Persecution of lawyer, Lyudmila Kazak: chronicle of events
Updated March 22, 2021
Lyudmila Kazak has been practicing law for 22 years. Among others, she defends arrested public activists, political prisoners, human rights defenders and journalists.
In July 2020, L. Kazak signed an agreement to provide legal assistance to Maria Kolesnikova, the coordinator of the election headquarters of Viktor Babariko, an active participant in the election campaign of Svetlana Tikhanovskaya, and a member of the Presidium of the Coordination Council. L.Kazak represented Kolesnikova at first as a witness's lawyer, and after the abduction of Kolesnikova on September 7, 2020 and her detention in remand prison No. 1 in Minsk on September 9 as a suspect, she has been defending Kolesnikova in the criminal case.

On September 10, after a meeting with L. Kazak, Kolesnikova filed an application to the Investigative Committee of the Republic of Belarus to prosecute KGB and the Main Directorate for Organized Crime and Corruption of the Ministry of Internal Affairs officials, naming specific individuals and positions of those who exerted psychological pressure on her and threatened with taking her life while forcing her to leave Belarus, and forcibly expelling her from the country.

On September 24, 2020, lawyer Lyudmila Kazak was arrested at about 13:50 right on the street in Minsk on her way to the trial. The arrest was carried out by three masked men who did not introduce themselves and did not explain the reasons for the arrest. They forced her into an unmarked vehicle and took her to the Central District Department of Internal Affairs of Minsk, where a protocol of her detention (a protocol for an administrative offense under Art. 23.4 of the Code of Administrative Offenses: non-compliance with the lawful demands of an official of a state body) was filed and a personal search was carried out. As a result of the search documents and items, which gag order applies to, were seized.

Lawyer Lyudmila Kazak had been kept in the police department until approximately 9 PM, then, as a detainee in a case of an administrative offense, was placed in the temporary holding facility (THF). Only after 8 PM TASS reported that according to the information received from the press secretary of the Minsk police department, L. Kazak "had been detained for committing an administrative offense and was held in one of the territorial police departments of Minsk". At about 10 PM, the TDF of the Minsk City Executive Committee provided information that L. Kazak was there.

Despite her insistent demands, neither her husband nor the leadership of Minsk City Bar and Belarusian Republican Bar were notified of her detention. Lyudmila's husband had stayed near the building of the Central District Department of Internal Affairs since about 5 PM, and lawyers Svetlana Gorbatok and Viktor Matskevich arrived at 6 PM. They had stayed near the building of the Central District Department of Internal Affairs until 7 PM, attempting to find out whether L. Kazak was taken there by the police, or to report kidnapping. But they were not allowed into the police department, and none of the officials came out to accept the application of abduction. A police officer stated that Lyudmila Kazak wasn’t in the police department.

On September 25, 2020, lawyers of Lyudmila Kazak, V. Matskevich and S. Gorbatok, had been waiting at the THF building since 8 AM to visit their client, but they hadn’t been allowed into the THF for more than three hours due to the execution of “anti-epidemiological and "internal" measures”.

On the same day, Oktyabrsky District Court held a hearing of the case of an administrative offense against L. Kazak, basing on the protocol of an administrative offense (Art. 23.4 - non-compliance with the lawful demands of an official of a state body during detention of the suspect of an administrative offense implied by Part 1 of Art. 23.34 of the Code of Administrative Offences). At the same time, the commission of an administrative offense under Article 23.34 itself wasn’t considered in court. By a court decision, L.Kazak was brought to administrative responsibility under Art. 23.4, she was fined 25 basic units (270$).

This decision was made basing solely on the protocol, which was disputed by the defence as illegal, and the testimonies of the witnesses whose real personal data had been altered, and who spoke in court via videoconference, covering their faced with masks.
The court decision on bringing Kazak to administrative responsibility was appealed by L. Kazak and her defenders to the Minsk City Court.

