Gabriela Knaul, UN Special Rapporteur on the independence of judges and lawyers, was informed about persecution of counsel Sapelka

2011 2011-03-09T17:45:01+0200 1970-01-01T03:00:00+0300 en https://spring96.org/files/images/sources/knaul.jpg The Human Rights Center “Viasna” The Human Rights Center “Viasna”
The Human Rights Center “Viasna”

On 4 March a new report of harassment of lawyers in Belarus was submitted to Gabriela Knaul, the UN Special Rapporteur on the independence of judges and lawyers.

Belarusian human rights organizations and human rights groups informed her about the renewal of pressure on the lawyer's society in the Republic of Belarus, which threatens the institution of the Bar of the Republic of Belarus. On 4 March 2011 it became known that the lawyer of the Minsk City Bar Association Pavel Sapelka was expelled from it by decision of the Presidium of the Minsk City Bar on the initiative of the Ministry of Justice of the Republic of Belarus.

The Special Rapporteur is informed that:

"Pavel Sapelka had been a counsel of the legal advice office No.2 of the Savetski district of Minsk (Minsk, Melezh Street, 4) since 1994 (License No. 1314 of 13 July 2005) and was a member of the Minsk City Bar. Sapelka represented interests of the former presidential candidate Andrei Sannikau, who is accused of organizing riots on December 19, 2010 at the Independence Square in Minsk and is currently held in the KGB jail; the head of the election headquarters of presidential candidate Vital Rymasheuski Pavel Seviarynets, who is also in the KGB jail, and the leader of an international youth organization Young Front Dzmitry Dashkevich.

On 3 March 2011 a prescription of the Ministry of Justice concerning Pavel Sapelka was considered at a sitting of the Minsk City Bar Association, Mr. Sapelka was expelled from the Minsk City Bar Association on decision of its Presidium. In accordance with the Law of the Republic of Belarus On Legal Profession (Article 19, paragraph 3), the expulsion of Pavel from the bar association means that he will no longer be able to engage in advocacy. In accordance with Belarusian legislation, legal practice can only be conducted by members of the bar association.

Earlier, on 4 January 2011, Board of the Ministry of Justice reviewed the activities of lawyers who defended the accused in the case of the mass riots of 19-20 December 2010. Thus, the press service of the Ministry of Justice stated that Pavel Sapelka ‘made inappropriate statements concerning the Bar as an independent legal institution, expressed doubt concerning the legality of actions of the Ministry of Justice as the state licensing authority, stating that it was “pressure on the activities of government lawyers on the part of the state". In this regard, the Ministry of Justice submitted to the Minsk City Bar Association a proposal to use administrative punishment towards Pavel Sapelka and consider the question of the expediency of his further stay in the Presidium of the Minsk City Bar Association. The administration of the Minsk City Bar Association didn’t find any violations in the actions of their colleague at that time.

The human rights community of the Republic of Belarus expresses its concern about the situation, acts of intimidation and deprivation of attorney licenses in the Republic of Belarus, which can jeopardize the independence of the legal community in Belarus and threaten with submission of lawyers to the Ministry of Justice.

We ask you to respond to this email as soon as possible and take all possible actions within the framework of your mandate.

Alena Tankachova, the Foundation for Legal Technologies Development
Volha Smalianka, the Center for Legal Transformation
Raisa Mikhailouskaya, the Center for Human Rights
Tatsiana Raviaka, the Belarusian Human Rights House
Ina Kulei, the Committee to Protect the Repressed Solidarity
Ales Bialiatski, the Human Rights Center Viasna

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