Tag Archives: Belarus

Belarus: Letter on the sentencing of Leanid Sudalenka


Letter on the sentencing of Leanid Sudalenka

In a letter, Lawyers for Lawyers expresses concern about the recent sentencing of Belarusian lawyer Leanid Sudalenka.

On 5 February 2021, we previously raised concern about his arrest and detention in a joint letter. Mr. Sudalenka is 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.

According to our information, on 5 January 2021, officers from the Department for Combating Organized Crime and Corruption of the Belarus Ministry of Internal Affairs entered Mr. Sudalenka’s offices with a search warrant. It is alleged that the officers searched the premises in connection with a criminal case that was opened in December 2020 against opposition activist Uladzimir Nepomniashchykh. Mr. Sudalenka was due to appear as a witness in this case.

We understand that Mr. Sudalenka was then taken to the Office for Combating Organized Crime for an interrogation. However, it has been reported that during his questioning he was primarily interrogated about the legal advice provided to those detained, fined and arrested during the post-electoral protests in Homiel. After this interrogation, he was released.

On 18 January 2021, Mr. Sudalenka was detained a second time.

It has been reported that, on 3 November 2021, after a hearing behind closed doors, the Centraĺny District Court of Homieĺ found Mr. Sudalenka guilty of “organizing and preparing actions that grossly violate public order” (Part 1 of Article 342 Criminal Code) and “training and preparation of persons for participation in such actions, as well as their financing or other material support” (Part 2 of Article 342 of the Criminal Code). It has been reported that Mr. Sudalenka was accused of paying for firewood for the children from a large family, whose father was later convicted of “rioting”, appearing in a video on YouTube to explain to a blogger what a people’s protest is, a call on social media to meet a Viasna volunteer after serving 15 days of administrative imprisonment, arranging a seminar on digital security for human rights defenders, payment of fines, court fees, and lawyers’ services. Mr. Sudalenka was sentenced to three years of imprisonment in a general-security penal colony.




IBAHRI keeps spotlight on key issues raised at 48th session of the UN Human Rights Council


With a constantly evolving and fast-paced news agenda, human rights issues do not always make the front page. The International Bar Association’s Human Rights Institute (IBAHRI) is committed to highlighting human rights abuses across the world and holding those accountable to justice. At the 48th session of the United Nations Human Rights Council (HRC48), the IBAHRI joined other non-governmental organisations in statements condemning international human rights violations, with a particular focus on lawyers under attack, facing arbitrary detention or suppression of their professional activities.

Afghanistan: Since the Taliban takeover of the country in August 2021, gross and systematic human rights violations continue to occur in Afghanistan, including attacks against female lawyers and judges. In partnership with a number of other NGOs, the IBAHRI released a joint open appeal to UN Member States to urge the adoption of a resolution creating a Fact-Finding Mission, or other independent investigative mechanism, for Afghanistan. The IBAHRI welcomes the new agreement of the Human Rights Council (HRC) to appoint a special rapporteur on Afghanistan to probe human rights violations by parties to the conflict, including the Taliban, as an important first step towards achieving oversight, accountability, justice and reparation for the ongoing crisis.


Belarus: The legal profession in Belarus is under threat, with attacks against lawyers on the rise. Most recently, Maxim Znak, lawyer for a former candidate for the Belarusian Presidency, was sentenced to a ten-year prison term following a closed-door trial. During the UN Interactive Dialogue the IBAHRI delivered an oral statement on behalf of several NGOs on the human rights situation in Belarus. The IBAHRI condemned the deterioration of the situation on the ground and stressed that the HRC must take action to prevent a further decline. The IBAHRI would welcome full support for the Special Rapporteur on the human rights situation in Belarus through adequate funding, as well as an examination of the situation by the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights.



In Belarus, Lukashenka’s Government Targets Lawyers And The Legal Profession As A Whole


"Behind every tyrant in history have stood lawyers, prosecutors, and judges who justified his rule and punished his opponents for their supposed crimes," said lawyer Maksim Znak in accepting the International Bar Association Award for Outstanding Contribution to Human Rights.

At the beginning of the month, new government-sponsored amendments to the Belarusian Law on the Bar and Legal Advocacy came into effect that have been widely criticized as intended to impose government control over the legal profession and undermine its independence.

The new legislation comes in the wake of a massive crackdown on lawyers individually in which about three dozen defense attorneys — many defending prominent opposition figures and anti-government activists — have been deprived of their law licenses.

