Belarus - annual report 2018

Representatives from the Ministry of Justice of the Republic of Belarus, the General Prosecutor‘s Office, the Public Prosecutor´s Office and the Public Monitoring Commission at the Belarusian Ministry of Justice on the occasion of a study trip to Berlin on the penitentiary system in November 2018
Representatives from the Ministry of Justice of the Republic of Belarus, the General Prosecutor‘s Office, the Public Prosecutor´s Office and the Public Monitoring Commission at the Belarusian Ministry of Justice on the occasion of a study trip to Berlin on the penitentiary system in November 2018

Strategic Framework

Legal Policy Starting Point

Cooperation between the IRZ and its various partners in Belarus was continued and even expanded slightly during the reporting year. Efforts to cooperate are greeted with considerable interest and openness. The release of the last political prisoners at the end of 2015 and the virtual absence of repression in connection with the presidential and parliamentary elections in 2015 and 2016, the completion without incident of the local elections in early 2018, as well as the role of Belarus in the Ukraine conflict, provide the foundation to build on the dialogue on issues concerning rule of law that have been maintained over recent years, even if deficits persist in regard to human rights, e.g. the right to demonstrate or in connection with the death penalty. Belarus reform efforts will be discussed, and practice-oriented conferences offered as part of this dialogue. Moreover, the IRZ contributes its expertise to the “Rule of Law and Access to Justice“ programme that UNDP (United Nations Development Programme) has initiated in Belarus; it seeks to use this framework together with the participation of numerous non-governmental organisations envisaged by UNDP as a contribution to improving the legislative process, strengthening access to the judiciary and in doing so enabling a greater degree of protection for human rights. However, it was not possible to continue the work in this UNDP project as planned during the reporting year due to intervention on the Belarusian side; the issue will remain on the agenda nevertheless.

Overall Concept

Cooperation with Belarusian partners, among them the Ministry of Justice, the Parliament, the Supreme Court, the National Center of Intellectual Property, the Bar and the Chamber of Notaries, continued and was strengthened in the reporting year. Aim of the IRZ is still to contribute its expertise to the aforementioned UNDP project, especially as it addresses two crucial aspects of the rule of law, namely a stronger legislative process and improved access to the judiciary, also because UNDP has envisaged the participation of various non-governmental organisations in the project.

Foci of Activity in 2018

Civil and Commercial Law

  • Conference with the National Center of Intellectual Property on trademark law and patent law in Minsk

Administration of Justice

  • Conference with the Supreme Court on the introduction of appeals in civil and commercial proceedings in Minsk
  • Conference with the Belarusian National Bar Association in cooperation with the German Federal Bar and with participation of representatives from Bar associations in Ukraine and the Russian Federation on the topics of lawyers‘ monopoly, mandatory representation and specialist lawyers in Minsk
  • Conference in cooperation with the Federal Chamber of Notaries and the Notary Chamber of Belarus on the topics of data protection, liability insurance, as well as the status of the notarial act and its probative force, with subsequent technical discussions in the Ministry of Justice in Minsk

Public Law

  • Conference in Minsk with the Upper House of the Belarusian Parliament on questions of regulatory impact assessment

Criminal Law and Penitentiary Law

  • Study trip to Berlin by representatives of the Belarusian Ministry of Justice, the General Prosecutor‘s Office and Public Monitoring Commission at the Belarusian Ministry of Justice in regard to observance of the rights of prisoners and general organisation of the penitentiary system

Outlook

The IRZ will continue its bilateral work with the above partners and will, where possible, expand its cooperation in the areas of protection of fundamental rights and administration of justice. It will also contribute to the UNDP project as far as the work on this project resumes and is continued. Moreover, exploratory discussions will be held with representatives of universities and non-governmental organisations to identify opportunities for cooperation that would involve junior lawyers in particular.

Belarus - annual report 2017

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.

Belarus - annual report 2016

Opening of the specialist conference in Minsk on the topic “Legislative procedure, legislative technique and regulatory impact assessment ” with the Belarus Minister of Justice Oleg Slizhewski (4th from left) Picture: Justicija Belarusi (Юстиция Беларуси)
Opening of the specialist conference in Minsk on the topic “Legislative procedure, legislative technique and regulatory impact assessment ” with the Belarus Minister of Justice Oleg Slizhewski (4th from left) Picture: Justicija Belarusi (Юстиция Беларуси)

Strategic Framework

Overall Concept

At the suggestion of the German Federal Foreign Office and in close cooperation with the German Federal Ministry of Justice and Consumer Protection, the IRZ took first steps in the reporting year towards once again resuming its cooperation with the Republic of Belarus, which was discontinued at the end of 2012 due to the political framework conditions at the time. For this purpose, discussions were conducted in Minsk in mid-2016 to establish whether there is a requirement for and an interest in legal advice. Great interest was shown by the potential Belarus cooperation partners, which the IRZ has not been able to meet in full in the reporting year. The intention is in particular to cooperate with the Ministry of Justice and the President of Belarus’s Centre for Legislative Activity, the Constitutional Court and the Supreme Court, as well as lawyers and notaries.

Foci of Activity 2016

  • Participation in the UN initiative in Minsk entitled “Access to justice” with specialist discussions on issues of legislation technique and enforcement
  • Specialist conference in Minsk on legislation technique, regulatory impact assessments and monitoring the effectiveness of statutes which have already entered into force
  • Roundtable in Minsk on the law governing the lawyers’ profession in cooperation with the German Federal Bar
  • Study trip to Berlin for lawyers from Belarus in cooperation with the German Federal Bar

Outlook

The intention is to intensify cooperation with the Republic of Belarus in the forthcoming year. The issues of legislation and access to justice will continue to be of fundamental interest and may be supplemented by specific advice on particular reform projects. Practice-oriented cooperation with the Supreme Court and the Constitutional Court will be on the agenda, as well as the continuation of the cooperation with lawyers which has already started. In addition, the IRZ will resume its cooperation with the notaries in Belarus.

Download the entire IRZ annual report in PDF format here: annual report 2016.