Human Rights Committee Calls on Belarus to Grant Maxim Znak Access to Lawyers

The Human Rights Committee, following the registration of Maxim Znak's individual communication against Belarus on 10 January 2024, took further action on 19 January. The Committee urged Belarus to provide Znak with urgent interim measures, including access to qualified medical assistance and the ability to communicate with his lawyers and family while his case is under review.

The Committee's rules of procedure allow it to request interim measures from the State at any stage between the registration of the communication and a decision on its merits — to prevent actions that could irreparably affect the rights claimed by the author. A state's failure to comply with these measures constitutes a breach of its obligation under the Optional Protocol to adhere to the individual communications procedure in good faith.

The Human Rights Committee's request for interim measures stemmed from the fact that Maxim Znak has been isolated in a colony for almost a year, without any external contact, including communication with his lawyers. In making this request, the Committee confirmed that this isolation poses a threat to Znak's rights. Notably, the HRC underscored the State's responsibility to guarantee Znak's access to legal counsel as a vital measure to uphold his rights.

Maxim Znak's incommunicado detention has already become an occasion for public response. In May 2023, UN Special Rapporteurs called for the release of prominent political prisoners, including Znak, following reports of their incommunicado detention. From December 2023 to January 2024, a public campaign demanding an end to Znak's torture, as well as to ensure his external communications was held. It was publicly supported by the Council of Bars and Law Societies of Europe (CCBE), bar associations from Lithuania, Germany, Sweden, the Warsaw Bar Association, the Belarusian Association of Human Rights Lawyers, Lawyers for Lawyers, the International Observatory for Lawyers in Danger (IOLD), the Human Rights Centre "Viasna", and the "Right to Defence" project.
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