Doughty Street International Supports the Opposition Movement in Belarus

The serious and systemic human rights violations that have been taking place in Belarus since the Government there ran roughshod over the election results in August 2020 continue to shock the world. As he has done in the past, the dictator of Belarus, Lukashenko, simply ignored the result. But this time the people stood up to the dictator and his state apparatus. Two months later Belarusians continue to protest. They demand a free and fair election. Lukashenko will not win such a vote.

Lukashenko therefore uses the full force of the state to crush the protest movement. The security services are deployed to their maximum effect. Policing is brutal. We believe up to 15,000 protesters have been detained. Detention is arbitrary. Torture and other prohibited ill-treatment are commonplace. Leaders of the opposition to Lukashenko are either detained or forced out of Belarus. Fear and violence stalk.

To assist in co-ordinating an international response, Doughty Street International along with the Bar Human Rights Committee (BHRC) and the International Bar Association’s Human Rights Institute (IBAHRI) helped form the Belarus International Committee (BIC). Other members of BIC include Belarusian academics based in the UK, lawyers, and representatives from the Council of Europe as well as the EU. Experts from Belarus and the region are also involved. BIC is an informal structure which is driven by those involved. Baroness Helena Kennedy QC acts as the chair. Helena Kennedy is a member of Doughty Street. She also heads up IBAHRI.

The principal purpose of BIC is to share accurate information about what is happening in Belarus. BIC’s members work closely with governments, international organisations, Belarusian NGOs, international NGOs and the media. BIC also seeks to inform Belarus’s future.

Co-ordinated by Doughty Street Chambers, BIC has held three webinar events on Belarus. These have been chaired expertly by Helena Kennedy. The most recent was on 22nd October 2020. Called, “The Dark Before the Dawn”, this event pulled together the key people in the Belarusian opposition. These included:

  • Pavel Latushko, a member of the Presidium of the Coordination Council, ex-Minister of Culture, ex-Belarusian Ambassador to Poland and France

  • Olga Kovalkova, a confidant of Sviatlana Tikhanovskaya; a member of  the Presidium of the Belarusian Coordination Council

  • Franak Viačorka, Sviatlana Tikhanovskaya’s representative on foreign affairs

  • Nikolai Khalezin, Belarus Free Theatre, co-Artistic Director

  • Natalia Kaliada, Co-Founding Artistic Director/CEO of Belarus Free Theatre, writer, ex-diplomat and human rights campaigner.

  • Aleś Alachnovič, Sviatlana Tikhanovskaya’s representative on economic matters

  • Aleksey Yerokhovets, Sviatlana’s Tsikhanovskaya’s representative for the Belarusian Global Diaspora

Participants were given an extraordinary insight into the situation in Belarus. We had a wide-ranging discussion about Belarus’s past, present and future. It was an unrivalled opportunity to understand the obstacles and opportunities facing Belarus.

The audience came from all over Europe and beyond. There were representatives from the FCDO, EU, Council of Europe, OSCE, OECD and the EBRD. MPs attended, as did MEPs. The debate was rigorous. Helena Kennedy ensured we got to grips with the key issues. For the lawyers present upmost in our minds was the effective collection of evidence to ensure accountability. We were assured that this is being done. All legal avenues to hold the Belarusian authorities to account are being pursued.

If Lukashenko prevails, Europe will live the consequences for years to come.

If you would like to be informed about future BIC events, please contact Jonathan Cooper: Jonathan is co-ordinating BIC activities for Doughty Street Chambers.