Arrest and detention of lawyers in Belarus

Who we wrote to

The president of the Republic of Belarus, Alexander Grigoryevich Lukashenko.

We wrote the letter jointly with Lawyers for Lawyers.

What’s the issue

We’re concerned about the arrest and detention of lawyers Maksim Znak and Illia Salei in Belarus.

According to our information, Maksim Znak and Illia Salei were arrested on 9 September 2020. Law enforcement officers have also conducted searches in their apartments.

Mr Znak is currently a suspect and was taken into custody. Mr Salei is detained without having been informed of the offences that he is alleged to have committed.

On 18 September, a detention hearing took place in the case against Maksim Znak. It was reported that Mr Znak was charged under the Criminal Code of Belarus for allegedly having committed the offence of “calls to actions seeking to undermine national security”.

Over the last few months, Maksim Znak and Illia Salei have been providing legal assistance to Viktor Babariko (who was a potential candidate for the presidency of Belarus, but was not allowed to formally register as a candidate), and Maria Kolesnikova, who have been associated with the opposition against the government in Belarus.

Maksim Znak also legally represented former presidential candidate Svetlana Tikhanovskaya.

We believe that the arrest and detention of these two lawyers is directly related to their professional activities and constitutes improper interference with such activities. The actions taken against these lawyers:

  • violate the internationally recognised principle of the need to guarantee the independence of the legal profession
  • violate the right to a fair trial of the clients they represent, because it deprives them of legal representation of their own choosing
  • restricts access to justice of citizens of Belarus in an impermissible manner

What we asked for

We urged the relevant authorities in Belarus to:

  • immediately and unconditionally release Maksim Znak and Ilia Salei, drop any charges and put an end to all acts of harassment against them, including judicial harassment, unless credible evidence is presented in proceedings that comply with international fair trial standards
  • pending their release, to guarantee the psychological and physical integrity of both lawyers and comply with international standards on conditions of detention
  • guarantee that all lawyers in Belarus can carry out their professional duties without intimidation, hindrance or improper interference

We’ll continue to monitor the situation of Maksim Znak and Ilia Salei in Belarus, as well as the situation of other members of the legal profession there.

Timeline

9 September 2020 – Maksim Znak and Illia Salei were arrested

18 September 2020 – a detention hearing took place in the case against Maksim Znak

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