“Lawyers are people who defend citizens from the authorities,” Dzmitry Layeuski, a prominent defense attorney who was stripped of his license in July, told RFE/RL’s Belarus Service. “Now lawyers themselves need defense. But what we see is indifference from the public.”

On October 25, lawyer Natallya Matskevich, whose clients included jailed would-be presidential candidates Viktar Babaryka and Syarhey Tsikhanouski, was expelled from the Belarusian Collegium of Lawyers, the country’s bar association, for unspecified alleged wrongdoing. She was at least the fifth attorney working to defend Babaryka to lose her license.

The government’s targeting of lawyers is part of a massive crackdown on dissent following the disputed August 2020 presidential election that handed a sixth term to strongman leader Alyaksandr Lukashenka. Thousands of people have been arrested, and most top opposition figures have either been jailed or pushed out of the country.

The European Union, the United States, Canada, and other countries have refused to recognize Lukashenka as Belarus’s legitimate leader and have imposed sanctions on him and several senior Belarusian officials in response to the “falsification” of the vote and the postelection crackdown.

However, Minsk’s latest moves include changing the rules of legal accreditation to undermine the already-compromised independence of the Belarusian bar association, with potential long-term effects for the entire country.

Attacking The Defenders?

“The crackdown on lawyers who dare to do their job and assist all those who are arbitrarily detained or otherwise harassed by the Belarusian government is a sign of a severe deterioration of the human rights situation in Belarus, a deterioration that will shape [Lukashenka’s] sixth term in office and beyond,” wrote international rights activist Ewelina Ochab in a column for Forbes in August.

The new amendments to the Law on the Bar and Legal Advocacy were passed in May and took effect on November 1. They restrict which lawyers and law firms are able to take on the defense of clients facing criminal or administrative charges.

All lawyers applying for licenses must be approved in advance by the Justice Ministry and the amended law empowers the ministry to develop and enforce a code of professional ethics for lawyers. It creates a Qualification Commission, under the control of the Justice Ministry. The Justice Ministry now controls the “election” of heads of regional bar associations and has the power to dismiss them. The ministry also has the power to demand any documents from bar associations or individual lawyers.






Belarus: Invitation: seminar and award ceremony 2021 Lawyers for Lawyers Award


Invitation: seminar and award ceremony 2021 Lawyers for Lawyers Award

Lawyers for Lawyers and the Amsterdam Bar Association would like to cordially invite you to join our seminar ‘Resilience of Lawyers in Different European Contexts’ and the presentation of the 2021 Lawyers for Lawyers Award in theatre de Rode Hoed in Amsterdam on Thursday, 18 November 2021, from 15:00 – 17:45 CET (UTC+1).

The theme of the seminar will be introduced by Ybo Buruma (Judge of the Supreme Court of the Netherlands). During the first panel discussion, lawyers from Hungary, Poland, and the United Kingdom will speak from their own experience about the first signs of increasing pressure on lawyers and the context in which this occurs, reflect on the consequences of this for the proper functioning of the rule of law, and share their views on how lawyers in their countries can be supported.

During the second panel discussion, we will reflect on the situation in the Netherlands with representatives from various disciplines, including the legal profession and journalism. We will discuss how to anticipate or respond to (first) signs of increasing pressure on lawyers, but also other professional groups that have effect on the rule of law, and what we can learn from developments in other European countries discussed in the first panel.

Speakers include Baroness Helena Kennedy QC (Director of the International Bar Association’s Human Rights Institute, IBAHRI), András Kádár (Attorney at law and Co-chair of the Hungarian Helsinki Committee), Mikołaj Pietrzak (Dean of the Warsaw Bar Association), Sue Willman (Solicitor and Human Rights Committee Chair of the Law Society of England and Wales), Igna Oomen (Lawyer from the Netherlands), and Peter ter Velde (Security Coordinator NOS and Project Manager Persveilig).

After a speech from the Netherlands’ Human Rights Ambassador Bahia Tahzib-Lie, the 2021 Lawyers for Lawyers Award will be presented to laureates Maksim Znak and Liudmila Kazak from Belarus.





Belarus: Viasna activists Leanid Sudalenka and Tatsiana Lasitsa sentenced to 3 and 2 ½ years in prison


The head of Viasna’s Homieĺ office Leanid Sudalenka and Viasna’s volunteer Tatsiana Lasitsa.

The Centraĺny District Court of Homieĺ announced today a verdict in the criminal trial of Viasna human rights activist Leanid Sudalenka and volunteer Tatsiana Lasitsa.

