Belarus lawyers prevented from carrying out their professional duties

Who we wrote to

We wrote to the president of Belarus. We wrote jointly with Lawyers for Lawyers and the Institute for the Rule of Law of the International Association of Lawyers (UIA-IROL).

What’s the issue

We’re concerned about threats to the independence of the legal profession and access to justice in the aftermath of the presidential elections in Belarus on 6 August 2020.

Over 6,000 citizens of Belarus have been arrested and detained for taking part in largely peaceful protests against the election results or for voicing criticism of the government of Belarus.

It’s been reported that state authorities have used excessive force against protesters and that many of those arrested are facing ill-treatment and poor conditions in detention.

We’re gravely concerned that many of those arrested and detained have not had access to a legal representative of their own choosing, or to any legal representative.

Where they have been able to meet with a lawyer, it’s been alleged that the principle of lawyer-client confidentiality has not been respected. Lawyers have not been granted access to the information they need to adequately represent and defend the rights of their clients.

It’s also been reported that law enforcement officers and other state agents are preventing lawyers from carrying out their professional duties, and that lawyers have been harassed, which directly threatens the independence of the legal profession in Belarus. This means access to justice for all citizens in Belarus has been severely curtailed.

We’ll continue to monitor the situation in Belarus and support our colleagues there.

What we asked for

We urge the relevant Belarusian authorities to ensure that:

  • all those arrested have access to a lawyer of their own choosing
  • in all meetings or calls between those arrested and their legal representatives the principle of lawyer-client confidentiality is respected
  • anyone arrested, detained and charged has the right to adequately prepare for a defence, including access to the case file for the legal representative
  • lawyers can carry out their professional duties freely and without undue external interference, hindrance or intimidation
  • Belarus complies with all its international legal obligations, specifically:
    • the right to life
    • the right to liberty and security of the person
    • the right to freedom of expression
    • the right to freedom of assembly
    • the right to a fair trial
    • freedom from arbitrary arrest
    • freedom from torture and ill-treatment