Viasna urges international lawyers’ community to support Belarusian counsels
Viasna has sent appeals for action to the Council of Bars and Law Societies of Europe (CCBE), which reacted to the persecution of Belarusian lawyers in 2011, the Polish Bar Council, the National Chamber of Legal Advisors of Poland, the Lithuanian Bar Association, the Union of Lawyers of the Republic of Moldova, the Ukrainian National Bar Association, Georgian Bar Association and the German Federal Bar.
“We believe that it is the position of the authorities of Belarus and the bodies of legal self-government in the field of observance and promotion of the independence of the legal profession in the state that will determine the place that the Belarusian lawyers will occupy in the family of European counsels, and the level of respect for them in the society and among their colleagues, Belarusian lawyers.
Your attention to this issue will be an act of solidarity with your colleagues, and will also highlight for the authorities of Belarus the importance of respecting the rights of lawyers and, in general, the guarantees of a fair trial,” says the appeal signed by the head of the HRC "Viasna" Ales Bialiatski and lawyer Pavel Sapelka, winner of CCBE’s award "For the Defense of Human Rights."
The reason for the human rights activists’ concern is the new wave of re-attestation of lawyers appointed after a series of inspections by the Ministry of Justice, which in the summer of this year targeted the Mahilioŭ Regional Bar and the Minsk City Bar. According to information obtained by the Human Rights Center "Viasna", the extraordinary attestation will be held as early as on September 12. The scrutiny will affect twenty-five representatives of the profession: twenty-three in Minsk and two in Mahilioŭ.
Human rights activists do 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, as several counsels of such persons were included in the lists for re-attestation.
The country’s human rights activists have repeatedly stressed that any kind of re-certification by the Ministry of Justice is an open means of pressure on lawyers.
On September 6, the Human Rights Center "Viasna" wrote to Ms. Mónica Pinto, UN Special Rapporteur on the independence of judges and lawyers, asking her to pay close attention to the situation of pressure on lawyers in Belarus, to urgently call upon the Belarusian authorities to refrain from interfering in the activities of Bars and to refrain from pressure and repression of individual lawyers.