The Clooney Foundation for Justice publishes a report on the trial of Viktar Babaryka

2022 2022-01-28T17:58:00+0300 2022-03-17T20:50:48+0300 en The Human Rights Center “Viasna” The Human Rights Center “Viasna”
The Human Rights Center “Viasna”

The trial against political prisoner Viktar Babaryka was monitored under the TrialWatch initiative of the Clooney Foundation for Justice (CFJ) through direct observation from the courtroom from February 17 to July 6, 2021.

Viktar Babaryka in court. Photo: Reuters
Viktar Babaryka in court. Photo: Reuters

The monitoring report prepared by the lawers of Covington & Burling LLP describes in detail the political and legal context, including an assessment of Aliaksandr Lukashenka's influence on the judiciary, as well as the trials against other civic activists involved in the criminal prosecution of Viktar Babaryka.

Based on the analysis of facts, the monitoring mission concluded that several rights of Viktar Babaryka were violated, such as:

  • the right of access to counsel before trial;
  • the right to be informed of charges;
  • the right to be tried by a competent, independent, and impartial tribunal;
  • the right to be presumed innocent;
  • the right to adequate time and facilities for the preparation of a defense and to counsel;
  • the right to call and examine witnesses.

The observations made and the information heard in the court sessions led to the conclusion that the outcome of the process in punishment for Babaryka's participation in the election campaign was predetermined.

It is noted that various high-ranking government officials and the state news agency have made critical statements about Viktar Babaryka, despite their legal obligation to treat him as innocent until his guilt is proven. At the same time, Viktar Babaryka's right to defense was violated–both by preventing him from receiving legal assistance from lawyers and by the fact that the accusation did not set forth in what specific actions he had committed as part of the crimes his crimes were revealed. The monitoring mission concludes that a cumulative series of violations had a negative impact on the fairness of Babaryka's trial, which ultimately may have been a significant factor in his conviction.

Based on the observation and the identified violations, the authors of the report note: “The political context, combined with the violations outlined above, lead us to have very serious concerns that Mr. Babaryka’s prosecution and trial were driven by improper motives, and therefore constituted an abuse of process.”

The full report is available on the CFJ’s website.

Covington & Burling LLP is an international law firm. The authors are lawyers in the firm’s international arbitration, litigation, and white-collar criminal defense practice groups, based in London, Washington, and New York.

The Clooney Foundation for Justice was founded by Hollywood actor George Clooney and his wife, lawyer Amal Clooney and is aimed to advocate for justice through accountability for human rights abuses around the world. One of the foundation's initiatives is TrialWatch, which monitors criminal trials in various countries to expose injustice and promote the rule of law.