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Ongoing harassment of lawyers involved in ‘White Legion case’

2017 2017-09-26T16:33:12+0300 2017-09-26T16:33:13+0300 en The Human Rights Center “Viasna” The Human Rights Center “Viasna”
The Human Rights Center “Viasna”
Lawyer Hanna Bakhtsina during the trial of activist Eduard Palchys. October 2016, Minsk. Photo:

Lawyer Hanna Bakhtsina during the trial of activist Eduard Palchys. October 2016, Minsk. Photo:

The Qualification Commission of the Ministry of Justice has carried out the certification of 13 more lawyers. According to information obtained by the Human Rights Center "Viasna", there are five defenders of persons charged in the so-called ‘White Legion case’ among those who were ‘conditionally certified’. In such circumstances, the human rights defenders rule out the possibility of witnessing a trial held in accordance with the standards of fair justice.

The second stage of certification took place on September 25. As a result, five lawyers received positive assessment, while eight more were labelled as counsels with ‘incomplete correspondence to legislation’. They will have to retake the test six months later and are subject to certain recommendations.

Of these eight, five are defenders of persons charged in the criminal case of ‘preparing riots’ (later they were charged with ‘creating an illegal armed group’). Nearly all of them have repeatedly worked on politically motivated cases. Their professional career will be decided in six months, provided they stick to the ‘advice’ from the Justice Ministry.

In this regard, we should recall repeated statements by the country’s human rights community on the inadmissibility of any government interference in the activities of the Bar, as it undermines the independence of the legal profession in general and each individual lawyer, in particular.

“Of particular concern is the fact of selective approach by the Ministry of Justice officials to lawyers, which have faced extraordinary certification procedures,” Viasna’s lawyer Valiantsin Stefanovich said. “For example, out of 16 lawyers involved in the ‘White Legion case’ one has already been deprived of her license, and seven more have been ‘conditionally certified’ for six months. It should be noted that more attestations are scheduled for November and their results can further aggravate the situation of the accused in this case.”

The human rights activist stresses that the Human Rights Center "Viasna" views these actions by the Ministry of Justice as direct pressure on lawyers, as well as a violation of the right to legal protection of the persons involved in the case.

“In such circumstances, we rule out the possibility of organizing a trial in accordance with fair trial standards, one of which is the ability to obtain professional legal assistance, independent of any influence whatsoever,” says Stefanovich. “Arranging a trial that violates these principles would entail corresponding reactions by the human rights community, of both the criminal case as a whole and the resulting sentence.”

The wave of re-certification of lawyers started in September this year following a series of inspections conducted by the Ministry of Justice in the Minsk City Bar and the Mahilioŭ Regional Bar. The Human Rights Center "Viasna" expressed concern about the issue and informed the UN Special Rapporteur on the independence of judges and lawyers asking to pay close attention to the situation with the pressure on lawyers in Belarus and calling on the international community to demonstrate solidarity with their Belarusian counterparts. The problem was also raised during the OSCE Human Dimension Implementation Meeting, which was held in Warsaw last week.

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