Cases of Danilevich, Mochalov, Braginets, Lazarenko: the Belarusian Helsinki Committee Has Sent a Communication to the UN as to the Intensification of Crackdowns against Lawyers

The Belarusian Helsinki Committee (hereinafter the Committee) has addressed the UN Special Rapporteur on the independence of judges and lawyers and the UN Special Rapporteur on Belarus providing information about numerous facts of persecution of lawyers in Belarus. 

The Committee has informed the UN special procedures about the detention of Alexander Danilevich; it is also indicated that there is every reason to believe that the attorney is being persecuted for publicly expressing his opinion.

The Committee has also informed the Special Rapporteurs about the case of Andrei Mochalov. On June 16, the attorney was sentenced to two years of restriction of freedom under home confinement. The applicants claim the following: "The circumstances indicate that the attorney was deprived of his status for a public statement about a gross violation of the rights of his client, and subsequently was brought to criminal responsibility for the conscientious performance of his professional duties. The illegal accusation of Andrei Mochalov, put forward by the prosecutor's office of the Zavodsky district, allows us to conclude that he was persecuted for participating in the process against an employee of this prosecutor's office”.

The communication also contains information about the prosecution of attorney Vitaly Braginets. He is still in custody.

On June 3, attorney Anastasia Lazarenko was arrested, and a bit later five more lawyers working in the legal advice office of the Smolevichi district of the Minsk region were detained as well.

The Committee emphasizes that detentions, arrests and administrative harassment of lawyers constitute the continuation of the policy of crackdowns against lawyers that protect clients in politically motivated cases. Such actions constitute a violation of the Basic Principles on the Role of Lawyers adopted by the Eighth United Nations Congress on the Prevention of Crime and the Treatment of Offenders, Havana, Cuba, on 7 September 1990. According to para. 16 of the Basic Principles, Governments shall ensure the lawyers are able to perform all of their professional functions without intimidation, hindrance, harassment or improper interference and shall not suffer, or be threatened with, prosecution or administrative, economic or other sanctions for any action taken in accordance with recognized professional duties, standards and ethics.

In this regard, the Committee kindly asks the Special Rapporteurs to contact the Government of the Republic of Belarus and call on it to stop the practice of arbitrarily punishing lawyers, as well as to guarantee the free performance of their professional duties and independence of the bar and the legal profession.

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