Human rights groups petitioned Gabriela Knaul – UN Special Rapporteur on the independence of judges and lawyers to support Belarusian lawyers who had their licenses revoked after representing dissidents in courts, informed Belarusian Radio Liberty.
Authors of the appeal, described in the letter cases of lawyers who defended participants of December demonstration and lost their license – Hanna Bakhtsin, Daria Lipkin, Zaryna Akhayev and Tatsiana Akhayev. They also expressed their concern with the fact that Belarusian lawyers are subjected to threats and constant pressure from the authorities, should they decide to offer legal support to dissidents. The appeal urges the UN Special Rapporteur to act immediately in reaction to repressions.
The appeal was signed by Alena Tankachova from the Foundation for Legal Technologies Development, Volha Smalianka from the Center for Legal Transitions, Raisa Mikhaylovskata from the Human Rights Center, Tatiana Raviak from the Human Rights House, Alekh Khulak from the Belarusian Helsinki Committee and Yuri Chavusav – an independent lawyer and political scientist.
According to a human rights activist Hary Pankhaniayla, the authorities are more eager to limit the right to legal defense for those facing political trials. – It’s clear that revoking lawyers‘ license will influence their attitude towards the opposition. They will either refuse to defend dissidents in courts or they will do it in a very careful manner. We have already lost independent courts, now we will lose independent lawyers. – he said.
Lawyers who represented opposition members in courts have had their license revoked by the Belarusian Ministry of Justice. Paval Spielka – the lawyer who defended former presidential candidate Andrei Sanyo, was excluded from the Minsk Board of Barristers, which de facto means he lost the right to practice law. Tamara Harayeva and Uladzimir Tovstsik were first subjected to pressure from authorities to withdraw from representing Irena Khalip. They finally yielded and quit Khalip’s case. Dropping the case they already agreed to take was found illegal in the Belarusian law and used as an excuse to revoke their license. Another two lawyers who lost their right to appear in court are Alekh Akheyu and his mother – Tatsiana Akhayeva, who both represented Ales Mikhalevich. They were accused of „serious violations of the legal counsel agreement“ and „submitting untruthful information to the license-issuing institution“.