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.