25 November 2022

#DefendingTheDefenders – Episode 2: Belarus

In the second episode of Defending the Defenders, we talk to Dmitri Laevski about the rule of law and human rights in Belarus. Dmitri is a criminal attorney turned human rights lawyer in the wake of the 2020 presidential elections. He takes us through the recent history of the rule of law in Belarus, from realising that the concept he learned about in university didn't really exist in practice to the organisation of the legal professions in the last decade to the rule of law crackdown in 2020 and ever since. Continue reading >>
08 September 2022

The “Year of Historical Memory” and Mnemonic Constitutionalism in Belarus

On 1st of September 2022, the academic year in all Belarusian schools started with an atypical lesson, on “historic memory” – led in Minsk by none other than the country’s “President” himself, Aliaksandr Łukašenka. There is a constitutional dimension to historical memory in Belarus, which is better grasped through the looking glass of mnemonic constitutionalism. Continue reading >>
29 November 2021

Military Actions on Dubious Legal Bases

For months, thousands of migrants from Middle Eastern countries attempted to enter Poland threatened by Belarusian troops. As a reaction, Poland has deployed substantial forces to counter the immigration influx, using the Border Guards along with police and military personnel. Thousands of Polish soldiers have been operating on the border with Belarus. There is, however, no published legal basis for these police-like interventions undertaken by military personnel. The spokesman of the Polish Territorial Defence Forces (WOT) cited an old act of the President on 28th of November, which is not in force anymore as it got repealed in June 2020. Continue reading >>
19 November 2021

Chronicle of a Death Foretold

The natural reaction of lawyers to even the most complex legal challenges is the readiness to submit realistic, lawful proposals for solutions. In the case of the Polish-Belarusian border  crisis however, lawyers being ignored, deprived of access to their clients (who have managed to hand over the powers of attorney certificates) or even intimidated, experience different feelings as well, those of helplessness and dread. Almost every element of the Polish government's actions towards the crisis on the border is frightening. At the same time, it demonstrates a complete lack of understanding of the situation of the dehumanized, compelled migrants who were drawn into this conflict not entirely of their own free will. Continue reading >>
28 Oktober 2021

Die andere Rechtsstaatlichkeitskrise

An der polnisch-belarussischen Grenze spielt sich ein Drama der Rechtsmissachtung ab,  inzwischen mit mehreren Toten. Es ist dies die andere, leisere Rechtsstaatlichkeitskrise: die des entgegen klarer Vorgaben des Unionsrechts verweigerten Zugangs zu einem Asylverfahren; die der wiederholten Missachtung von einstweiligen Anordnungen des Europäischen Gerichtshofs für Menschenrechte (EGMR). Continue reading >>
27 August 2020

Corona Constitutional #46: Diktatoren haben es auch nicht immer leicht

In Belarus kämpft Alexander Lukaschenka mit ungezügelter Brutalität um seine Macht. Und ob es ihm gelingt, sie zu behalten, davon hängt auch für den russischen Präsidenten Vladimir Putin ungeheuer viel ab. Im gleichen Moment wird Putins schärfster Kritiker Alexei Navalny mit einer akuten Vergiftung ins Krankenhaus eingeliefert und dann nach Deutschland ausgeflogen. Wie hängt das zusammen? Ist der Anschlag ein Zeichen von Stärke oder von Schwäche? Diese Fragen diskutiert Max Steinbeis mit der Politikwissenschaftlerin und Russland-Expertin Silvia von Steinsdorff von der Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin. Continue reading >>
26 August 2020

A Momentum of Opportunity for Belarus and a Cautionary Tale from North Macedonia

Belarus has an unprecedented chance to re-invent itself as a new democracy. Only three years ago, in 2017, North Macedonia was in a similar position, transitioning from a 10-yearlong dictatorship of Nikola Gruevski. Some of the mistakes that were made in this process can be avoided in the case of Belarus. Continue reading >>
19 August 2020

Corona Constitutional #45: Europas letzter Diktator?

Das System in Weißrussland schwankt. Die Belarussen wollen ihren Staatschef Lukaschenko loswerden. Nehmen wir an, sie würden ihren Plan erfolgreich in die Tat umsetzen: Wie ginge es dann mit Belarus weiter? Was würde aus der Verfassung Weißrusslands? Und welche Auswirkungen hatte die bereits verstrichene Amtszeit des angeblich "letzten Diktators Europas" auf umliegende Staaten wie Polen, Serbien oder Ungarn? Uladzislau Belavusau hat Antworten - die er mit Max Steinbeis im Podcast-Interview teilt. Continue reading >>
07 August 2020

The Kafkaesque Edifice of Law

The current presidential campaign has already been described as a “révolution de femmes” by Le Monde and echoed with “an ordinary Belarusian wife looking after her two children […] posing the greatest threat to an authoritarian rule” by the Financial Times. The improbable presidential candidate Śviatłana Cichanoǔskaja (or Tsikhanouskaya) decided to run in the campaign in place of her husband Siarhiej Cichanoǔski. He and two other increasingly popular alternative candidates – Viktar Babaryka and Valery Capkała – were not allowed to compete for office, all for different reasons. They were unusually hard challengers for the current autocratic ruler Aliaksandar Łukašenka, who is running for his sixth consecutive term following his 26 years in power. Continue reading >>
20 Mai 2020

The State of Denial Amidst a Military Parade: COVID-19 in Belarus

In contrast to the ‘illiberal democracies’ of Hungary and Poland, Belarus in its response to COVID-19 appears to be playing the role of a perfectly ‘liberal’ state with almost a laissez-faire solution, where people’s choice is prioritized and rights are respected as no severe measures are introduced to close businesses or restrict free movement. This image is inevitably misleading, as democratic institutions in Belarus have been brought to heel long ago, and alternative information about the state of affairs in Belarus regarding the virus remains suppressed. Continue reading >>
21 November 2017

Rule of Law in Poland: Memory Politics and Belarusian Minority

Memory politics and protection of ethnic minorities have not received enough attention in the discussion on the decline of the rule of law in Poland and Hungary. Poland has recently supplied a paradigmatic example. Continue reading >>
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