Alert: New guide on best practices to protect detained children from torture
Belarus
26.10.20
Urgent Interventions

Judicial harassment and intimidation against lawyers Mr. Aliaksandr Pylchanka and Ms. Yulia Levanchuk

URGENTAPPEAL - THE OBSERVATORY

BLR 003 / 1020 / OBS 115
Judicial harassment / Intimidation
Belarus
October 26, 2020

The Observatory for the Protectionof Human Rights Defenders, a partnership of the World Organisation AgainstTorture (OMCT) and FIDH, requests your urgent intervention in the followingsituation in Belarus.

Description of the situation:

The Observatory has been informed byreliable sources about the judicial harassment and intimidation againstMr. Aliaksandr Pylchanka, lawyer for detained oppositionleaders Viktar Babaryka and Maria Kalensnikava, and Ms. Yulia Levanchuk, lawyerdefending the owner of a flower shop who was the victim of severe policebrutality after having handed out flowers to protesters[1].

According to the informationreceived, on October 15, 2020, the Ministry of Justice of Belarus revoked thelicense to practice law of Mr. Plychanka and Ms. Levanchuk. Both lawyers willappeal this decision.

On October 7, 2020, Mr. Aliaksandr Pylchanka hadreceived a notification from the Ministry of Justice of the Republic of Belarusthat a meeting of its Commission for the Qualification forlegal practice in the Republic of Belarus had been scheduled forOctober 15 to consider the revocation of his license to practicelaw. It was explained through the notification that Mr.Pylchanka’s involvement in “the commission of a misdemeanour wasincompatible with the title of lawyer”, namely, “the commission of actionsdiscrediting the bar”, was the reason for this decision.

Mr. Pylchanka had receivedno information regarding these complaints prior to October 7, 2020, fromthe Ministry of Justice, and the materials to be considered at the meeting ofthe Commission as supporting evidence for his debarment were only shared withhim for review on October 9, 2020.

The evidence broughtagainst Mr. Pylchanka consisted of an interview published on theindependent news website Tut.by where he is seen commenting on theactions which should be taken by law enforcement officials and thejudicial system in Belarus following the widespread and unjustified use ofviolence and torture against civilians by such agencies over the last few months. Specifically, Mr. Pylchankarecommended that such actions of law enforcement officials should beinvestigated and perpetrators brought to justice.

The Observatory expresses its utmostconcern over Mr. Aliaksandr Pylchanka’s and Ms.Yulia Levanchuk’s cases of debarment, which appear to be anattempt to put pressure on Mr. Pylchanka with regards to hiswork in providing legal aid to opposition members, and onMs. Levanchuk with regards to her work in defending victims of policebrutality. The Observatory also considers this as an attempt to intimidateother legal professionals who defend human rights defenders and oppositionvoices, one of many actions to discourage further work with similarcases. Such tactics can be seen across Belarus at this time,where any dissident voices are brutally shut down by violentpolice forces during peaceful protests in the streets, or by the judicialharassment of the lawyers who defend those voices.

Actions Requested:

The Observatory urges the Belarusianauthorities to:

i. Guarantee inall circumstances the physical integrity and psychological well-being of Mr. Aliaksandr Pylchanka and Ms.Yulia Levanchuk, and all other lawyers and human rightsdefenders in Belarus;

ii. Reinstate the licenses of Mr. Pylchanka andMs. Levanchuk, andput an end to any obstacle to the exercise of their professional activities;

iii. Put an endto all acts of harassment, including at the judicial level, against Mr.Aliaksandr Pylchanka and Ms. Yulia Levanchuk and allother lawyers and human rights defenders in Belarus, and ensure inall circumstances that they are able to carry out their legitimate activitieswithout any hindrance and fear of reprisals;

iv. Conform inall circumstances with the provisions of the Declaration on Human RightsDefenders, adopted on December 9, 1998 by the United Nations General Assembly,in particular its Articles 1, 6 and 12.2;

v. Ensure inall circumstances respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms inaccordance with international human rights instruments ratified by Belarus.

Addresses:

· Mr. Aliaksandr Lukashenka, Presidentof Belarus, Email: contact@president.gov.by

· Mr. Aliaksandr Konyuk, GeneralProsecutor of Belarus, Email: info@prokuratura.gov.by

· Mr. Oleg Slizhevsky, Ministerof Justice of Belarus, Email: kanc@minjust.by

· Mr. Leonid Anfimov, Chairman ofthe State Control Committee of Belarus, Email: kgk@mail.belpak.by

· Mr. Yury Ambrazevich, PermanentMission of Belarus to the United Nations in Geneva, Switzerland, Email: mission.belarus@ties.itu.int

· H.E. Mr. Aliaksandr Mikhnevich,Embassy of Belarus in Brussels, Email: belgium@mfa.gov.by

Please also write to the diplomaticrepresentations of Belarus in your respective countries.

***

Geneva-Paris, October 26, 2020

Kindly inform us of any action undertaken quoting the code of thisappeal in your reply.

The Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders (theObservatory) was created in 1997 by the World Organisation Against Torture(OMCT) and FIDH. The objective of this programme is to prevent or remedysituations of repression against human rights defenders. OMCT and FIDH are bothmembers of ProtectDefenders.eu, the European Union Human Rights Defenders Mechanism implemented byinternational civil society.

To contact the Observatory, call the emergency line:

· E-mail: Appeals@fidh-omct.org

· Tel OMCT + 41 22 809 4939

· Tel FIDH + 33 (0) 1 4355 25 18


[1] See https://twitter.com/VoicesBelarus/status/1315953157487431681.

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