Judge Siarhei Salouski found Sudalenka and Lasitsa guilty of “organizing and preparing actions that grossly violated public order” (Part 1, Article 342 of the Criminal Code), and “training and preparing persons to participate in such actions, as well as their financing or other material support” (Part 2, Article 342 of the Criminal Code). Leanid Sudalenka was sentenced to three years of imprisonment in a general-security penal colony, and Tatsiana Lasitsa to two and a half years of imprisonment in a general-security penal colony.

On October 13, the prosecutors, Yauhen Fartushniak and Kiryl Vyshniakou, requested three years’ sentences for both activists. Another Viasna volunteer, Maryia Tarasenka, who was on trial in the same criminal case but remain free, was expected to be sentenced to two and a half years in prison. Tarasenka was eventually forced to leave Belarus.

The trial over human rights activist Leanid Sudalenka and Viasna volunteers Tatsiana Lasitsa and Maryia Tarasenka started on September 3 and was held behind closed doors. Sudalenka and Lasitsa have been in custody since January 18 and 21, respectively.

As Sudalenka told in his letters, he was accused of:

  • paying for firewood for the children from a large family, whose father was later convicted of “rioting”;
  • appearing in a video on YouTube to explain to blogger Andrei Pavuk what a people’s protest is;
  • a call on social media to meet Maryia Tulzhankova after serving 15 days of administrative imprisonment;
  • arranging a seminar on digital security for human rights defenders;
  • payment of fines, court fees and lawyers’ services.

Both Leanid Sudalenka and Tatsiana Lasitsa were called political prisoners by the country’s human rights community.







Belarusian authorities punish lawyers defending human rights


Four lawyers who represented jailed former presidential candidate Viktar Babaryka have been banned from the profession. At least 27 lawyers have already been barred from practising in reprisal for speaking out against the recent wave of repression in Belarus.

On October 25, the Minsk Bar Association disbarred prominent Belarusian defense lawyer Natalia Matskevich, the latest in a wide-raging and politically motivated crackdown on lawyers.

Matskevich is one of four lawyers who represented Viktar Babaryka, former presidential contender arrested on politically motivated charges in June 2020 in the run-up to the August 9 election. In July 2021, Supreme Court sentenced Babaryka to 14 years in prison for “grand bribery” and “laundering of illicit funds.”

On October 20, the Justice Ministry suspended the license of Evgeni Pylchenka, a lawyer who also represented Babaryka, pending the outcome of a disciplinary case against him. Matskevich’s disbarment and Pylchenka’s suspension came soon after they had filed an appeal in Babaryka’s case. Their colleagues said these sanctions were “absurd” and based on “ridiculous” allegations, including “some [supposedly] incorrectly worded questions to witnesses during trial.”

In July, days after Babaryka’s verdict, authorities stripped his then-lawyer Dmitry Layevsky of his attorney’s license, citing “inappropriate comments about the work of his colleagues.” Prior to his disbarment, Layevsky had faced pressure from the authorities and the Minsk Bar Association.

In October 2020, the Justice Ministry terminated the license of Aliaksandr Pylchenka, another prominent member of Babaryka’s defense team, over supposed “incompetent comments to mass media”




Belarus authorities may disbar another lawyer defending political prisoner


The Belarusian Justice Ministry has launched a disciplinary investigation against the well-known lawyer Natallya Matskevich.

She was suspended from work, Alyaksandr Dzyadok, the father of political prisoner Mikalai Dzyadoktold Radio Svaboda.

Until now, Natallya Matskevich, a member of Minsk City Bar Сouncil, has been a defence lawyer of Mikalai Dzyadok who reported his being tortured by police. She was also involved in political trials, defending Lukashenka’s opponents and might-have-been presidential candidates Viktar Babaryka and Syarhei Tsikhanouski.

According to Alyaksandr Dzyadok, taking such steps is nothing but deliberately depriving people of their right to protection.

“The question of revoking her [Matskevich’s] license is looming. As a result, my son has a legal disaster – it is the second time that he has been left without protection during the judicial investigation: earlier, they stripped [lawyer] Yauhen Maslau of his license, now Natallya Matskevich is facing the same threat. A week ago, she was still allowed to visit the son in the pre-trial detention centre on Valadarski Street; she was about to see him yesterday [on Tuesday], but we have come across the problem,” the man said.

