Expert talk on court mediation in Minsk: Peter Dettmar, German Ambassador; Oleg Slizhevsky, Minister of Justice of the Republic of Belarus; Valery Mitskevich, Deputy Head of the Belarusian Presidential Administration; Wolfram Hertig, IRZ; Edgar Isermann, former President of the Higher Regional Court Braunschweig (from right to left)
Expert talk on court mediation in Minsk: Peter Dettmar, German Ambassador; Oleg Slizhevsky, Minister of Justice of the Republic of Belarus; Valery Mitskevich, Deputy Head of the Belarusian Presidential Administration; Wolfram Hertig, IRZ; Edgar Isermann, former President of the Higher Regional Court Braunschweig (from right to left)

Legal Policy Situation

The legal-political framework conditions for the work of the IRZ in Belarus are still comparatively difficult due to the domestic political situation there; but they are developing in the direction of greater mutual openness for a cautious intensification of cooperation, as can also be seen in the example of the deepening of the EU’s critical engagement policy. According to assessments by international observers, the conduct of the presidential elections in October 2015 was flawed, but nonetheless at least free of repression.

As a result, the EU sanctions imposed against Belarus until that point in time were initially suspended and largely lifted at the end of February 2016. There were similar assessments of the elections to the Parliament’s House of Representatives in September 2016, in which, for the first time in a long while, individual members of the still fragmented opposition were elected to parliament. In view of continued shortcomings in the field of human rights, such as obstruction and arrests during demonstrations or the imposition and enforcement of the death penalty, the EU and the Federal Government associate the lifting of sanctions with the hope that the situation will improve.

The carefully coordinated mutual steps towards closer cooperation and dialogue are thus linked to an improvement in the human rights situation and greater democratisation, including the involvement of civil society. The efforts of the IRZ, supported by the Federal Ministry of Justice and Consumer Protection, at re-establishing a dialogue on the rule of law, as well as their participation in the “Rule of Law and Access to Justice” programme, initiated by the UNDP, should also be seen in this context. By the way, Belarus is one of the six member states of the EU’s “Eastern Partnership”, which aims to promote closer economic relations with the EU and reforms in democratisation and human rights.

Concept

In this situation, the IRZ would like to revive the dialogue on the rule of law, which was temporarily suspended in 2012, and has already taken the first steps to this end in the course of the previous year, which met with lively interest on the Belarusian side in continuing and intensifying this cooperation. In the year under review, cooperation was intensified and expanded on various legal issues with partner institutions such as the Ministry of Justice, the Supreme Court and the Constitutional Court, but also with the legal profession and the notary’s office. The IRZ has also sent an expert to the High Level Advisory Group of the task force “Rule of Law and Access to Justice”, initiated by the UNDP (United Nations Development Programme) and decisively supported by the EU delegation and the German Embassy. She chairs one of the three working groups. In this context, it has also been possible to involve representatives of civil society organisations.

Foci of Activity 2017

Constitutional Law/Human Rights and their Enforceability

  • Expert talks on mechanisms for the protection of fundamental rights with the Constitutional Court of the Republic of Belarus in Minsk
  • Collaboration and consultation/High Level Advisory Group des UNDP-Programme “Rule of Law and Access to Justice”

Administration of Justice

  • Expert talks on court administration, recruitment of personnel, training of judges, etc. with the Supreme Court of the Republic of Belarus in Minsk
  • Practical work experience in Bonn on the topic of “Hague Convention on the International Recovery of Child Support and Other Forms of Family Maintenance” of 23 November 2007
  • Working visit by a delegation of the Ministry of Justice of the Republic of Belarus on the reform of the Belarusian bailiff’s system in Aurich
  • Expert talks on mediation with a focus on lawyers in Minsk
  • Expert talks with the Ministry of Justice on judicial mediation in Minsk, among other things
  • Expert talks in Minsk with the Belarusian Chamber of Notaries on the function of the notary as an organ of preventive administration of justice
  • Study trip of a delegation of young lawyers from Belarus to Berlin and Cottbus on the subject of women’s rights, financed by the EU-program MOST

Outlook

On the one hand, the IRZ will continue its participation in the extensive UNDP project described above and thus provide strategic and technical contributions to the High Level Advisory Group and the working group “Legal Awareness, Efficient Legislation and Legal Protection by Strengthening Legislative Capacity”. On the other hand, the IRZ will continue its bilateral work with the above-mentioned partners and will also expand the dialogue on the rule of law, especially in the areas of fundamental rights protection and administration of justice, to the extent possible, as well as in related areas of law, as the need arises. Exploratory talks are also to be held with representatives of the university and non-governmental organisations in order to identify cooperation opportunities for the involvement of junior lawyers or civil society in particular.