Joint statement on the repression against Belarusian lawyers and the disbarment of Dmitriy Laevski
2 August 2021

Joint statement on the repression against Belarusian lawyers and the disbarment of Dmitriy Laevski

Belarus

Together with more than 50 lawyers’ organizations, bar associations, civil society organisations and individual lawyers, Lawyers for Lawyers co-signed a joint statement on the mounting repression against Belarusian lawyers and the disbarment of Dmitriy Laevski.

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.

Lawyer Dmitriy Laevski was disbarred by the decision of the Minsk City Bar Association on 9 July 2021. The decision on disbarment was taken by the disciplinary commission of the bar association on 8 July 2021. The decision on expelling Dmitriy Laevski was urgently taken within one day and only two days after a verdict was announced in the high-profile case of one of his clients Viktar Babaryka – ex-presidential candidate, key political opponent of Alexander Lukashenko and now a political prisoner.

On 8 July 2021, Dmitriy Laevski participated in two disciplinary proceedings. The first concerned the judicial appeal to the previously made decision of the disciplinary commission of the Minsk City Bar Association on reprimanding Dmitriy for his Facebook post, commenting about the recent amendments to the Law on Legal Practice. The second one – as a result of which Dmitriy was eventually disbarred – concerned the statement made during Viktar Babaryka’s hearing, which hinted at the innocence of Babaryka’s co-defendants, who pleaded guilty during the trial. It is precisely Dmitriy’s procedural position and the realization of his legal defense mission that became the ground for his disbarment. On 17 July 2021, Laevski appealed the decision of the disciplinary commission and published the full text of his appeal.

Being deprived of his license, Dmitriy Laevski cannot proceed to represent the interests of another high-profile political prisoner and lawyer Maksim Znak, whose trial is about to commence. Due to the disbarment, the defendant in one of the most resonant political cases has been deprived of his main defender.

Dmitriy Laevski is one of the most prominent and unique figures in the Belarusian legal community. Dmitriy is not just a lawyer but an educator and an opinion leader. His disbarment from the Minsk City Bar Association does not only deprive him of his profession – it also deprives his clients, followers, and lawyers with an active civic stance.

In the statement:

  • We 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.
  • We 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. We 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.
  • We call upon 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.

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