Viasna asks UN Special Rapporteur to intervene in situation of pressure on lawyers in Belarus
The Human Rights Center “Viasna” has written to Ms. Mónica Pinto, UN Special Rapporteur on the independence of judges and lawyers, to express concern over the extraordinary attestation of a number of Belarusian lawyers scheduled for September 12, which may result in the revocation of their licenses.
As previously reported, the attestation will affect 25 counsels: 23 in Minsk and two in Mahilioŭ. In addition, about 60 lawyers will undergo regular re-attestation, which is held every five years. Of these, eight people will be assessed by the Qualification Commission of the Ministry of Justice, instead of local bar associations.
Inspections of lawyers’ activities are often linked to recurrent waves of repression in the country, says the communication signed by Viasna’s chairman Ales Bialiatski. In 2011, following the December 2010 presidential election, the Ministry of Justice targeted numerous lawyers, revoking the licenses of a number of defenders of former presidential candidates and participants in the post-election protest in Minsk. Then, too, an extraordinary re-attestation of lawyers was carried out, for which the local certification commissions were created, the composition of which did not stand up to criticism. Later the same year, the Ministry of Justice initiated the adoption of new rules of legal ethics, which seriously restricted the rights of lawyers and their clients.
“Therefore, while looking back, today we should not rule out that this year’s re-attestation of lawyers may be linked to the resonant politically motivated criminal case of ‘preparing mass riots’ and other cases against political and civic activists: several counsels of such persons were included in the lists for re-attestation,” says the letter.
Noting also that the legislation of Belarus provides for the right of the Ministry of Justice to directly interfere in the activities of both the bar and each lawyer, the authors emphasize the helplessness and defenselessness of the professional corporation before the authorities and ask the UN Special Rapporteur to urgently call on the Belarusian authorities to refrain from interference in the activity of the bar associations, and also put an end to harassment and repression against individual lawyers.