Belarus: the Observatory expresses its support for Belarusian lawyer Maksim Znak
7 December 2023
The Observatory expresses its indignation at the situation of Maksim Znak, who has been arbitrarily detained in degrading conditions for 3 years.
In 2021, the lawyer Maksim Znak was sentenced to 10 years in prison for the following charges:
- “Calls for actions undermining national security”
- “Conspiracy to seize State power”
- “Creation of an extremist group”
Currently imprisoned in Vitba, in the Vitebsk region, his situation remains unchanged. On several occasions, he has been placed in a disciplinary cell and subjected to inhuman and degrading treatment.
Since February 2023, Maksim Znak has been deprived of all contact with the outside world and is also forbidden to consult his lawyers.
According to the United Nations Working Group on Arbitrary Detention, “Maksim Znak’s arrest and deprivation of liberty were arbitrary because they had no legal basis, were conditional on the peaceful exercise of his rights, resulted from a violation of his right to a fair trial and were based on discrimination on the grounds of his political opinions and his status as a lawyer of an opposition political movement”.
Maksim Znak is considered a political prisoner; the UN Special Rapporteur is calling for the immediate release of all political prisoners, including Mr Znak.
The alarming situation of Maksim Znak has prompted Lithuanian lawyers and Belarusian lawyers in exile to set up a website dedicated to him, which can be consulted at the following address: www.maksimznak.org.
The International Observatory for Lawyers in Danger invites you to:
- Share the poster available on the website;
- Share it on your social networks;
- Send it to the Belarusian authorities asking them to stop torturing lawyer Maksim Znak.
The Observatory strongly condemns the inhuman and degrading treatment inflicted on Maksim Znak.
The Observatory urges the Belarusian authorities to grant the lawyer all the guarantees of a fair trial.
The Observatory requests the immediate release of Maksim Znak.
The Observatory recalls that, in accordance with the basic principles of the United Nations relating to the role of the Bar, in particular principles 16, 17, 23 and 28:
Principle 16: “Governments shall ensure that lawyers (a) are able to perform all of their professional functions without intimidation, hindrance, harassment or improper interference; (b) are able to travel and to consult with their clients freely both within their own country and abroad; and (c) shall not suffer, or be threatened with, prosecution or administrative, economic or other sanctions for any action taken in accordance with recognized professional duties, standards and ethics.”
Principle 17: “Where the security of lawyers is threatened as a result of discharging their functions, they shall be adequately safeguarded by the authorities.”
Principle 23: “Lawyers like other citizens are entitled to freedom of expression, belief, association and assembly. In particular, they shall have the right to take part in public discussion of matters concerning the law, the administration of justice and the promotion and protection of human rights and to join or form local, national or international organizations and attend their meetings, without suffering professional restrictions by reason of their lawful action or their membership in a lawful organization.”
Principle 28: “Disciplinary proceedings against lawyers shall be brought before an impartial disciplinary committee established by the legal profession, before an independent statutory authority, or before a court, and shall be subject to an independent judicial review.”