May 10, 2017
The Law Society of Upper Canada expresses grave concern about the administrative convictions of lawyers Leonid Sudalenko and Anatoly Poplavnyi in Belarus.
Leonid Sudalenko and Anatoly Poplavnyi are human rights lawyers based in Gomel, Belarus. Leonid Sudalenko is the head of the Gomel branch of Justice Initiative, a civil society association which provides legal support to victims of human rights violations. He monitors and documents human rights violations in the Gomel region, campaigns for the abolition of the death penalty in Belarus, and specializes in preparing complaints to the United Nations Human Rights Committee. Anatoly Poplavnyi is a member of the Gomel branch of the Human Rights Centre “Viasna”, an organization which promotes human rights and lends practical assistance to civic initiatives for the legal defence of citizens. It also conducts research into the state of civil society and legal defence in Belarus.
It has come to the Law Society’s attention that on March 17, 2017, Leonid Sudalenko and Anatoly Poplavnyi were convicted of “non-compliance with the legal requirements on the organization and conducting of mass events”. Leonid Sudalenko was given a warning, while Anatoly Poplavnyi was sentenced to ten days of administrative detention. The “mass event” in question was a peaceful demonstration that took place on February 19, 2017 in Gomel. It brought together approximately 4000 people for the purposes of protesting Presidential Decree No. 3 “On the prevention of dependency on social aid”, a law which, in violation of both the Belarusian Constitution and international human rights laws, sanctions Belarusian citizens who work less than 183 days per year by imposing a penalty in the form of a fee and/or administrative arrest. Leonid Sudalenko and Anatoly Poplavnyi were on hand to monitor the peaceful assembly and provide citizens with legal information.
On March 23, 2017, Anatoly Poplavnyi was found guilty of another charge of “non-compliance with the legal requirements on the organization and conducting of mass events”, this time in relation to his involvement in a demonstration (again against Presidential Decree No. 3) held in Rogachev on March 12, 2017. He was sentenced to five days of administrative detention.