Two More Attorneys Defending Political Prisoners Were Called for Extraordinary Recertification

The Right to Defense project has learned that two more lawyers involved in politically motivated trials have been called to the Qualification Commission on Advocacy under the Ministry of Justice to undergo an extraordinary recertification on December 1, 2022. The proposal for recertification was made by the Belarusian Republican Collegium of Lawyers. It addresses lawyers Uladzimir Pylchanka and Viktar Matskevich.

You can read more about the procedures for depriving lawyers of the right to the profession in our article [written in Russian].

We remind that Uladzimir Pylchanka has defended Maryia Kolesnikava, Eduard Babaryka, Iryna Slavnikava, Katsiaryna Bakhvalova, Levon Halvtryan and others. Viktar Matskevich is a lawyer of Siarhei Tikhanouski, Ihar Olinevich, Akikhiro Hayeuski-Hanada, Yauhen Yushkevich, Viktar Babaryko, Ales Bialiatski.

The certification procedure includes examination by the Qualification Commission of materials as to the advocate's compliance with the legislation and other materials characterizing his/her professional activities. The Commission can test an advocate's knowledge of the legislation of the Republic of Belarus via an oral interview.

However, the attorneys within the Qualification Commission are in the minority (eight members: the Chairperson of the Collegium and one representative from each of the seven territorial bars), whilst the remaining members represent the state (one representative from the Supreme Court, the Prosecutor-General's Office and other state bodies; five representatives from the Ministry of Justice; two representatives from academic institutions (de facto, state bodies).

There is neither a list of questions on the legislation to be asked at the certification, nor a program of such. In reality, "testing a lawyer's knowledge of the legislation" at the certification vary in complexity and duration: from several attorney licensing questions and the rules of professional ethics of a lawyer to an "exam" on various branches of law — regardless of the lawyer's specialization, with immediate and literal quotations of the norms being required. 

From the beginning of 2020 to September 2022, at least 38 lawyers were deprived of their status as a result of a regular or extraordinary certification procedure.

There is a clear tendency that the attorneys who defended protesters after the 2020 presidential election, public figures and activists, political opponents, journalists, i.e. lawyers working on high-profile and politically motivated cases, as well as those who signed petitions against violence and for new elections, in defense of their colleagues, do not pass the certification. Some of them were reminded of their signing petitions as “wrong positions”. Certification of lawyers is actually used as a sanction, as a tool of repression, and as a form of persecution for dissent. For more details, see the report "The Crisis of the Belarusian Bar: How to Restore the Right to Defense," Section 3.2.

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