The Observatory has been informed about the criminal prosecution and limitation of freedom of Andrei Machalau, a human rights lawyer known for providing legal assistance to torture survivors, independent journalists, human rights defenders, and civil and political activists in Belarus.
On June 16, 2022, the Leninsky District Court in Minsk sentenced Andrei Machalau to two years of restriction of freedom with the transfer to an open-type penal institution for “using a false document” under Article 380, Part 1 of the Criminal Code of the Republic of Belarus. Mr. Machalau will appeal this decision, and the correctional facility will be determined after the decision on the appeal. During the judicial proceedings, Mr. Machalau’s right to due process was violated. He was denied his right to legal assistance, as his lawyer Vitaliy Braginets was under administrative arrest, and the court refused to reschedule the process to enable participation Mr. Braginets’ participation or to let Machalau to choose a new lawyer. Andrei Machalau was represented by a lawyer appointed by the court, whom he did not know and did not have chance to communicate in advance.
Andrei Machalau has been accused of using an invalid lawyer’s certificate and authorisation to participate in trial as a lawyer while representing a client in court on June 17 and June 18, 2021. Andrei Machalau was deprived of his licence by the disciplinary commission and the council of the Minsk regional Bar Association on May 31, 2021, for “offenses incompatible with the title of a lawyer”. The notice of disbarment was sent to the Andrei Machalau's old house address. Hence the human rights lawyer was not adequately informed about the decision. On June 18, 2021, Mr. Machalau learned about the decision while representing his client Olga Sinelava, who was prosecuted and subsequently sentenced to two years of restriction of freedom for political reasons, in the courtroom. Subsequently, an investigation for using an invalid document was opened against him.
Human rights lawyers in Belarus working on sensitive cases are subjected to judicial harassment, arbitrary arrests, detention, administrative sanctions, criminal prosecution, and disciplinary sanctions, including disbarment, according to Lawyers for Lawyers and the American Bar Association Center for Human Rights. According to Defenders.by, 60 lawyers have been disbarred in Belarus since 2020, and at least four lawyers are currently detained in trump-up charges. In this framework, the exclusion of Andrei Machalau from the Minsk regional Bar Association is based on politically motivated grounds, as it has become a common practice to persecute lawyers as a form of intimidation.
The Observatory strongly condemns the conviction and restriction of freedom of Andrei Machalau as well as his disbarment, and urges the authorities of Belarus to quash his conviction and put an end to all acts of harassment, including at the judicial level, against him and all other human rights defenders and human rights lawyers in the country.
How You Can Help
Please write to the authorities of Belarus to urge them to:
i. Guarantee in all circumstances the physical integrity and psychological well-being of Andrei Machalau and all other human rights defenders in Belarus;
ii. Quash the conviction of Andrei Machalau and put an end to all forms of harassment, including at the judicial level, against him and all human rights defenders in Belarus, and ensure that they are able to carry out their activities without hindrance or fear of reprisals,
iii. Immediately revert the regional Minsk Bar Association’s decision and reinstate Andrei Machalau his lawyer’s license, as its cancellation is only aimed at punishing him for his legitimate human rights activities;
iv. Ensure an enabling legal, institutional, and administrative environment that effectively guarantees the right to defend human rights, the right to freedom of association, and protects human rights defenders in Belarus.
- Mr. Aliaksandr Lukashenka, President of Belarus, Email: email@example.com;
- Mr. Andrei Shved, General Prosecutor of Belarus, Email: firstname.lastname@example.org;
- Mr Dzmitryi Gora, Chairman of the Investigative Committee of the Republic of Belarus, Email: email@example.com;
- Mr. Siarhey Khamenka, Minister of Justice of Belarus, Email: firstname.lastname@example.org;
- Mr. Vasil Hyerasimaw, Chairman of the State Control Committee of Belarus, Email: email@example.com;
- Mr. Ivan Kubrakou, minister of Internal Affairs of Belarus, Email: firstname.lastname@example.org;
- Mr. Yury Ambrazevich, Permanent Mission of Belarus to the United Nations in Geneva, Switzerland, Email: email@example.com;
- Embassy of Belarus in Brussels, Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Please also write to the diplomatic representations of Belarus in your respective countries.