Persecution of lawyers in Belarus after the elections in 2020
The period before and after the 2020 Belarus presidential election was marked by unprecedented pressure on representatives of civil society, including lawyers. Defenders of civil society activists, members of the political opposition, and protesting citizens were not only obstructed in their work but also subjected to arbitrary detention, criminal and administrative prosecution, deprivation of their legal status in violation of international advocacy standards, and the reports and recommendations of INGOs that provide legal assistance in Belarus.
Let’s talk about some examples of harassment of lawyers for their assistance in providing legal security for the election process and election-related criminal cases.
Persecution of lawyers after the elections in 2010
Previous cases of mass persecution of lawyers who represented the interests of political opponents of the current government took place in 2010. Human rights activists link the deprivation of licences of six lawyers to political persecution. Read more in the article. This year the UN Human Rights Committee is going to look into an application of one of the lawyers, Oleg Ageev, who lost his law licence after the 2010 elections in violation of his rights. Details on how to file a complaint and recommendations on its content can be found in the article.

Lawyers subjected to criminal prosecution:

Maxim Znak
Iliya Saley
Lilia Vlasova (legal professional and mediator)

Lawyers, deprived of their license:

Alexander Pylchenko
Liudmila Kazak
Konstantin Mikhel
Maxim Konon
Mikhail Kirilyuk
Yulia Levanchuk
Vladimir Sozonchuk

Lawyers who have not passed the extraordinary certification (and have been deprived of their license):
Sergey Zikratsky
Olga Baranchik
Boris Leskovsky
Vladislav Filipovich
Andrey Bartashevich
Elena Shinkarevich
Nikolay Yotka
Anna Vovchinskaya
Svetlana Hololovich
See a detailed chronicle of the criminal prosecution and detention of Maxim Znak. Znak is a lawyer and Head of Dispute Resolution Practice at Borovtsov and Salei BIS Law Office (one of the oldest legal organisations in the country). In May 2020, together with Iliya Salei, Znak joined the election campaign of the presidential candidate Victor Babariko, providing legal assistance to his headquarters. After the election, he appealed the election results as Svetlana Tikhanovskaya’s lawyer; on her behalf he participated in establishing the Coordination Council and became a member of the Presidium of the Coordination Council as a lawyer. Znak was taken into custody on 9 September 2020, and is currently being held in SIZO № 1 in Minsk. He was charged with crimes under Part 3 of Art. 361 of the Criminal Code (calls for actions aimed at harming the national security of the Republic of Belarus). To demonstrate his opposition to the accusations, the lawyer initiated a hunger strike.

On 10 February 2021, Znak was charged with conspiracy to take state power in an unconstitutional way (Part 1 of Art. 357 of the Criminal Code), and with creating and leading an extremist group (Part 1 of Art. 361-1 of the Criminal Code). Those accusations are in addition to the ones that were posed in September 2020 (public calls for actions aimed at harming national security (Part 3 of Art. 361 of the Criminal Code).

On April 30, the Minsk City Court refused to cancel the detention of Maksim Znak. At the moment, the period of detention has been extended until July 9, 2021.

Human rights organisations recognised Znak as a political prisoner, and the INGO Amnesty International recognised him as a prisoner of conscience. The defence is represented by lawyers Dmitry Laevsky, Evgeny Pylchenko, Nadezhda Znak and Sergey Zikratsky.

The International Professional Bar Associations (ABA, CCBE) and human rights organisations have repeatedly appealed in support of Znak and the inadmissibility of persecution of lawyers for political reasons.

The Belarusian Helsinki Committee called upon the UN Human Rights Committee to take urgent measures regarding the detention of Znak and to send an urgent message to the Belarusian government on the need to adhere to the basic principles concerning the role of lawyers.
Iliya Salei
Ilya Salei is a lawyer at Borovtsov and Salei BIS Law Office (one of the oldest legal organisations in the country). In May 2020, together with Znak, he joined presidential candidate Victor Babariko’s team as a lawyer. He also provided legal defence to Maria Kolesnikova, a member of the opposition’s Coordination Council.

He was taken into custody on 9 September 2020 and placed into SIZO № 1 in Minsk. He was charged under Part 3 of Art. 361 of the Criminal Code (calls for actions aimed at harming the national security of the Republic of Belarus). On 17 October 2020, remand in custody was replaced with house arrest.

Since April 16, the measure of restraint was changed from house arrest to bail. Ilya remains in the status of an accused under Article 361 of the Criminal Code and is obliged to be available when summoned by the investigating authorities and the court.


Human rights organisations recognise Salei as a political prisoner. The international legal community has repeatedly appealed in his defence and the inadmissibility of persecution of lawyers for political reasons.

The Belarusian Helsinki Committee called upon the UN Human Rights Committee to take urgent measures regarding the detention of Salei and to send an urgent message to the Belarusian government on the need to adhere to the basic principles concerning the role of lawyers.

Lilia Vlasova
Lilia Vlasova is a named partner of one of the oldest legal organisations in Belarus, VMP Vlasova, Mihel and Partners Law Office. She is one of the founders of the Institute of Mediation in Belarus, and is widely known in Belarus and abroad. Lilia Vlasova doesn't practice law, she doesn't have a license to engage in advocacy, but she is a legal professional, a mediator, and she was persecuted due to her professional duties.

On 19 August 2020, she became a member of the opposition Coordination Council. She was arrested on 31 August 2020 and placed in SIZO № 1 in Minsk. Unlike Znak and Salei, Vlasova was charged with non-payment of large amounts of taxes (her son’s companies were involved in the case).

On 19 October 2020, remand in custody was replaced with house arrest (67-year-old Vlasova had spent a month and a half in a pre-trial detention centre), which was later replaced by the prohibition against leaving her home. She remains a defendant in the criminal case. Human rights organisations recognise Vlasova as a political prisoner. The international legal community has repeatedly appealed in defence of Vlasova and the inadmissibility of persecution of lawyers and legal professionals for political reasons.
See detailed chronicle of removal of Alexander Pylchenko’s licence. Pylchenko is a lawyer for the ex-candidate of the 2020 Belarus presidential elections, Viktor Babariko, and of Babariko’s staff coordinator, Maria Kolesnikova, who is also a member of the Presidium of the Coordination Council. On 15 October 2020, the Qualification Commission on Advocacy of the Ministry of Justice recommended revoking Pylchenko's law licence. By the Ministry of Justice board’s decision on 16 October, Pylchenko’s licence to practice law was terminated with immediate effect.

The essence of the claims against the lawyer lay in the content of his interview with the news portal TUT.BY. In the 14 August 2020 publication, Pylchenko expressed his views on the actions to be taken by the Prosecutor General and other officials concerning the evidence published in the media about the use of torture against detainees from 9 to 12 August in the police departments and detention facilities, as well as information about election fraud. The lawyer recommended the Prosecutor General of Belarus initiate criminal proceedings on the facts of beatings of civilians, torture and cruel and inhuman treatment of detainees. The lawyer also noted that the Prosecutor General’s Office should have removed the Minister of Internal Affairs, his deputies, and the head of the detention facilities from office until the inspection of their involvement or non-involvement in the abovementioned incidents had been completed.

According to the Ministry of Justice, Pylchenko “made incompetent comments in media and called for illegal actions, including ‘to the blockage and disarmament of military units’”.

International organisations of lawyers have repeatedly sent letters to the Belarusian authorities in support of Pylchenko, demanding an end to the politically motivated persecution.

Ludmila Kazak
See a detailed chronicle of the persecution of Ludmila Kazak. Kazak is Maria Kolesnikova's lawyer. On 24 September 2020, she was abducted by unknown individuals in Minsk, and she was later taken to the Central District Department of Internal Affairs of Minsk, where documents and items covered by attorney–client privilege were seized from her. A report on commission of the administrative offence was filed against Kazak under Art. 23.4 of the Administrative Code (disobedience to a lawful order of the authorities’ representatives). Prior to the trial, she stayed in the Okrestina detention centre, despite having three children. Lawyers were not allowed to visit her for 20 hours after she had been detained. The court imposed a penalty of 30 basic units under Art. 23.4 of the Administrative Code. Human rights activists recognise the persecution to be politically motivated, directed against the professional duties of a lawyer to protect political opponents of the current government.

On 19 February 2021, the Qualification Commission on Advocacy of the Ministry of Justice decided to deprive Kazak of the law licence. The licence’s expiration date has not been determined yet. According to the Ministry of Justice’s press release, this decision was made due to the fact that “Lawyer Ludmila Kazak disobeyed a lawful order of a police officer, thereby committing an administrative offence under Art. 23.4 of the Administrative Code”.

The President of the Bar Council and the Bar Association of Europe addressed a letter to the Belarusian authorities in support of Kazak and pointed out the inadmissibility of obstructing the activities of lawyers.

155 lawyers signed a petition to the Ministry of Justice about the unjustified removal of Kazak’s and other lawyers’ licences.
катов подписало 155 адвокатов.
Konstantin Mikhel
Konstantin Mikhel is a lawyer and the Managing Partner at VMP Vlasova, Mikhel and Partners Law Office, and a member of Minsk Regional Bar. He has been practicing law since 1995. He is one of the most famous business lawyers in Belarus. He is a member of a number of advisory councils on business development at various governmental agencies. He was thanked by Belarus’s Minister of Justice for his active work to protect the rights and legal interests of citizens and organisations in 2009. He was awarded the Belarusian Republican Union of Lawyers’ Supreme Legal Prize, Themis, in the Law and Economics category in 2010.

In autumn 2020, he was brought to administrative responsibility for violating the order of organising mass events (Part 1, Art. 23.34 of the Administrative Code). According to unofficial information, he was detained together with his son near his house. On 19 February 2021, the Ministry of Justice’s Qualification Commission on Advocacy decided to deprive Mikhel of a special permit to practice law. The licence’s expiration date has not yet been determined. The Ministry of Justice press release states the following grounds for such a decision: “Lawyers K. Mikhel and M. Conon took part in mass events without the appropriate permission of the local executive committee, thereby committed an administrative offence under Part 1, Art. 23.34 of the Administrative Code.” According to the Ministry of Justice, “the abovementioned actions of the lawyers discredit the title of a lawyer and the bar, which is a misdemeanour incompatible with the title of a lawyer, and entails the termination of the law licence”.
Maxim Conon
Maxim Conon is a Conon and Partners Law Office lawyer .

In October, the Oktyabrsky District Court of Minsk found Conon guilty of committing an administrative offence under Part 1 of Art. 23.34 of the Administrative Code (violation of the order of organising mass events) and sentenced him to 12 days of custody, allegedly for participating in an unauthorised rally near the city beach in Braslav.

On 19 February 2021, the Qualification Commission on Advocacy of the Ministry of Justice decided to deprive Conon of the licence to practice law. The licence expiration date has not yet been determined.
Mikhail Kirilyuk
Mikhail Kirilyuk is a Minsk Regional Bar lawyer and a member of the expanded Coordination Council, responsible for justice issues in the People’s Crisis Department.

Kirilyuk posted on his Facebook page about what had been happening in Belarus (in particular, the authorities’ attention was attracted by his 1 September 2020 post), and also gave an interview (similarly, the interview dating 6 September 2020 attracted Ministry’s attention).
The Minsk Regional Bar disciplinary commission reprimanded Kirilyuk for his statements.

On 8 February 2021, the Ministry of Justice notified Kirilyuk that the issue of law licence deprivation in connection with the abovementioned statements was to be considered. It was signed by the head of the Department of Advocacy and Licencing of Advocacy, Podlesskaya.

On 12 February 2021, Kirilyuk requested clarification on the statements that served as the basis for considering the issue of deprivation of the law licence, the answer to which was never received.

On 19 February 2021, the Qualification Commission on Advocacy of the Ministry of Justice decided to deprive Kirilyuk of his licence to practice law. The licence expiration date has not yet been determined. The press release of the Ministry of Justice provided the following justification for the decision: “Lawyer M. Kirilyuk made public statements on the global computer network Internet, containing rude, tactless expressions towards government officials, which is unacceptable.”
Yulia Levanchuk
Yulia Levanchuk is a Brest Regional Bar lawyer.

On 15 October 2020, the Qualification Commission on Advocacy of the Ministry of Justice decided to deprive Yulia Levanchuk of her law licence. According to the Ministry of Justice’s press release, the decision was made due to the fact that “the lawyer of the Brest Regional Bar, Y. Levanchuk, was the initiator of correspondence with an investigator, in which she threatened him and his family members.”

There is no further information available to the public.
Sergey Zikratsky
awyer of the Minsk City Bar . He was a defender in politically motivated cases, advocated for journalists and human rights activists.

On March 24, 2021, the lawyer did not pass the recertification. The reason for the recertification was a number of posts by Zikratsky on his social media. The Ministry of Justice decided that these comments did not fully comply with the law, and therefore indicated the improper performance of professional lawyer duties.

Lawyer Sergei Zikratsky was expelled from the Minsk City Bar by a resolution dating March 31, 2021 due to "the inability of fulfilling his professional duties due to insufficient qualification, confirmed by the decision of the Qualification Commission on the issues of advocacy in the Republic of Belarus."
Vladimir Sozonchuk
On February 24, 2021, the Disciplinary Commission of the Minsk City Bar revoked the license of Vladimir Sozonchuk, a lawyer defending Nikolay Statkevich and a video blogger Dmitry Kozlov ("Gray Cat"), who were recognized as political prisoners.

On March 24, 2021, materials were considered by the Qualification Commission of the Minsk City Bar on the termination of his law license due to the application of a disciplinary sanction to him in the form of an exclusion from the Minsk City Bar for committing an offense incompatible with the title of a lawyer.
Olga Baranchik
Olga Baranchik is a former chairman of the disciplinary commission of the Minsk Regional Bar, who has worked in the legal profession for over 25 years.

She did not pass the recertification on March 24, 2021 due to "the inability of the lawyer to fulfill her professional duties due to insufficient qualification."
Boris Leskovsky
Boris Leskovsky has worked in the legal profession for over 25 years, 17 of which as a lawyer. Was detained and sentenced to administrative arrest after the protest march. Was a defender in the BelTA case.

He did not pass the recertification on March 24, 2021 due to "the inability of the lawyer to fulfill his professional duties due to insufficient qualification."
Vladislav Filipovich
Vladislav Filipovich was a defense lawyer in the case of the clash with the riot police on June, 19 in Molodechno.

He did not pass the recertification on March 24, 2021 due to "the inability of the lawyer to fulfill his professional duties due to insufficient qualification."
Sergey Pichukha
On March 24, 2021, the Qualification commission considered materials concerning the lawyer of the Minsk Regional Bar, Sergei Pichukha.

The reason for considering this issue was "the fact that Sergei Pichukha committed an administrative offense (violation of the established procedure for holding a rally)."

Based on the results of considering this issue, the commission came to the conclusion that the abovementioned actions of a lawyer discredit the title of a lawyer and the legal profession, which qualified as a misdemeanor incompatible with the title of a lawyer, and leads to the termination of the law license.
Andrey Bartashevich
23 years of legal experience, graduated from the Academy of Public Administration under the Aegis of the President of the Republic of Belarus, took the training in the Securities Department of the Ministry of Finance of the Republic of Belarus, from 2002 to 2017 was a member of the Central Council of the Belarusian Republican Bar, was a deputy of the Vileika District Council of Deputies of the 28th convocation.

On March 24, 2021, he was deprived of his license, did not pass the recertification "due to insufficient qualification confirmed by the decision of the Qualification Commission following the results of the recertification held on March 3, 2021."
Elena Shinkarevich
On March 24, 2021, she was deprived of her license, did not pass the recertification "due to insufficient qualification confirmed by the decision of the Qualification Commission following the results of the recertification held on March 3, 2021".

Elena was asked if she had deliberately signed the petition against violence (a link to the petition was displayed on her social media page). And at the certification, she was demanded to give an exact citation of norms, and asked most of the questions related to criminal law, which the lawyer almost does not deal with.

She was a lawyer in a case of an administrative offense, where the judge considered that the agreement of the alleged offender with the lawyer proves his “intention to participate in unauthorized events.”
Nikolai Yotka
On March 3, 2021, he was summoned for recertification by the Qualification Commission on Advocacy Issues under the Ministry of Justice.


On March 24, 2021, he was deprived of his license, did not pass the recertification "due to insufficient qualification confirmed by the decision of the Qualification Commission following the results of the recertification held on March 3, 2021."
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