As it became known to human rights defenders, a conference of the Qualification Commission on advocacy had been scheduled for February 19, 2021, at which it was planned to consider terminating Kazak’s law license. According to the notice on revocation of the license, the reason for licence deprivation was “the commission of actions that discredit the title of a lawyer and the legal profession, which resulted in commission of an administrative offense under Art. 23.4 of the Code of Administrative Offences".

On February 16, 2021, a petition addressed to the Ministry of Justice on the inadmissibility of revoking the licenses of L. Kazak, as well as of other lawyers, appeared. It was signed by 155 lawyers in 3 days.

On February 19, 2021, the Qualification Commission for advocacy of the Ministry of Justice made a decision to deprive Lyudmila Kazak of her licence to practice law. The termination date of the license has not yet been determined. According to the press release of the Ministry of Justice, this decision was made due to the fact that "lawyer L.Kazak didn’t comply with the lawful demands of a police officer, thereby committing an administrative offense under Article 23.4 of the Code of Administrative Offences".
Proofs of violations and interferences in lawyer’s activities
The facts stated above allow us to give the following legal assessment of what has happened:
1) The detention of Lyudmila Kazak is illegal and arbitrary as:
· grounds for detention, specified in Part 2 of Art. 8.2 of the Code of Administrative Procedure and Enforcement (CoAPE), were absent;
· during Kazak’s detention by the police officers, the rights of the officers listed in Articles 24 and 25 of the Law of the Republic of Belarus "On the Internal Affairs Bodies of the Republic of Belarus" were exceeded;
· when L. Kazak's personal freedom was restricted by detention, the reasons for this restriction were not explained to her, which contradicts Article 23 of the abovementioned Law.

2) During the trial on the administrative offense, Lyudmila Kazak’s right to defence was violated, and provision of legal assistance was fought, since:
· despite insistent demands of L. Kazak, her family members were not notified about her detention, which violates Part 3 of Art. 8.2 of the CoAPE;
· moreover, on September 24, 2020 officers of the Central District Department of Internal Affairs of Minsk provided inaccurate information to her spouse and lawyers concerning Kazak’s whereabouts, insisting that Lyudmila Kazak wasn’t transferred to the stated police department, while she was held in the building, and procedural acts were carried out;
· As a result, obstacles were created for the lawyers, who came to defend L. Kazak, by opposing the implementation of L. Kazak’s right to defence. In accordance with the requirements of paragraph 5 of part 1 of Art. 4.1 CoAPE, legal assistance should have been provided from the moment the detention was announced;
· On September 25, 2020, for no valid reason the defenders of L. Kazak hadn’t been allowed to see her in the THF to provide legal assistance for three hours.

3) The decision on bringing L. Kazak to administrative responsibility was made as a result of an unfair trial:
· The court accepted only the testimonies of the police officers as evidence. The officers were not interrogated directly in court, and their personal data was altered, although the procedure of an administrative trial doesn’t provide concealment of the personal data of witnesses. Thus, the witnesses’ testimonies fell into the category of inadmissible evidence and couldn’t have been used to prove any point in the case;
· the basis for the decision was the accusation of disobeying the lawful demands of the authorities during the arrest under Art. 23.34 of the Code of Administrative Offences. At the time of the detention, L.Kazak wasn’t brought to administrative responsibility under the stated Article (the authorities failed to submit the protocol of committing the administrative offence under Art 23.34 to the court later), which means that the detention was unlawful, and the demands of the police officers were also unlawful. There’s no responsibility implied for disobeying unlawful demands.

The overview of what has happened - illegal and unjustified detention, concealment of Lyudmila Kazak's whereabouts, violation of the right to defence, seizure of items and documents falling under gag order during the detention - indicates that the detention and the decision to bring Kazak to administrative responsibility interferes directly with the implementation of professional lawyer’s duties, with Kazak’s handling high-profile cases, in particular on the case of Maria Kolesnikova, and is an act of intimidation, threat and interference with her law practice.
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