As reported earlier, since the beginning of post-election protests in 2020, the Justice Ministry’s Qualification Commission have terminated the licenses of many Belarusian lawyers who were involved in defending citizens prosecuted on political grounds. Over the past months, political prisoner Maryia Kalesnikava’s defence lawyers Alyaksandr Pylchanka and Lyudmila Kazak have been disbarred. In addition, the Belarusian authorities forced out of the profession Kanstantsin Mikhel, Mikhail Kirilyuk, Maksim Konan, Uladzimir Sazanchuk (the latter defends politician Mikalai Statkevich, blogger Zmitser Kazlou and was one of Katsyaryna Andreyeva’s lawyers), Anton HashynskiSyarhei Zikratski. The Belarusian State University (BSU) decided not to re-sign the employment contract with Alena Layeuskaya, a civil law teacher at the Faculty of Law and mother of Babaryka’s lawyer Dzmitry Layeuski.

Belarus authorities may disbar another lawyer defending political prisoner



https://ej.by/news/sociaty/2021/10/13/teper-natalya-matskevich-esche-odnogo-advokata-sobirayutsya-lishit.html (BELARUSIAN)


Belarus: Maksim Znak and Liudmila Kazak laureates Lawyers for Lawyers Award 2021


Maksim Znak and Liudmila Kazak laureates Lawyers for Lawyers Award 2021

Belarusian lawyers Maksim Znak and Liudmila Kazak will receive the Lawyers for Lawyers Award 2021. The Award will be presented at a ceremony co-hosted by Lawyers for Lawyers and the Amsterdam Bar Association in the Rode Hoed in Amsterdam on 18 November 2021.

Jury remarks

“By awarding Maksim Znak and Liudmila Kazak the Lawyers for Lawyers Award, the jury wants to highlight the important work of both lawyers who bravely represented Belarusian human rights defenders and opposition leaders and are paying a high price for their work. With this Award, the jury also wants to raise awareness of other Belarusian lawyers who have been subjected to pressure, harassment and intimidation in connection to their professional activities especially in the aftermath of the 2020 presidential elections”.

Maksim Znak

Maksim Znak represented Viktor Babaryko, a potential candidate in the presidential elections who was not allowed to formally register. He also provided legal assistance to Svetlana Tikhanovskaya, a former candidate for the presidency who is now in exile, and Maria Kolesnikova, Coordination Council co-leader. On 9 September 2020, Mr. Znak was arrested for allegedly having committed the offence of “calls to actions seeking to undermine national security” in violation of Article 361(3) of the Criminal Code of Belarus. In February 2021, additional charges were added, including “conspiracy to seize state power” and “organising extremism”. On 6 September 2021, Mr. Znak was sentenced to 10 years in prison during a closed-door-trial. His sentencing is another indication of the challenging working environment in which Belarusian lawyers must operate.

Liudmila Kazak

Liudmila Kazak is a human rights lawyer who has defended political prisoners, human rights defenders, and journalists, including the opposition leader Maria Kolesnikova. On 24 September 2020, she was detained. The next day, the court held Kazak administratively liable for disobeying police officers based on testimony given by anonymous masked witnesses who appeared via Skype and claimed to be the arresting officers. She was sentenced to a fine under article 23.4 of the Belarusian Administrative Code and released on 26 September 2020. On 11 February 2021, she was notified of a pending disciplinary proceeding against her before the Qualification Commission for legal practice in the Republic of Belarus. On 19 February 2021, the Qualification Commission disbarred Ms. Kazak. Ms. Kazak appealed the decision, but, on 15 April 2021, a district court upheld Ms. Kazak’s disbarment. On 17 June 2021, an appellate court upheld the district court decision.







https://www.avocatparis.org/belarus-proces-de-maksim-znak (FRANCAIS)



https://de.wikipedia.org/wiki/Maksim_Snak (DEUTSCH)

Belarus: Maryia Kalesnikava and lawyer Maksim Znak sentenced to 11 and 10 years in prison


Maksim Znak (left) and Maryya Kalesnikava stand inside a defendants' cage as they attend a court hearing in Minsk on September 6.

The Minsk Regional Court has sentenced Maryia Kalesnikava and Maksim Znak, members of the opposition Coordination Council, to 11 and 10 years in prison, respectively, on charges “calls for action against national security” (Part 3 of Art. 361), “conspiracy to seize power in an unconstitutional manner” (Part 1 of Art. 357) and “creation and administration of an extremist formation” (Part 1 of Art. 361-1 of the Criminal Code).

