20 June 2018, Wednesday, 18:19

Iryna Khalip: Lawyers, Stand Up For Your Colleague!


Hanna Bakhtsina called her political clients heroes.

The qualification commission of the Ministry of Justice disbarred lawyer Hanna Bakhtsina, who has 38 years of professional experience. The lawyer worked with different people, also with those who were defendants in various political cases. In 2011, a renown Belarusian journalist Iryna Khalip was one of Hanna Bakhtsina’s clients.

The website charter97.org asked Iryna Khalip how Hanna Bakhtsina helped her, and what the fact that the lawyer hadn’t passed the attesting commission meant for the Belarusian democratic society on the whole:

— I think that Hanna is one of the best lawyers in our country, she is a professional of a very high class.

I recall a wonderful phrase said by the then German Ambassador during the break in the court trial that he attended in 2011. He stepped towards Hanna Bakhtsina, shook her hand and said “Such lawyer should work in a normal western court.” He is a lawyer by education, he knew and understood what she was doing.

Not only Hanna is a high-class professional, she is also totally fearless. I remeber how she openly called us, the defendants, heroes, right in the court. She warned the judges that they would have to bear responsibility for their lawlessness in the end. I realized she was ready to risk. In summer 2011, she was disbarred, right after our trials.

Besides, the situation was identical back then. Hanna appealed the decision of the qualification commission and they gave her license back. I have no clue what will happen this time, but I want to warn the officials – guys, you go to prison more often than we do. You also need good lawyers. Think better of it!

— In your opinion, what should be the reaction of the democratic society to the disbarring of Hanna Bakhtsina?

— You know, I was deeply outraged back then, and I am outraged now, that the lawyers community keeps silence. You see, when journalists get jailed, other journalists struggle for their colleagues, even if they hate each other and are ardent competitors at freedom.

But I was surprised that the lawyers community is acting as if nothing has happened. You know, if they disbar a lawyer today, they will disbar another one tomorrow. In the end, lawyers could become just an attribute, a sort of a knickknack, which should be present at a court hearing. If they are okay with that, let them keep silence further on. However, I am calling on them: dear lawyers, if you still have conscience, defend your colleague!