Persecution of lawyer, Lyudmila Kazak: chronicle of events
Updated March 22, 2021
Lyudmila Kazak has been practicing law for 22 years. Among others, she defends arrested public activists, political prisoners, human rights defenders and journalists.
In July 2020, L. Kazak signed an agreement to provide legal assistance to Maria Kolesnikova, the coordinator of the election headquarters of Viktor Babariko, an active participant in the election campaign of Svetlana Tikhanovskaya, and a member of the Presidium of the Coordination Council. L.Kazak represented Kolesnikova at first as a witness's lawyer, and after the abduction of Kolesnikova on September 7, 2020 and her detention in remand prison No. 1 in Minsk on September 9 as a suspect, she has been defending Kolesnikova in the criminal case.

On September 10, after a meeting with L. Kazak, Kolesnikova filed an application to the Investigative Committee of the Republic of Belarus to prosecute KGB and the Main Directorate for Organized Crime and Corruption of the Ministry of Internal Affairs officials, naming specific individuals and positions of those who exerted psychological pressure on her and threatened with taking her life while forcing her to leave Belarus, and forcibly expelling her from the country.

On September 24, 2020, lawyer Lyudmila Kazak was arrested at about 13:50 right on the street in Minsk on her way to the trial. The arrest was carried out by three masked men who did not introduce themselves and did not explain the reasons for the arrest. They forced her into an unmarked vehicle and took her to the Central District Department of Internal Affairs of Minsk, where a protocol of her detention (a protocol for an administrative offense under Art. 23.4 of the Code of Administrative Offenses: non-compliance with the lawful demands of an official of a state body) was filed and a personal search was carried out. As a result of the search documents and items, which gag order applies to, were seized.

Lawyer Lyudmila Kazak had been kept in the police department until approximately 9 PM, then, as a detainee in a case of an administrative offense, was placed in the temporary holding facility (THF). Only after 8 PM TASS reported that according to the information received from the press secretary of the Minsk police department, L. Kazak "had been detained for committing an administrative offense and was held in one of the territorial police departments of Minsk". At about 10 PM, the TDF of the Minsk City Executive Committee provided information that L. Kazak was there.

Despite her insistent demands, neither her husband nor the leadership of Minsk City Bar and Belarusian Republican Bar were notified of her detention. Lyudmila's husband had stayed near the building of the Central District Department of Internal Affairs since about 5 PM, and lawyers Svetlana Gorbatok and Viktor Matskevich arrived at 6 PM. They had stayed near the building of the Central District Department of Internal Affairs until 7 PM, attempting to find out whether L. Kazak was taken there by the police, or to report kidnapping. But they were not allowed into the police department, and none of the officials came out to accept the application of abduction. A police officer stated that Lyudmila Kazak wasn't in the police department.

On September 25, 2020, lawyers of Lyudmila Kazak, V. Matskevich and S. Gorbatok, had been waiting at the THF building since 8 AM to visit their client, but they hadn't been allowed into the THF for more than three hours due to the execution of “anti-epidemiological and "internal" measures".

On the same day, Oktyabrsky District Court held a hearing of the case of an administrative offense against L. Kazak, basing on the protocol of an administrative offense (Art. 23.4 - non-compliance with the lawful demands of an official of a state body during detention of the suspect of an administrative offense implied by Part 1 of Art. 23.34 of the Code of Administrative Offences). At the same time, the commission of an administrative offense under Article 23.34 itself wasn't considered in court. By a court decision, L.Kazak was brought to administrative responsibility under Art. 23.4, she was fined 25 basic units (270$).

This decision was made basing solely on the protocol, which was disputed by the defence as illegal, and the testimonies of the witnesses whose real personal data had been altered, and who spoke in court via videoconference, covering their faced with masks.
The court decision on bringing Kazak to administrative responsibility was appealed by L. Kazak and her defenders to the Minsk City Court.

As it became known to human rights defenders, a conference of the Qualification Commission on advocacy had been scheduled for February 19, 2021, at which it was planned to consider terminating Kazak's law license. According to the notice on revocation of the license, the reason for licence deprivation was “the commission of actions that discredit the title of a lawyer and the legal profession, which resulted in commission of an administrative offense under Art. 23.4 of the Code of Administrative Offences".

On February 16, 2021, a petition addressed to the Ministry of Justice on the inadmissibility of revoking the licenses of L. Kazak, as well as of other lawyers, appeared. It was signed by 155 lawyers in 3 days.

On February 19, 2021, the Qualification Commission for advocacy of the Ministry of Justice made a decision to deprive Lyudmila Kazak of her licence to practice law. The termination date of the license has not yet been determined. According to the press release of the Ministry of Justice, this decision was made due to the fact that "lawyer L.Kazak didn't comply with the lawful demands of a police officer, thereby committing an administrative offense under Article 23.4 of the Code of Administrative Offences".
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