Counsel in White Legion case likely to lose license Updated

2017 2017-09-12T16:47:13+0300 2017-09-13T11:49:10+0300 en The Human Rights Center “Viasna” The Human Rights Center “Viasna”
The Human Rights Center “Viasna”
Hanna Bakhtsina. Photo: Vadzim Zamirouski,

Hanna Bakhtsina. Photo: Vadzim Zamirouski,

The Ministry of Justice has questioned the qualification of lawyer Hanna Bakhtsina, legal representative of Miraslau Lazouski, key defendant in the ‘White Legion case’. As a result, the counsel is likely to lose her license.

“Not fit to work as an attorney due to lack of professional skills,” says a conclusion by the Ministry’s Qualification Commission. This week, Hanna Bakhtsina will celebrate 25 years of work in the legal profession.

Bakhtsina is the first lawyer who fell victim to the unscheduled re-certification arranged by the Ministry of Justice.

“21 people were invited. I was the first one. The whole procedure was very long. I protested, tried to prove that they were wrong, that the instructions do not have a causal connection with the possibility of practicing a profession... After that I, as if a student in the exam, was asked questions about areas of law,” the lawyer said.

The interview, according to Ms. Bakhtsina, was not stopped even when her blood pressure rose and she had to pause the conversation to take medication.

Her reaction to the commission's decision was straightforward:

“When I heard that I cannot practice law, I said: “I know which departments think so. I know that you have executed the order of these departments. I consider myself a professional, based on the results of my work and the way I performed it. I respect myself in the profession and it will not sign anything.”

At different times, Hanna Bakhtsina defended numerous persons involved in politically motivated cases, including Enira Branitskaya (the case of "Partnership" in 2006), Iryna Khalip (rioting case in 2010), Eduard Palchys (Jhon Silver case, 2016), and others. Her latest client was Miraslau Lazouski, former leader of the White Legion group, who is facing charges of preparing riots (known as the ‘White Legion case’) and forming an illegal armed group. The investigation into the case is still underway.

Bakhtsina believes that her involvement in the case was the last straw for the authorities. “I link this primarily to my latest case,” she said.

The lawyer intends to appeal against the decision of the Ministry of Justice.

The Human Rights Center "Viasna" believes that another series of re-certification of lawyers appointed by the Ministry of Justice is an instrument of pressure and intimidation used by the authorities against the lawyers of defendants in the politically motivated criminal case of preparing riots and other political and civil activists. On this occasion, the human rights activists called on the Belarusian society to closely monitor the progress of the re-certification of lawyers and urged the UN Special Rapporteur on the independence of judges and lawyers to intervene in the situation, also calling on the international community of lawyers to show solidarity with their Belarusian counterparts.

Later it was reported that two out of 21 counsels failed to pass yesterday's extraordinary re-evaluation, three more will have to be re-certified in six months.

“I do not doubt that the deprivation of the right to practice law is solely due to the active position of certain lawyers and their involvement in cases of politically motivated persecution,” former defense lawyer Pavel Sapelka said.

“The role of the legal profession in the society is much wider than the role of a simple professional association. This institute aims to balance the role of the public, government influence on the legal relations; the lawyer and their activities, free from any kind of pressure and threats is a key element to guarantee everyone’s right to a fair trial. Blankly watching the stripping of their inherent independence and freedom, the society will lose even the minimum rights and guarantees, which have been left by the highly repressive government policies.”

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