Accessibility links

Breaking News

'Stay Strong': Noted Belarusian Lawyer Who Defended Political Prisoners Deprived Of License

Natallya Matskevich
Natallya Matskevich

Natallya Matskevich, a Belarusian lawyer known for having defended prominent political prisoners in the country, says she has been deprived of her license, becoming the latest attorney in Belarus to be targeted amid an intensifying crackdown on civil society and the political opposition following last year’s disputed presidential election.

Matskevich tweeted late on October 25 that the Belarusian Collegium of Lawyers had excluded her from its "proud ranks."

"I felt sorry for them.... Thanks to all good people for their support! My clients, stay strong. I will miss you," Matskevich wrote.

Crisis In Belarus

Read our coverage as Belarusian strongman Alyaksandr Lukashenka continues his brutal crackdown on NGOs, activists, and independent media following the August 2020 presidential election.

The announcement comes after the Justice Ministry suspended Matskevich on October 12, saying a disciplinary investigation had been launched into her alleged wrongdoing.

Matskevich is one of the most prominent lawyers in Belarus. Her clients included jailed would-be presidential candidates Viktar Babaryka and Syarhey Tsikhanouski.

Earlier this year, another lawyer for Babaryka, Dzmitry Layeuski, was stripped of his license, while his other attorney, Illya Saley, fled the country after being charged with calling for actions that undermine national security.

Anton Hashynski, another well-known lawyer who has defended several opposition figures, was also deprived of his license for alleged wrongdoings.

Belarus was engulfed by protests last year after a presidential election in August -- which the opposition and West say was rigged -- gave strongman Alyaksandr Lukashenka a sixth consecutive term.

In response, the government has cracked down hard on the pro-democracy movement, arresting thousands of people and pushing most of the top opposition figures out of the country.

Lukashenka, who has run the country since 1994, has denied any wrongdoing with regard to the election and has refused to negotiate with the opposition on stepping down and holding new elections.

The European Union, the United States, Canada, and other countries have refused to recognize Lukashenka as the legitimate leader of Belarus and have imposed sanctions on him and several senior Belarusian officials in response to the "falsification" of the vote and the postelection crackdown.

  • 16x9 Image


    RFE/RL journalists report the news in 27 languages in 23 countries where a free press is banned by the government or not fully established. We provide what many people cannot get locally: uncensored news, responsible discussion, and open debate.

RFE/RL has been declared an "undesirable organization" by the Russian government.

If you are in Russia or the Russia-controlled parts of Ukraine and hold a Russian passport or are a stateless person residing permanently in Russia or the Russia-controlled parts of Ukraine, please note that you could face fines or imprisonment for sharing, liking, commenting on, or saving our content, or for contacting us.

To find out more, click here.