Belarus – annual report 2020

Notary Chamber of Belarus; far right (in white): Hanna Mikhalevich, Deputy Head of the Department of Notary and Registry Offices at the Ministry of Justice of the Republic of Belarus
Notary Chamber of Belarus; far right (in white): Hanna Mikhalevich, Deputy Head of the Department of Notary and Registry Offices at the Ministry of Justice of the Republic of Belarus

Strategic Framework 

Legal Policy Starting Point 

The development of the human rights situation following the presidential elections in August 2020 is a sad chapter in recent Belarusian history. Peaceful demonstrations were broken up, sometimes violently, numerous citizens were intimidated and opposition activists were imprisoned. Lawyers were not spared either.

The constitutional reform announced by President Alexander Lukashenko, who continues to rule autocratically, must be viewed through this filter. Constitutional reform has been promised for a long time, but without any specific details. The reforms implemented prior to the elections in the legal and judicial fields related to a unification of the Economic Procedural Code and the Civil Procedure Code, where efforts had been ongoing for some time. In some areas, the Belarusian Civil Procedure Code and the Economic Procedural Code contain different regulations of similar procedures in appeal cases, which inevitably lead to conflicts of law. A working group at the Supreme Court is in charge of drafting a uniform code of procedure that should be adopted within the next two years.

Overall Concept 

In the run-up to the elections, the advisory measures provided by IRZ to Belarusian partners, which resumed in 2016, focused on project activities on the protection of human rights in the application of the law and on the administration of justice.

The Federal Foreign Office approved funds for various activities with the National Bar Association and the Belarusian State University for the project on the protection of human rights. Due to the pandemic, the first event for the Bar Association was changed from a physical to an online format and was held in July 2020. The participants’ comments and questions to the IRZ experts on lawyer-client privilege, prohibited evidence gathering and the use of evidence in criminal proceedings demonstrated the huge interest among the lawyers and the high importance they attach to the enforcement of human rights.

However, the conference with the Belarusian State University that was planned within the framework of the project funded by the Federal Foreign Office could not take place in 2020 and had to be postponed to 2021.

An online conference on the regulation of legal advice and legal aid was hosted with the Belarusian Bar Association, in cooperation with the German Federal Bar. In addition, IRZ contributed to a multilateral conference in Minsk that was organised by the German Federal Bar with the Belarusian, Ukrainian and Russian bar associations to discuss issues of judicial and professional policy.

IRZ has promoted the administration of justice for some time in a cooperation with the Notary Chamber of Belarus. The advisory measures contributed to the Notary Chamber being accepted into the International Union of Notaries (UINL) in late 2019. This paves the way for closer cross-border cooperation between the notaries’ offices.

Focus of Activity in 2020

Constitutional Law, Human Rights and their Enforceability 

  • Online seminar with the Bar Association “A comparison of fundamental rights in Germany and Belarus, protection of fundamental rights through proceedings and protection of human rights by organs of the administration of justice”

Administration of Justice

  • Support of and participation in a multilateral symposium on current judicial and professional policy issues with representatives of the bar associations of Belarus, Ukraine, the Russian Federation and Germany (3+1 Meeting)
  • Support of and participation in an online conference on the regulation of the legal advice market, legal aid and advice in Belarus and Germany, conducted by the German Federal Bar
  • Online workshop with the support of the Federal Chamber of Notaries on “Notarial work as a means of combating organised crime and presentation of the legal framework in Germany” with the Notary Chamber of Belarus

Outlook 

Project grant provided by the Federal Foreign Office focuses on issues relating to the protection of human rights. IRZ will review continuation of the cooperation in close consultation with the Federal Ministry of Justice and Consumer Protection.

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.