Statement on the mounting repression against Belarusian lawyers and the disbarment of Dmitriy Laevski

Statement on the mounting repression against Belarusian lawyers and the disbarment of Dmitriy Laevski

More than 50 leading lawyers’ organizations, promoting the standards of rule of law and human rights have signed a joint letter on the continuing repressions against lawyers in Belarus and on the disbarment of Dmitriy Laevski.

The statement was prepared by the Helsinki Foundation for Human Right, OMCT, Article 19 in partnership with the Council of Bars and Law Societies of Europe (CCBE). The statement was also supported by organizations and communities of Belarusians abroad.

The statement notes that since peaceful protests in Belarus erupted in 2020, following the presidential election condemned by the international community, the law in Belarus has been turned into a tool of oppression, and lawyers – into victims of political persecution. Lawyers, who express views contrary to those of the government or represent peaceful protestors or opposition leaders in courts, face constant pressure. Repressions against law practitioners take multiple forms – including criminal persecution, administrative arrests, punitive disciplinary proceedings. In a span of ten months, more than twenty Belarusian lawyers, who took an active political and civic stance, have been deprived of the right to practice their profession. To the utmost regret of the signees, they acknowledge the fact that key self-governing bodies of lawyers have become the implementers of censorship and political repressions, taking it upon themselves to “purge the ranks” of lawyers from “undesirable elements.” Recent events serve as an example of such policies.

The signers of the statement call upon on all stakeholders who believe in the values of the rule of law to stand in solidarity with Dmitriy Laevski and other lawyers, who perform the mission of bringing truth and justice, which he represents, as well as preventing the transformation of law into the tool of authoritarian policies. They call to condemn the disbarment decisions taken by the Republican Bar Association, the Minsk City Bar Association, Minsk Region Bar Association, and the Qualification Commission under the auspices of the Ministry of Justice in the past 10 months as acts of political persecution.

They also call to cease all cooperation with the governing bodies of such organizations and not to legitimize them as representatives of the Belarusian legal community until such time when their actions can be qualified as representing independent lawyers.They call to personally support Dmitriy Laevski, Andrei Machalou, Katsyaryna Zheltonoga, and other Belarusian lawyers disbarred on political grounds, including lawyer and political prisoner Maksim Znak, who remains in detention.

The closed hearing in the criminal case on the politically motivated charges of lawyer Maksim Znak and opposition leader Maryia Kalesnikava will start in Minsk regional court on 4 August 2021.

The case will be considered behind closed doors, which underlines the punitive nature of this process.

The full text of the statement is available here.