European Criminal Bar Association (ECBA) has issued an open letter to the Belarusian Minister of Justice Viktor Holovanov. The European lawyers demanded from the country's authorities to cease harassment of the Belarusian lawyers and to provide necessary legal assistance to persons, involved in the criminal case on the riots in Minsk. In addition, the association demanded from the Justice Department to confirm these requirements in writing.
The European lawyers expressed their deep concern «over attempts to prevent the lawyers in Belarus from their professional duties,» as well as the fact that the defendants of the «case on December 19,» including the former presidential candidates, had no opportunity to communicate with their lawyers, reports BelaPAN.
As stated in the letter, ECBA association has become the leading independent organization of human rights defenders in all member-countries of the Council of Europe since 1997 when it was founded. The aim of the association is to promote the fundamental rights of citizens under investigation, suspected, accused and convicted. The association believes that the independence of lawyers is one of the key conditions for ensuring the right to a fair hearing in court.
As Telegraf previously reported, Belarusian Justice Ministry pitched four members of the Minsk City Bar Association over the bar on February 16. They are Oleh Aheev, who defended Ales Michalevic, accused of organizing riots, his mother Aheeva Tatiana, as well as Vladimir Tolstik and Tamara Harayeva — a former lawyer of another defendant in the «case on December 19,» Irina Khalip.
Minister of Justice Viktor Holovanov, without any explanation ordered on February 18 to suspend director of the Minsk City Bar Alexander Pylchenko from duty in the Qualification Commission for the advocacy. On the eve the lawyer had expressed concern that the Justice Department deprived the lawyers, engaged in the protection of defendants in the «case on December 19» of their licenses.
On the proposal of the Ministry of Justice, Bureau of the Minsk City Bar Association excluded Pavel Sapelka from their structure on March 3. The lawyer, defending former presidential candidate Andrei Sannikov and co-chair of the organizing committee of the «Belarusian Christian Democracy» Pavel Seviarynets, charged with rioting, as well as the leader of «Young Front» Dmitri Dashkevich.
In connection with these events, the Bar Associations and Law Societies of Europe called on the Minister of Justice to recover attorneys’ license that lawyers, as well as to «ensure the Belarusian lawyers the opportunity to perform their professional functions without fear of retaliation or any other negative consequences such as disciplinary sanctions.»