Kalesnikava will serve her sentence in a general-security penal colony, while Znak was ordered imprisonment under medium-security conditions.

Due to the fact that the trial was held behind closed doors and the defense lawyers cannot disclose any information about the court hearings, no details are known as to the essence of the charges. Shortly before the trial, the Prosecutor General’s Office said that “no later than July 16, 2020, the defendants, together with other persons, entered into a conspiracy to seize power in an unconstitutional manner.” The charge related to Kalesnikava and Znak’s activities as part of the opposition Coordination Council established after the rigged presidential election of August 9, 2020.

“According to the plan, after declaring themselves and publicly appearing in various places as representatives of the majority of Belarusian citizens, they prepared and publicly announced statements about the election victory of candidate S. Tsikhanouskaya, loss of confidence of the people of Belarus in government and administration, and weakness of the current government. They called for ‘strikes’ at state-owned enterprises with purely political demands as a legal way of expressing their opinions. They have repeatedly called directly and in a veiled form for the election to be declared invalid and the incumbent head of state to be illegitimate,” the indictment read.

Both convicts were earlier called political prisoners by the country’s leading human rights organizations.






https://www.lemonde.fr/international/article/2021/09/06/en-bielorussie-la-figure-de-l-opposition-maria-kolesnikova-condamnee-a-onze-ans-de-prison_6093583_3210.html (FRANCAIS)



https://www.infobae.com/america/mundo/2021/09/06/el-regimen-de-lukashenko-condeno-a-la-lider-opositora-bielorrusa-maria-kolesnikova-a-11-anos-de-prision/ (ESPANOL)

https://www.repubblica.it/esteri/2021/09/06/news/bielorussia_condanna_attivisti_kolesnikova_znak-316690959/ (ITALIANO)


Belarus: Trial of Viasna’s Homieĺ members set for September 3


Leanid Sudalenka, Tatsiana Lasitsa and Maryia Tarasenka

Human rights defender of Viasna Leanid Sudalenka and volunteer Tatsiana Lasitsa have been detained in remand prison No. 3 in Homieĺ for seven months. They are accused of organizing and financing actions that grossly violated public order (Parts 1 and 2 of Article 342 of the Criminal Code). Volunteer Maryia Tarasenka, who is free but under travel restrictions, is another defendant in the trial, which is expected to start on September 3 at the Centraĺny District Court of Homieĺ. The criminal charges against the three activists will be heard by judge Siarhei Salouski.

What are the charges?

The key charge Sudalenka is facing is reimbursing the fines imposed on peaceful protesters after the rigged election of August 2020. He and the two Viasna volunteers also helped numerous people find lawyers to defend them in protest-related trials. Among other things, Leanid Sudalenka is accused of purchasing firewood to help a family, whose father was later convicted of “rioting” and appearing in a YouTube video to explain what a people’s protest is.

The human rights activist has been in the pre-trial detention center since January 18. Tatsiana Lasitsa has been in custody since January 21. Maryia Tarasenko was briefly detained, but soon released. The charges against her, however, remained in place.

More than 200 witnesses were interviewed in the case. The case file contains 77 volumes.

Judge Siarhei Salouski is known for being the top-convicting judge in the post-election administrative trials. Salouski ordered a total of over three months in prison.

In 2020, Salouski twice fined journalist Larysa Shchyrakova for reporting for Belsat TV.

Last July, Leanid Sudalenka helped Valery Smiayan, a man fined by Salouski for staging a peaceful protest to support arrested activist Siarhei Tsikhanouski, to submit a complaint to the UN Human Rights Committee. It is obvious that the judge is not impartial towards Sudalenka.

Why is the case against Viasna’s activists in Homieĺ politically motivated?

Leanid Sudalenka is a well-known human rights activist, who has been defending human rights for twenty years. He provided free legal assistance, including the preparation of individual complaints to the UN Human Rights Committee to challenge violations by the Belarusian authorities. For his human rights activities, Sudalenka received the French award “Liberté, Égalité, Fraternité”. In 2019, he was awarded the National Human Rights Prize in the nomination “Human Rights Defender of the Year”.

The Belarusian authorities have regularly persecuted Leanid Sudalenka for his active human rights work. They staged unsuccessful provocations to prosecute him, searched him at the state border, and tried to discredit him through publications in state-controlled media.







https://www.fidh.org/fr/regions/europe-asie-centrale/belarus/resolution-de-l-onu-sur-le-belarus-valiantsin-stefanovic-viasna-27131 (FRANCAIS)