Lawyers for Lawyers (L4L) continues to be deeply concerned about the deteriorating human rights situation in Belarus. Since the 2020 elections, Belarusian lawyers have been persecuted by various means such as disbarment, detention, and prosecution simply for performing their professional duties. L4L would like to use this statement to particularly draw attention to the situation of three Belarusian human rights lawyers, namely Alexander Danilevich, Vitaly Braginets and Anastasia Lazarenko.
The individual cases of attorneys Danilevich, Braginets and Lazarenko
On 10 April 2023 the Minsk Municipal Court sentenced Alexander Danilevich to ten years in prison. Danilevich pleaded not guilty and insisted that he had only been performing his legitimate duties. Arrested on 20 May 2022, he was held in pre-trial detention and charged with abetting public calls for actions aimed at harming the national security of the Republic of Belarus (Article 16, Part 6 and Article 361, Part Three of the Criminal Code). The prosecution argued that he had provided legal assistance to two prominent Belarusian athletes who spoke out against human rights violations. He was further alleged to have helped prepare appeals from the Belaruskali (Belarusian manufacturer and exporter of potash fertilizers) strike committee to the Norwegian company, Yara, a significant buyer of Belaruskali potash products. The prosecution claimed that these letters contained “deliberately false information” about events in Belarus and that they called on Yara to terminate contractual relations with Belaruskali. Prior to his arrest, Danilevich suffered months of backlash for signing a petition calling for an end to the war in Ukraine. He was subject to disciplinary action and heard that his contract with the Belarusian State University, where he had taught for more than 20 years in the Faculty of International Relations, would not be renewed. He was declared a political prisoner on 28 June 2022 by a coalition of Belarusian human rights organizations. After his conviction, the Belarusian Association of Human Rights Lawyers issued a statement saying that Danilevich did not commit any crimes but had exercised his constitutional right to freedom of expression and performed his professional duties.
Lawyers for Lawyers was informed that, in February 2023, Vitaly Braginets was sentenced by the Minsk City Court to eight years in a penal colony. His trial was held behind closed doors.