Belarus - annual report 2019

Expert discussion with the Supreme Court in Minsk on administrative court jurisdiction: Judges of the Supreme Court with the German experts Klaus Hage, presiding judge at the Minden Administrative Court, and Hans-Otto Bartels, former president of the Aurich Regional Court
Expert discussion with the Supreme Court in Minsk on administrative court jurisdiction: Judges of the Supreme Court with the German experts Klaus Hage, presiding judge at the Minden Administrative Court, and Hans-Otto Bartels, former president of the Aurich Regional Court

Strategic Framework

Legal Policy Starting Point

In 2019, the IRZ was able to continuously develop its cooperation in the field of law with Belarusian partners, which continues to meet with great interest.

OSCE has reported that the parliamentary elections held in November 2019 were conducted in a peaceful manner, although they were not consistent with international election standards according to the international OSCE election observation mission. Moreover, no opposition candidate was admitted, unlike in the parliamentary elections four years earlier.

Overall Concept

As part of the legal cooperation, IRZ collaborates with various partner institutions to discuss issues that are of particular interest from a rule of law perspective, as well as issues that address economic cooperation or are relevant to reform considerations on the Belarus side. IRZ‘s partner institutions are primarily the Ministry of Justice, the Constitutional Court, the Supreme Court and the Parliament. IRZ also cooperates with the Belarusian Bar Association and the Notary Chamber of Belarus as competent bodies for non-contentious administration of justice, as well as with the National Center of Intellectual Property. The following topics have been on the agenda so far: protection of human rights, protection of intellectual property, consumer protection, arbitration, civil and commercial procedural law and court organisation.

Administrative jurisdiction was also included in the cooperation for the first time in 2019, due to its particular importance for the rule of law.

It is also of major importance for IRZ to include law students and young legal professionals in the dialogue on the rule of law, which is why it has started a cooperation with the Faculty of Law at the Belarusian State University during the reporting year.

Focus of Activity in 2019

Constitutional Law/Human Rights and their Enforceability

  • Participation in consultations by the Council of Europe in cooperation with Belarus governmental institutions in Minsk concerning the law on regulatory legal acts
  • Expert conference in Minsk with judges of the Constitutional Court on “National constitutional law in the context of international law“

Civil and Commercial Law

  • Advising the Belarus Ministry of Justice in Minsk concerning amendments to the arbitration law
  • Expert conference with the National Center of Intellectual Property on copyright law in Minsk
  • Study trip to Munich for the National Center of Intellectual Property on trademark and patent law, as well as on copyright law and copyright collecting agencies
  • Trilateral work visit to Berlin on consumer protection (for Belarus, Moldova and Ukraine)

Administration of Justice

  • Study trip to Berlin on notarial law for representatives of the Belarus Ministry of Justice and the Notary Chamber of Belarus on the topics digitalisation, data protection and confidentiality; legal effect of the notarial deed; notarial liability; notary and company law; extension of notarial competences
  • Study trip to Aurich and Oldenburg on appeals in civil proceedings and aspects of court organisation
  • Expert meeting with the Supreme Court on administrative court jurisdiction in Minsk
  • Expert conference in Minsk with the Supreme Court on the harmonisation of the Code of Civil and Commercial Procedure in Belarus and on special aspects of administrative court jurisdiction
  • Expert conference on mediation and professional law for lawyers in cooperation with the German Federal Bar (BRAK) and the Belarus Bar Association in Minsk

Basic and Further Training

  • Initial lecture at the Belarusian State University in Minsk on the principles of administrative procedural law

Outlook

IRZ will continue its bilateral work with the aforementioned partners and pursue these important topics. As an important aspect of reliable investment conditions, IRZ will also seek to discuss questions of administrative procedural law in the future. In cooperation with the Belarusian Bar Association and the Belarusian State University, IRZ will increasingly focus on the protection of human rights in the application of the law.

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.