Belarus and Myanmar lawyers honoured: U Khin Maung Zaw (Myanmar) and Maksim Znak and Liudmila Kazak (Belarus) | Video

L4L Laureates from Belarus: Also honoured were shortlisted lawyers collective from Algeria and Myanmar lawyer U Khin Maung Zaw 

On 18 November, Lawyers for Lawyers (L4L) honoured Myanmar lawyer U Khin Maung Zaw as a short-listed candidate in its annual Prize awarded to a lawyer who has made significant contributions to the protection of the rule of law and human rights in challenging environments. U Khin Maung Zaw was nominated by Lawyers’ Rights Watch Canada (LRWC). The prize laureates are Belarus lawyers Maksim Znak and Liudmila Kazak. The other shortlisted nominee is  Collective for the Defence of Hirak Detainees in Algeria.

LRWC video tribute to Myanmar’s U Khin Maung Zaw

Watch the video tribute to U Khin Maung Zaw by LRWC’s Executive Director, Catherine Morris. About U Khin Maung Zaw

LRWC welcomes L4L’s independent jury’s acknowledgement of U Khin Maung Zaw’s courage and integrity in Myanmar, where the situation of lawyers and human rights defenders is dire and many have been arbitrarily detained since the 1 February 2021 coup.

U Khin Maung Zaw’s work as a lawyer since 1982 has involved defending the rights of people from all walks of life. He has formed legal aid groups and worked pro bono. He has been a leader in efforts of legal profession to promote the independence of lawyers and judges in the face of military control.

He has upheld international human rights and the rule of law despite harassment and danger. For example, in the face of widespread public hatred of Rohingya people, he represented two Myanmar journalists falsely charged with criminal offences for their December 2017 investigation of the military massacre of Rohingya men and boys in the village if Inn Din. He represented the journalists until they were pardoned in 2019.

In 2019, U Khin Maung Zaw and a woman colleague, Daw Su Darli Aung,  represented the falsely accused defendant in the notorious “Victoria case,” a child sexual assault case that took place in a school affiliated with the army. U Khin Maung Zaw and Daw Su Darli Aung persisted through harassment and false accusations and finally proved their client innocent. The true perpetrators were being shielded by the military and the police.

Currently, U Khin Maung Zaw and his colleagues represent a number of falsely-charged journalists and officials of the government ousted by a coup committed by the Myanmar’s military on 1 February 2021. He is currently at risk and must move frequently from safe house to safe house after receiving death threats.

Human rights lawyers in Myanmar are at grave risk. Lawyers are among the thousands of people arbitrarily detained by the military junta in Myanmar since the coup. More than a 1,200 people have been extrajudicially killed.

Belarus and Algeria

The independent jury for theL4L prize selected Belarusian lawyers Maksim Znak and Liudmila Kazak as the laureates of the prize.  The jury noted that it not only wished to “highlight the important work of both lawyers” but also to “raise awareness of other Belarusian lawyers who have been subjected to pressure, harassment and intimidation in connection to their professional activities especially in the aftermath of the 2020 presidential elections.” Maksim Znak is presently imprisoned as a result of his legal representation of Viktor Babariko, who planned to run for President of Belarus but was prohibited from registering as a candidate and is now a political prisoner.

Collective for the Defender of Hirak Detainees in Algeria

Another shortlisted nominee was the Collective for the Defence of Hirak Detainees in Algeria. The Collective was formed in 2019 to defend judicially harassed members of the “Hirak” grassroots peaceful protest movement that calls for genuine democratic reform and rule of law in Algeria since February 2. Members of the Collective are also being harassed, including Abderraouf Arslane who has been arbitrarily detained because of his professional activities representing Hirak activists.

See the full video of the awards ceremony preceded by two panels on the plight of the legal profession in several countries in Europe: