Our editorial office has received a letter by the chairman of the Minsk City Bar Association V. Oreshko requiring the heads of legal advice offices to provide information on the cases of foreign citizens' (except for citizens of the Russian Federation) physically located in Belarus that have addressed the offices “in execution of the order of the Minister of Justice S. Khomenko”.
Thus, the fact of seeking legal assistance from foreigners must now be reported by lawyers at the request of the Minister. It should be recalled that earlier, in order to narrow down the notion of 'attorney-client privilege' (and hence expand the list of information potentially available to state bodies), amendments to the Law on Advocacy were adopted in Belarus, as well as new Rules on professional ethics for attorneys.
The foreign client is not notified of such data communication, neither does he or she provide written consent to such a communication. At the same time, the name, surname, place of registration and telephone number of the foreign person may be provided to the Ministry of Justice. All of this constitutes information concerning the client’s private life, and accordingly, the Minister’s order violates not only the internationally accepted principle of attorney-client privilege, but also the client's right to privacy. Naturally, such actions of attorneys in forwarding their clients' data undermine the trust between the clients and the lawyers, and such actions of the self-governing bodies undermine the prestige of the legal profession itself.
No reasons for such a request or the purpose and ways of use of the information received are stated by either the Minister or the Bar Association.