Tag Archives: Belarus

Belarus: Controls on lawyers endangering human rights

June 29, 2018

The Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders, an FIDH-OMCT partnership, in collaboration with the Paris Bar and Human Rights Centre “Viasna”, today released a report documenting restrictions on the independence of lawyers in Belarus. Based on an investigation conducted in January 2018, the report criticises the executive power’s stranglehold on the capacity of lawyers defending cases which the authorities consider to be ‘sensitive’ to practise their profession.


In Belarus, lawyers defending cases considered by the authorities to be ‘troublesome’ are generally exposed to retaliatory measures which can culminate in their expulsion, against a background of changes to the legal framework that have gradually placed Belarusian bars, and lawyers themselves, under the direct authority of the Ministry of Justice. Such retaliatory measures are often initiated following repression by the authorities of large-scale protests, as in 2010 and 2017.

In the course of the past few years, the bars have been stripped of their primary function, which is to guarantee independence and ensure the regulation of the profession. Access to the profession and its organisation now fall under the almost exclusive competence of civil servants in the Ministry of Justice.




https://www.fidh.org/fr/themes/defenseurs-des-droits-humains/belarus-le-controle-des-avocats-met-en-peril-les-droits-humains (FRANCAIS)


Belarus: Joint NGO Letter on Belarus: UN Human Rights Body Should Renew the Mandate of the UN Special Rapporteur

June 18, 2018

Human Rights Watch

To Permanent Representatives of Member and Observer States of the UN Human Rights Council



We, the undersigned international human rights organizations, urge your delegation to support the renewal of the mandate of the Special Rapporteur on the human rights situation in Belarus under Item 4 at the United Nations Human Rights Council.

At its 38th session in June, the Human Rights Council (HRC) will consider the human rights situation in Belarus. Since the creation of the mandate of the Special Rapporteur in 2012, there has been no systematic improvement in the human rights situation in Belarus. On the contrary, all legislative and systemic restrictions on freedom of expression and association remain in place, and violations of civil and political rights are coupled by economic and social rights’ abuses. The peaceful demonstrations on March 25th 2018, also known as Freedom Day, and which are organized every year, were once again met with preemptive house arrests of civic and political activists and journalists as well as the arbitrary arrest of about a hundred of peaceful marchers[1].

Calls by civil society, the Special Rapporteur and the European Parliament to end the most recent blocking of the charter97.org website have been ignored while the amendments to the Law on Media currently before the Parliament aim to further control access to sources of information, particularly online, including via social networks. Under the proposed law, the authorities would be able to block any online content without a court order on even vaguer grounds than at present.

Authorities continue to pressure human rights defenders, independent journalists and opposition activists, using the court system to harass them, impose preventive or administrative detention and levy severe fines. Moreover, in September 2017, eight  lawyers defending clients in a criminal case assessed by human rights defenders as politically motivated were subject to a qualification process controlled by the Ministry of Justice[2]. As a result, Anna Bakhtina, renown for her work in defending political prisoners, lost her practicing license while the license of the remaining lawyers was prolonged conditionally for 6 months. Even if they all passed the “examination” procedure in March 2018, the legislation that allows the authorities to arbitrarily revoke a lawyer’s license remains in place.





Belarus: Human rights activists alarmed over new wave of harassment against lawyers

August 30, 2017

Pavel Sapelka

The Ministry of Justice has reportedly ordered an extraordinary certification of a number of lawyers, which may void the licenses of some of them, including those involved in politically motivated cases.

According to the Human Rights Center “Viasna”, the Ministry has inspected the work of the Minsk City and Mahilioŭ Regional Bar Associations. As a result, 25 lawyers will have to undergo certification.

In addition, about 60 lawyers are awaiting regular recertification, which is held every five years. They will take their tests in local bar associations. However, there is a list of eight more counsels, who will be evaluated by the Ministry of Justice in November. According to the rules, which regulate the certification procedure, it can be carried out by both the Ministry’s Qualification Commission and local bar associations. And yet, the situation does not seem so clear.

On the one hand, the certification procedures may look like ordinary procedural steps within the professional community. On the other hand, of great concern is the sudden extraordinary nature of these decisions, taking into account the vulnerability of the institute of lawyers before the Ministry of Justice.




Belarus: Trial against Oleg Volchek

July 3, 2017


L4L is concerned about the trial against Oleg Volchek, a prominent human rights lawyer and director of the non-governmental organisation Pravovaya Pomoshch Naseleniyu (Legal Aid to Population). Tomorrow, a hearing has been scheduled about Oleg Volchek’s complaint about procedural violations and his conviction in absentia on 2 May 2017.

On 17 February 2017, Oleg Volchek participated in a demonstration in Minsk. Another demonstration took place on March 15. Through these peaceful protests, participants called on the authorities to withdraw Presidential Decree No 3 on the ‘Prevention of Social Dependence’. This Decree targets and imposes a tax of around USD 250 on Belarusians who have worked less than half a year and are not registered at the country’s labour offices. A few weeks after the demonstrations, Oleg Volchek was charged with ‘participating in unauthorized peaceful assembly’ and on 21 March 2017, sentenced to thirteen days’ imprisonment by the Frunzensky District Court. That same day, he issued a complaint and requested a re-investigation. On 31 March 2017, the Minsk City Court dismissed Oleg Volchek’s conviction and ordered the Frunzensky District Court to re-investigate the case against him.


According to our information, in June 2017, Oleg Volchek’s lawyer was informed that the Frunzensky District Court of Minsk city reissued the guilty verdict against Oleg Volchek and sentenced him to thirteen days’ imprisonment. Prior to that, on 2 May 2017, this Court had held a hearing on the results of the reinvestigation and found Oleg Volchek guilty of participating in an unauthorised peaceful assembly.





Belarus: The Law Society of Upper Canada expresses grave concern about the administrative convictions of lawyers Leonid Sudalenko and Anatoly Poplavnyi in Belarus

May 10, 2017

The Law Society of Upper Canada

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.



http://www.lsuc.on.ca/newsarchives.aspx?id=2147485737&cid=2147503789&langtype=1036 (FRANCAIS)

http://www.lsuc.on.ca/newsarchives.aspx?id=2147485737&cid=2147503788&langtype=1036 (FRANCAIS)


Belarus: Sentencing of lawyer Oleg Volchek

March 24, 2017


L4L is concerned about the sentencing of lawyer Oleg Volchek. We shared our concerns in a letter to the authorities of Belarus.

Oleg Volchek is a prominent human rights lawyer and director of the non-governmental organisation Pravovaya Pomoshch Naseleniyu (Legal Aid to Population). He defends political rights and fights against the use of torture and bad conditions in Belarusian detention facilities.

According to our information, Oleg Volchek was charged with ‘taking part in an illegal mass event’, under art. 23.34 part 1 of the Administrative code, after taking part in the demonstration that took place in Minsk on 17 February 2017. Through these peaceful protests participants called on the authorities to withdraw Presidential Decree No 3 on the ‘Prevention of Social Dependence’. The hearing in the case against Mr. Volchek took place on 21 March 2017 in the Frunze district of the City of Minsk. According to our information, Mr. Volchek was sentenced to 13 days of imprisonment. The judgment against Mr. Oleg Volchek has been handed down in absentia.