Liudmila Ulyashyna: Violations in the Belarusian Bar lead to systemic violations of human rights
Graduates of the project “Bring International Standards Home. De facto implementation of international obligations of the Republic of Belarus in the field of civil rights and freedoms” developed and published materials on advocacy issues as well as problems with protecting the rights of those criminally and administratively prosecuted in Belarus.
Friday, 29 June 2012, by Belarusian HRH
The authors presented a detailed analysis of complex issues that arose in the Belarusian Bar from 2010 to 2012, including debarment, criminal prosecution of lawyers, pressure on the bar self-governance body, and termination of lawyer licenses.
The facts mentioned in the analysis primarily concern the activities of the Minsk City Bar Association because, according to the authors, the example of this Bar is the most indicative of all since it suffered the most from the authorities interfering into its activities. Advocates who are members of this association have been subjected to unprecedented pressure from the state, as a reaction to the fact that some of its lawyers provided legal defence to political opponents of the current Belarusian regime.
The graduates of the project also analysed the difficulties in protecting the rights of persons subjected to criminal prosecution, and investigated the compliance of national legislation and law enforcement in Belarus with international standards. The analysis focused on Belarusian national law norms and law enforcement, describing actual cases from lawyers’ practice in Belarus.
Working on the aforementioned material, the authors have identified the key problems of the Belarusian legislation in the field of providing conditions for a fair trial, rights of the defence (including guarantees to the Bar), the right to liberty and personal immunity, and have developed a number of recommendations to improve legislation and law enforcement in the administration of justice in criminal and administrative prosecution of citizens.
According to the manager of the Human Rights House Network project "International Law in Advocacy" Liudmila Ulyashyna (left), the human rights education enables lawyers to independently carry out the analysis of national legislation in question, while applying international standards. This meets the objective of the training - to enhance the capacity of practicing lawyers in the country:
“These materials analyse the cases from the lawyers’ and attorneys’ perspective. In this sense, they are even more important than reports of international organisations, as they reflect the insider view on the system. In addition, these reports demonstrate that the lawyers not only have mastered the knowledge, but they are already willing to share this knowledge with their colleagues, for them to reach the realization that violation within the professional community of lawyers leads to systemic violations in human rights and specifically in juridical protection”.
Liudmila Ulyashyna adds that the materials on violations in the Belarusian Bar are extremely important because these violations may be regarded as a wake-up call:
“In case of human rights, the principle of independence of the legal profession is of particular importance, for it certainly is a violation of the balance if the government regulates the legal profession too much, for example, making decisions on allowing a lawyer to practice or dismissing him. As a consequence, the lawyers, who are not free to protect their clients and who are associated with their clients by the authorities, start imposing limitations upon themselves by refusing to protect the people who may be in the most urgent need for such protection. Thus, violation in the advocacy leads to violations of the rights of the individual”.
According to Ulyashyna, the project materials will be referenced in the review which is being prepared for a special rapporteur on the independence of judges and lawyers. This review is to demonstrate the outcomes of the training in the field of human rights.
The “Bring International Standards Home. De facto implementation of international obligations of the Republic of Belarus in the field of civil rights and freedoms” project is part of the Human Rights House Network programme "International Law in Advocacy". The project was developed by a group of lawyers and human rights defenders in 2005 and had since been carried out by partner organisations of the Human Rights House Foundation in collaboration with international and national experts.
The project contributes to the efforts to implement commitments made within the framework of the United Nations and other international organizations in the field of human rights. Program participants have the opportunity to gain knowledge about regional institutions for the protection of human rights, especially the Council of Europe and the European Court of Human Rights.
The overall goal of the project is to strengthen the promotion, protection and enforcement of human rights under the rule of law through professional development of lawyers and human rights defenders through training, networking and cooperation between them, as well as through the building of their conviction and practical skills in direct application of international human rights standards at the national level.