The next extremely illustrative block of changes is the significant editing of the rules relating to the right of an attorney to speak on the guilt and innocence of the accused, as well as the right to criticize the position of other participants in the criminal proceedings.
First of all, it is striking that the new Rules do not contain the following rule, which was previously prescribed in paragraph 11 of the Rules:
"Attorney’s statements affecting the honor and dignity of a party to a case, his/her representative, a prosecutor or a defense counsel, a witness, a victim, an expert, an interpreter, which do not violate these Rules, shall not be prosecuted".
In fact, the absence of this norm in the new Rules may suggest that attorneys will no longer have any immunity in this regard, even hypothetically. At the same time, paragraph 21 of the new Rules contains a provision stipulating that "an attorney may not express an opinion on the guilt or innocence of the accused that is not his/her client". It is obvious that this prohibition is a direct reference to the expulsion of Dzmitry Laevsky from the Minsk City Bar Association a few months ago. The absurdity of this rule is absolutely obvious. If there are several defendants in a criminal case that acted in a group, and some of them plead guilty, while some of them do not, it is very problematic (and sometimes impossible) for the attorneys of non-convicted defendants to build their argumentation, let alone to plead before the court, if such a categorical ban exists since the actions of the accused are obviously intertwined. That means that the innocence of one defendant may often presuppose the innocence of others. If the matter is considered in more depth in terms of the possible consequences, it is clear that this prohibition may, in some cases, make it impossible for the defense to build a case, which is a clear violation of one of the fundamental principles of criminal procedure – the principle of the equality of arms.
In addition, there is another little-understood change relating to the possibility for an attorney to choose a legal position in a case. Thus, the new Rules contain paragraph 44 which reads as follows:
"An attorney shall coordinate his/her legal position with the client and shall not possess the right to change it without the client's consent, with the exception of the right to challenge the client's admission of guilt and ask for an acquittal or termination of the criminal proceedings. An attorney shall inform the client of any changes in the means, ways, and methods of defending his/her interests when new circumstances arising in the course of the proceedings so require."
Meanwhile, the Rules have previously had paragraph 47 (that is absent in the new version) according to which:
"If the evidence in the case file demonstrates that the actions of the defendant constitute a less serious offense than the one with which he is charged, the attorney shall be obliged to inform him/her and agree with him/her on a less serious offense. In this case, if the defendant does not agree with the attorney’s opinion, the attorney shall defend the client on the basis of his/her own position."
\Thus, given the categorical wording obliging the attorney to negotiate the argumentation with the client at all times, with the exception of only one situation in which the attorney asks for acquittal or termination of criminal proceedings against a dissenting client, under the new Rules, the attorney cannot do the same if it’s not about full acquittal, but only a change in the qualification of the accused's actions. For what reasons such a change was integrated into the Rules, one can only speculate.