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Striving for an independent bar by defending the rights of disbarred lawyers

An independent bar is crucial to the existence of an effective justice system. Lawyers must be independent and free from any influence by the executive branch and other stakeholders and protected from persecution in law and practice.

To ensure that an independent bar is present in a future democratic Belarus, we assist disbarred lawyers in filing individual communications with the UN Human Rights Committee. The Committee's views will secure the guarantees for the independence of the bar.

The time frame before and after the presidential elections in Belarus in 2020 is characterised by unprecedented persecution of lawyers who represented individuals persecuted on account of political opinion and who spoke out about human rights violations. According to estimates of Belarusian human rights organisations, since 9 August 2020, dozens of lawyers, who went out of favour with the authorities, have been disbarred, thus, deprived of the right to practice their profession. The number of disbarred lawyers increases every month.

Lawyers are subjected to disciplinary sanctions to the extent of expulsion from the  bar association. They are also deprived of the right to practice their profession for failing to pass certification by the Qualification Commission operating  under the Ministry of Justice. The recent persecution trends in addition to the criminal prosecution are the administrative prosecution of the lawyers, which is the basis for imposing disciplinary sanctions, which, in turn, results in the expulsion from the bar association. 

Before Belarus' withdrawal from the individual complaints procedure under the Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, our lawyers filed 3 communications with the UN Human Rights Committee, raising issues of the bar's dependence on the Ministry of Justice, illegal expulsion from bar association for making public statements, and the unwillingness of the bar associations to defend its members from unjustified attacks from the state. We pointed out violations of the freedom of expression, the right to practice a profession, and the right to a fair trial.

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