Daily Archives: 06/02/2021

UK: UK government ministers condemned for anti-lawyer rhetoric


UK government ministers face increasing condemnation for verbal attacks on the legal profession in the aftermath of an alleged terrorism incident at a London firm.

In early September 2020, a member of the public allegedly threatened to kill a lawyer at a law firm’s office in Harrow. He has been charged with preparing terrorist acts, among other charges that include actual bodily harm, making a threat to kill, and a racially-aggravated public order offence. At the charging hearing, prosecutors alleged the motivation was connected to ‘the firm’s involvement in preventing the government from deporting people’. The man charged has yet to enter a plea.

Days before the incident, Home Secretary Priti Patel had tweeted to complain that Home Office ‘removals continue to be frustrated by activist lawyers’, despite the Home Office being condemned for a video using the same language only days earlier. The Law Society of England and Wales had criticised the ‘dangerous and misleading’ video that claimed government attempts to remove ‘migrants with no right to remain in the UK’ were blocked by ‘activist lawyers’ delaying and disrupting returns by ‘abus[ing]’ return regulations.

The video was removed from circulation and replaced with one that does not reference ‘activist lawyers’, but the Home Secretary continues to use the phrase.

Philip Rodney, former Member of the IBA Senior Lawyers’ Committee Advisory Board, tells Global Insight that he finds it ‘breath-taking that a government channel should seek to disparage as “activists” lawyers who work within the limits of the law to uphold the rights of those whom they represent. The ability to scrutinise executive powers and protect the interests of our clients is an essential part of the rule of law’.

He suggests that government attacks on lawyers, though alarmingly common in autocratic countries around the world, are unprecedented in the United Kingdom: ‘I can’t recall in more than 40 years of practice seeing that sort of language being used by government in an attempt to discredit lawyers who are just doing their jobs’.

Although concerns were raised about the connection between ministers’ language and the incident in the aftermath of the alleged attack, ministers have continued to politicise the work of lawyers representing asylum seekers.



If the Tories cared about the rule of law, they’d overturn the dismantling of legal aid




Belarus: Joint letter on the arrest and detention of Leanid Sudalenka



In a joint letter Lawyers for Lawyers and the Law Society for England and Wales express concern about the arrest and detention of Belarusian lawyer Leanid Sudalenka.

On 5 January 2021, the offices of Leanid Sudalenka, the Chairman of the Homiel branch of the Viasna Human Rights Centre and 2018 winner of the French Republic’s “Liberty- Equality-Fraternity Prize” for his human rights work, were searched by officers from the Department for Combating Organized Crime and Corruption of the Belarus Ministry of Internal Affairs. The search was conducted in connection with a criminal case against opposition activist Uladzimir Nepomniashchykh, in which Mr. Sudalenka was to appear as a witness. During the search over three hundred items were taken, including casefiles and Mr. Sudalenka’s laptop and bankcards. His work computer and more bank cards were taken during a subsequent search of Mr. Sudalenka’s apartment.

After the search, Mr. Sudalenka was taken to the Office for Combating Organized crime and reportedly interrogated primarily about the legal advice provided to those detained, fined and arrested during the post-electoral protests in Homiel.

On 18 January 2021, Mr. Sudalenka was again detained, this time by the Investigative Committee of Belarus as part of a criminal case brought under the Belarus Criminal Code  for “organising or preparing actions that grossly violate the public order or taking active part in such actions”. He was denied access to his lawyer for many hours. It was reported by the Viasna Human Rights Centre on 29 January 2021 that Mr. Sudalenka had been charged under the Belarus Criminal Code for “financing actions that grossly violate the public order”. Mr. Sudalenka remains in custody in a pre-trial detention center in Homiel.

Lawyers for Lawyers and the Law Society for England and Wales fear that the detention of and charges against Mr. Sudalenka could be aimed at curbing his legitimate activities as an attorney.