ICCPR Case Digest

CCPR/C/132/D/2862/2016

Submission: 2016.08.19

View Adopted: 2021.07.15

Aheyeu v Belarus

Violation of the freedom of expression of a Belarusian attorney who criticised state authorities

Substantive Issues
  • Fair trial
  • Freedom of expression
Relevant Articles
  • Article 14.1
  • Article 14.2
  • Article 14.3
  • Article 19
Full Text

Facts

Author is a Belarussian national and an advocate. The author represented a former presidential candidate, and was accused by the State Party of disseminating incorrect information concerning events of mass disorder which occurred within the State Party’s territory. The author was further accused of publicly misrepresenting the work of State agencies in relation to the events. The license of the author to practice law was annulled by the State Party due to alleged violations of professional ethics. The author contended that his rights under article 14 (1), (2), (3) (a), (b) and (d), and article 19 were infringed upon.

Admissibility

A portion of the communication was deemed to be admissible. The State Party emphasised that the author did not exhaust all domestic remedies by virtue of not having filed a complaint with the prosecutor’s office for review, following the passage of the judgement. The Committee has found, however, that such a procedure is ineffective and that the author’s having exhausted her right of appeal before domestic courts is sufficient for purposes of passing scrutiny under article 5 (2) (b) of the Optional Protocol. All other requirements of 5 (2) were fulfilled. The author’s communication concerning article 14 (2) and (3) was deemed inadmissible as the provisions pertain to criminal sanctions and not the annulation of a license to practice law. However, the portion of the communication concerning article 14 (1) and article 19 were found to be admissible, having fulfilled the necessary criteria.

Merits

The Committee found that the State Party acted arbitrarily in annulling the license of the author without notifying him of the pending charges or providing him the opportunity to defend himself. This resulted in the lack of access to a hair and impartial tribunal, in violation of article 14 (1). Further, the authorities acted to restrict the author’s free expression to the media, without providing justification as required under article 19 (3). As such, the author’s article 19 (2) right was violated. 

Recommendations

The Committee has advised the state party of its obligation to provide the author with adequate compensation, including any legal costs incurred by him, and the restoration of his license to practice law. The State Party is further obliged to review and remedy its national legislation to bring it into compliance with article 19 of the Convention. The State Party is to communicate with the Committee within 180 days concerning the measures it has taken following the Committee’s decision.

Separate Opinions

Committee member José Manuel Santos Pais partially dissented by additionally finding a violation of article 14 (2) and (3) on the basis that the purpose of effect of the penalty imposed were effectively criminal in nature.

 

By Justin Golden

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