Belarus. August 2020: "Justice" for Protesters

  • by EECA
  • 2 November 2020

Human Rights Center "Viasna"
Experts of the Barys Zvozskau Belarusian Human Rights House:
Maria Sliaptsova, LLM - general editing
Mikita Matsiushchankau, LLM - interviewing and processing
Tatsiana Ziniakova, LLM - legal analysis
with support from the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH) and the World Organization Against Torture (OMCT)

In accordance with the Constitution, the judiciary in the Republic of Belarus belongs to the courts. In administering justice, judges shall be independent and are expected to be governed by law. Any interference in the activities of judges in the administration of justice is unacceptable and entails liability under the law. All proceedings in all courts shall be public; hearing of cases in a closed court session is allowed only in cases determined by law, in compliance with the rules of judicial procedure. Justice shall be carried out on the basis of adversariality and equality of the parties in the trial. The parties and persons participating in the trial shall have the right to appeal rulings, sentences and other court orders.

Twenty years have passed since 2000, when the Belarusian judicial system was subjected to a scrutiny and criticism by the United Nations Special Rapporteur on the independence of judges and lawyers, Mr. Param Cumaraswamy. Over the years, the Belarusian judicial system has been significantly reformed, resulting in the main aspects of its functioning having been transferred from the Ministry of Justice and the Presidential Administration to the Supreme Court. As a result, the guarantees of the independence of judges were strengthened by law. At the same time, the President of the Republic of Belarus still plays a key role in determining the legal status of judges, in the process of appointing judges to office, their promotion, and determining their financial position. The degree of oversight of the Bar Association by the Ministry of Justice has increased significantly since then.

This report will focus on the violations of fair trial standards in the course of considering administrative cases against participants in peaceful demonstrations against falsification of the results of the 2020 presidential elections in the light of the international obligations of the Republic of Belarus under Article 14 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights:

 the impartiality of the court;
 absence of any direct or indirect influence, pressure or intimidation, or interference of any of the parties and on any grounds;
 publicity (transparency) of the trial;
 opportunity to have adequate time and facilities for the preparation of one’s defense and to communicate with counsel of one’s own choosing;
 opportunity to examine, or have examined, the witnesses against them and to obtain the attendance and examination of witnesses on their behalf under the same conditions as witnesses against them;
 not to be compelled to testify against oneself or to confess guilt;
 the right to appeal against a court order.