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June 21, 2022

Interactive Dialogue with the Special Rapporteur on the Independence of Judges and Lawyers

Statement by the Delegation of the United States of America

As Delivered by Patrick Elliot

Human Rights Council – 50th Session

Thank you, Mr. Vice President.

Lawyers often serve as human rights defenders, and their advocacy safeguards the enjoyment of human rights worldwide. States must protect lawyers’ ability to practice law independently and free from harassment, intimidation, and violence.

Lawyers in Russia and Belarus face a particularly troubling situation. Last year, Russian authorities inappropriately searched the office and home of lawyer Ivan Pavlov, based on the identity of his client. They seized privileged attorney-client documents, labelled Mr. Pavlov a “foreign agent,” and sought his disbarment. He has since fled Russia. Mr. Pavlov is but one of many examples.

In Belarus, at least 27 lawyers have been disbarred or suspended, and many more intimidated, harassed, and unjustly detained, for supporting the pro-democracy movement or representing pro-democracy activists in court.

In Russia and Belarus, people are punished simply for exercising their freedoms of expression and association, and for speaking out against Russia’s war in Ukraine. Facing this repression, they need the crucial advocacy lawyers can provide.

Our question is: How can the international community support lawyers who are working to protect freedom of expression in Russia and Belarus?

Thank you.