Wotton mentions the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which states that “everyone shall be free to leave any country, including his own,” as well as urges the authorities of Belarus to respect the country’s constitution.
“On behalf of the Law Society, I respectfully urge that you take immediate action using all powers available to you to ensure that Mr. Volchak’s passport is returned to him and that he does not suffer undue interference with his legitimate work,” he says.
Copies of the letter were sent to the interior and justice ministries, Prosecutor General’s Office, Supreme Court and British embassy in Minsk.
At the end of the last week, the Haldane Society of Socialist Lawyers in the UK sent a similar appeal to the Belarusian authorities.