24 September 2018, Monday, 7:40
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There Will Be No One to Protect Lukashenka

Iryna Khalip

One more article in the Constitution is crossed off.

Did you mentioned that the news about decertification of a well-known lawyer Anna Bakhtsina cast the West-2017 into the shade? It is no surprise: when the regime is getting rid of the last independent lawyers, it simultaneously destroys not only the right of citizens to protection, but also the right to life. Because only a lawyer has the right to visit a citizen in prison. This is the person who can write complains and make information about tortures and mockery of a defendant that are diligently kept dark by prison walls and guards public.

The destruction of the independent bar is the last step after the destruction of the Parliament, an independent media and the civil society. There is no one who can signal from below. After the departure of the last true lawyers there really a burnt-over land remains, and, of course, rereading of Shalamov, so as not to be unprepared. However, everyone understands it. And I just want to tell you who is Anna Bakhtsina.

I remember well May 2011 and the trial. The defendants were Paval Sevyarynets and Siarhei Martselau. Policemen of different rungs and departments bear similar testimony about our participation in riots. A traffic policeman mumbles about the way he was standing with his friends on the avenue trying not to contain the crowd, and the way it broke through the cordon. "Khlalip was breaking through, I remember it", a policeman nodded at me.

- Who was standing next to you?", Anna asked strictly.

- How can I remember it? the policeman said with a true wonder. - Six months passed, it was a long time ago...

The courtroom burst into laughter. Anna's questions were sharp, and all witnesses in the uniform looked like low-performing students who had learned answers on the gase of adults, but the very first question ruined their cramming. Even the Prosecutor was laughing, he knew about future sentences that he could not change. It meant that he could take his seat in the ground and enjoy a professional work of Bakhtsina. But the main thing Anna did to me was a brilliant defence in court. Believe me she did much more.

Now imagine: it was Sunday, 15 May 2011. Tomorrow my verdict will be pronounced. Yesterday my husband was sentenced to 5 years in the colony with a reinforced regime. Today is the birthday of my son. Daniel is four years old. We are under house arrest, there are two KGB officers in the apartment, and nobody can come to visit us on the day of his birth. Nevertheless, the doorbell is ringing in the evening. KGB officers wonder whether no one knows that it is prison now and no one is allowed here. But they open the door, because sometimes other KGB officers arrive.

Anna Bakhtsina rushed into and, of course, she has the right to visit the defendant. At first I was surprised: tomorrow sentence will be pronounced, in the morning we meet in court, the argument is over, Anna has a day off. Then I realized that my lawyer came to my son's birthday. She brought a push stand-up scooter. then she ordered "Pick up it for you to be useful somehow! Ira, where is a screwdriver?"

Then there were toasts (of course, Anna brought champagne), a cake with candles, noise, games, skateboarding around the apartment and Daniel's amused laughter. She made that day. That was her day off, by the way. In general, there is no surprise if lawyer Anna Bakhtsina takes up a matter.

In the summer of 2011, just after the trial she was already given an extraordinary qualifying examination she did not pass. Then, however, they realized and the license was returned. And Anna was able to participate in the processes of Illya Valovik and Edward Palchys. But now, if suddenly the "Patriot case" is reopened, she will not be able to defend Miraslau Lazouski.

And this is the main thing she is thinking about. On Wednesday, the day after this damn requalification, we talked on the phone. The first thing Anna said: "I have obligations, contracts, defendants!" She did not think of herself, but of those who had lost their protection because of cowardice and meanness of underlings and their slaveholders.

Now Belarusians collect signatures under the petition in defense of Bakhtsina. Human rights organizations sign an appeal to the Minsk City Bar Association with an appeal not to exclude her from the Bar. They write to the UN Special Rapporteur on the Independence of Judges and Lawyers. The Union of Belarusian Writers sends out an urgent statement. And only her colleagues-lawyers are still silent. They have hidden so that no one could noticed them and hope that they will not face the same. But you will, darlings. As well as officials of the Ministry of Justice and their masters. But there will be no one to protect you.

I think I know why the news about Anna Bakhtsina has become more important than all the rest. Because it affects each of us. Russian troops can also leave, and the KGB, the Interior Ministry, courts and prosecutors will stay. In our country each family has someone who was, is or will be imprisoned. And now we know that even if a prisoner has a lawyer, he can be deprived of a license right during the investigation or trial. We no longer have the right to protection. One more article in the Constitution is crossed off.

Iryna Khalip for Charter97.org