Daily Archives: 08/02/2021

Belarus: Indictment of Leanid Sudalenka and arbitrary detention of Tatsiana Lasitsa


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The Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders, a partnership of FIDH and the World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT), has received new information and requests your urgent intervention in the following situation in Belarus.

New information:

The Observatory has been informed by the Human Rights Center “Viasna” about the indictment and ongoing arbitrary detention of Leanid Sudalenka, lawyer of the Homieĺ (Gomel) branch of Viasna[1], and the arbitrary detention of Tatsiana Lasitsa, Viasna’s volunteer.

On February 1, 2021, Leanid Sudalenka was charged under Parts 1 and 2 of Article 342 of the Belarus Criminal Code (“organization and preparation of actions grossly violating public order and financing such activities”). If convicted, he could face up to three years of imprisonment. Mr. Sudalenka remains detained in pre-trial detention center No. 3 in Homieĺ.

Moreover, on January 21, 2021, Tatsiana Lasitsa, who works with Mr. Sudalenka, was detained at the Minsk airport while attempting to travel from Belarus to Lithuania by officers of the Interior Ministry. She is considered as a suspect in the same criminal case. She was also taken into custody in Homieĺ pre-trial detention center No. 3, where she remains detained.

The Observatory recalls that on January 18, 2021, the Investigative Committee of Belarus detained Leanid Sudalenka and interrogated him as part of a criminal case, without granting him access to his lawyer for several hours. Later in the evening, Maria Tarasenka, another Viasna volunteer and Mr. Sudalenka’s assistant, was also detained in Homieĺ. Law enforcement officials searched her apartment, and she was placed in a preliminary detention center. She was released without charges on January 21, 2021.

The Observatory further recalls that Leanid Sudalenka was interrogated and his office was searched on January 5, 2021, by officers of the Main Department for Combating Organized Crime and Corruption of the Ministry of Internal Affairs in connection with another criminal case opened earlier in December 2020 against a Homieĺ opposition activist, Uladzimir Nepomniashchykh, in which Leanid Sudalenka is figuring as a witness.

The Observatory condemns the arbitrary detention and judicial harassment of Leanid Sudalenka and Tatsiana Lasitsa which seems to be only aimed at punishing them for their legitimate human rights activities.





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China: Beijing’s move to disbar lawyers in Hong Kong fugitives case sends a chill through mainland human rights circles


Lawyers Lu Siwei and Ren Quanniu have been disbarred by mainland authorities. Photo: Handout

In a blow that shook China’s human rights and legal circles, mainland Chinese lawyers Lu Siwei and Ren Quanniu found themselves disbarred at the start of this year.

Judicial officials turned up at their law firms with letters saying the two human rights lawyers’ practising licences were being revoked.

The news alarmed their clients and the mainland’s human rights network and intensified tensions between Beijing and Washington, with the US State Department voicing concern over the treatment of the two lawyers.

The pair drew attention last year as the most outspoken among lawyers representing 12 Hong Kong fugitives who were arrested while trying to flee to Taiwan in August to avoid prosecution for involvement in the 2019 anti-government protests.

Last December, 10 of them were given jail terms of seven months to three years, while two who were underage were handed back to Hong Kong police.

Looking back, Lu and Ren told the Post they were shocked not only at being disbarred, but also by the threats and pressure they endured while doing their job providing legal representation to individuals facing trial in mainland courts.

The mainland’s network of civil-rights lawyers has long been used to harassment by police and being invited to meet government officials, but Lu and Ren said they were subjected to an unprecedented level of pressure throughout the four months they were involved with the Hong Kong fugitives’ case.





UK: Back to basics on protecting lawyers


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Not associating lawyers with their clients is a UN basic principle, but this has not stopped the demonisation – often by government – of those in the profession for merely discharging their duties

It is now three decades since a United Nations conference adopted a global set of safeguards for an independent legal profession. The so-called basic principles were adopted at a 1990 conference in Havana (where president Fidel Castro assured delegates that Cuba was ‘virtually free from many forms of contemporary crime’). One of the most treasured of those principles is the statement: ‘Lawyers shall not be identified with their clients or their clients’ causes as a result of discharging their functions.’

This noble sentiment has not prevented the persecution of lawyers across the world for discharging their functions. To take one example, the Turkey campaign group Arrested Lawyers states that, since 2016, 450 lawyers have been sentenced to a total of 2,786 years in prison for alleged involvement in terrorism: in several cases their ‘crime’ was to act on behalf of lawyers already jailed.

The UK should not be too smug: the government continues to reject calls for an inquiry into what it has admitted is strong evidence of security forces collusion in the 1989 murder of Belfast solicitor Pat Finucane.  

More recent identifications of lawyers with their clients have involved words rather than violence, but are disturbing nonetheless. Last month the profession was unanimous in its support when distinguished barrister Dinah Rose QC came under attack for accepting a brief to appear in a Privy Council case concerning the legality of gay marriage in the Cayman Islands. Rose pointed out that the Bar Standards Board code expressly forbids a barrister from withdrawing from a case because of external pressure.


All this, of course, is taking place against the background of last year’s party conference jibes by the prime minister and home secretary about ‘lefty lawyers’ acting in asylum claims. The remarks prompted outrage in all branches of the profession, with the bar chair accusing the home secretary of seeking ‘to demonise the very people helping constituents every day, without agenda, simply because they provide a vital public service’.

In a grim reminder of the risks lawyers can face, a man was subsequently charged with an attempted knife attack on a prominent legal aid firm. The case is currently sub judice.  





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