A critical situation which evidently threatens independence of the bar association is developing in Belarus, Minsk city bar association believes.
As BelaPAN was told by the chairman of Minsk city bar association, Alyaksandr Pylchanka, on February 17 at the extended meeting of the presidium of the bar association which was held with participation of heads of legal aid bureaus, the issue of disbarment of 4 lawyers was discussed.
As it has been informed earlier, on February 14 the Justice Ministry of Belarus adopted a decree to revoke licences of four lawyers of Minsk city bar association who defended participants of the rally on December 19 – Aleh Aheeu, Tatsyana Aheeva, Uladzimir Toustsik and Tamara Haraeva.
The licences of Aleh Aheeu (a lawyer of Alyaksei Mikhalevich, a presidential candidate) and Tatsyana Aheeva were terminated “for gross violations of the procedural formalities when executing legal services agreements, interfering with licensing authorities in supervision over compliance with legislation consisting in providing inaccurate information.” Uladzimir Toustsik and Tamara Haraeva have been revoked licences “for gross violations of the law on licensing consisting in denying legal services to Iryna Khailp.”
The presidium of Minsk city bar association has been ordered to take immediate measures to provide legal services to persons whose lawyers or representatives the above-mentioned advocates previously were.”
Meanwhile, as stated by Alyaksandr Pylchanka, the bar association has not received any reports about professional activities of the four above-mentioned lawyers. And accordingly there were no disciplinary proceeding against them.
Pylchanka has also stated that at the extended session of Minsk city bar association the initiative of the Justice Ministry to adopt the rules of lawyers’ professional ethics was discussed. As underlined by the chairman of the association, “Such rules should be adopted by the lawyers community.”
“The key personnel of Minsk city bar association finds the current situation critical, and really threatening both to the independence of the bar as the legal institution and independence of advocates individually,” Pylchanka said.
In this connection a decision was passed to hold an extraordinary meeting of Minsk city bar association and invite all persons concerned, Pylchanka said.
We remind that in the end of December the Justice Ministry of Belarus found “gross violations of professional ethics rules” in the actions of some lawyers who defended participants of December 19 rally. Senior representatives of Minsk city bar association were urged “to take steps for lawyers to follow the rules of professional ethics and legislation unconditionally”. However the presidium of the association has discovered no grounds for applying any sanctions against the lawyers.
The Justice Ministry of Belarus also informed about preparation of the new professional ethics code with the aim to “improve lawyers’ services.”
Besides, new requirements for candidates for receiving a licence would be imposed. There would be a two-level exam, which is to confirm a necessary proficiency, knowledge of the law currently in force and skills of law enforcement, as well as a preliminary interview at which the general level of a contender is to be checked. Besides, the Justice Ministry is to have special requirements to persons previously worked in courts, prosecution agencies, internal affairs bodies, other law-enforcing agencies. Recommendations and reference from the last place of work are to be demanded by a qualifications commission for such persons.
ON February 1 the Council of Bar Associations of Europe called upon Justice Minister of Belarus Viktar Halavanau “to guarantee principles of independence of professional associations of lawyers and fairness of disciplinary proceedings.”