Report: The Continuous Crackdown on the Legal Profession in Belarus
In cooperation with the American Bar Association (ABA) and the International Bar Association’s Human Rights Institute (IBAHRI), Lawyers for Lawyers has prepared this report to summarize the ongoing worrying trend of suppression of the legal profession and individual lawyers in Belarus as highlighted by the Human Rights Council in Resolution 50/L.18.
It is a follow-up to our 2021 report titled “Lawyers Under Threat: Increasing Suppression of the Legal Profession in Belarus” (“2021 Belarus Report”) and outlines the ongoing government crackdown on opposition and critical voices in Belarus in the aftermath of the 2020 presidential elections through mid-August 2022.
The report uses various case studies which illustrate that lawyers defending opposition figures, protestors, and those who speak out about the rule of law, the administration of justice, and human rights are facing harassment, intimidation, hindrance, and interference. The cases also demonstrate the systematic violation of Belarusian lawyers’ human rights to freedom of expression, assembly, and association. Besides describing the government crackdown in these individual cases, the report reveals a concerning and ongoing trend of interference with the independence of the legal profession in Belarus that has continued up to the present.
The Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) has condemned the ongoing crackdown, stating that this period of time in Belarus shows fundamental human rights violations. The Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Belarus has also deplored the situation, finding that “systemic human rights violations and impunity for those crimes have engulfed Belarus in a climate of arbitrariness and fear”. This widespread and systematic repression has encompassed the work of the legal profession in Belarus. Between August 2020 and June 2022, at least 56 lawyers have been prevented from practicing their profession through disbarment and the revocation of their licenses. In addition to targeting lawyers on an individual basis, the government of Belarus interfered with the legal profession as a whole by amending the Law on the Bar and Advocacy in Belarus in May 2021 so that it, undercuts the Bar’s independence.
The authors of the report urge the government of Belarus to take all necessary measures to ensure the full independence of the legal profession in Belarus; to guarantee the physical safety and security of lawyers in Belarus; to cease all acts of harassment against lawyers, including searches of business and private premises, politically motivated investigations, arrests, detentions and criminal prosecutions, extraordinary certifications, and disbarments; to reinstate the disbarred lawyers and to repeal the amendments to the Law on the Bar and Advocacy in Belarus.
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