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BELARUS: The Observatory denounces the decision to sentence Belarusian lawyer Aliaksandr Danilevich to 10 years‘ imprisonment for criticising the Russian invasion of Ukraine

6 June 2023  

Aliaksandr Danilevich is a Belarusian lawyer specialising in sports arbitration, having served as an arbitrator at the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS), the Rugby Europe Disciplinary Commission and the International Centre for Settlement of Investment Disputes (ICSID). Since the start of the Russian-Ukrainian war on 20 February 2022, he has publicly denounced the Russian invasion, supported by Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko.  

Since the start of the war in February 2022, Aliaksandr Danilevich has been the target of reprimands for his public stance. In May 2022, he was arbitrarily arrested for co-signing a petition denouncing Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, and charged with supporting sanctions and extremism for „calling for actions aimed at undermining the national security of Belarus“. He was also kicked out of Belarus State University and sanctioned by the Minsk Bar Association. 

In January 2023, a preliminary investigation concluded that he had supported „extremists and followers of legal nihilism“, tried to „politicise sport in Belarus and prevent Belarusian athletes from taking part in international championships“. He is said to have advised Olympic medallist Aliaksandra Herasimenia and opposition activist Alexander Opeikin, who have also called for sanctions against the state. 

He has been the subject of numerous accusations, including that of promoting extremist activities by granting an interview to a sports channel considered, in retrospect, to be „extremist“ by Belarus. He was also accused of trying to discredit Belarusian entities in the eyes of foreign companies, in particular by writing to Yara, a Norwegian buyer of Belarusian fertiliser, with „deliberately false information“ about the political, economic and social situation in Belarus. 

On 10 April 2023, Aliaksandr Danilevich was found guilty of „calling for sanctions against Belarus and aiding extremism“. He was sentenced to 10 years‘ imprisonment. 

The Observatory condemns in the strongest possible terms the conviction and detention of the lawyer Aliaksandr Danilevich.  

The Observatory is concerned about these acts of intimidation which endanger the free and independent exercise of the profession as well as the lawyer’s freedom of expression.

The Observatory calls on the Belarusian authorities to ensure that all criminalisation and interference in the exercise of the freedom of expression and profession of the lawyer Aliaksandr Danilevich cease. 

The Observatory would like to remind the Belarusian authorities that under the United Nations Basic Principles on the Role of Lawyers (1990):  

„Lawyers shall not be assimilated to their clients or to the cause of their clients by reason of the exercise of their functions“ (Principle No. 18);  

„Public authorities shall ensure that lawyers (a) are able to perform all their professional functions without hindrance, intimidation, harassment or undue interference; (b) are able to travel and consult with their clients freely, both within and outside the country; and (c) are not subject to, or threatened with, prosecution or economic or other sanctions for any action taken in accordance with their recognized professional obligations, standards and ethics“ (Principle No. 16);  

„Lawyers, like all other citizens, shall enjoy freedom of expression, belief, association and assembly. (…)“ (Principle 23).