Regional conference “Appeal in the criminal justice system: reality, trends and perspectives”

19 December 2017, Minsk 



Dear Prosecutor General of Belarus,

Dear President of the Supreme Court,

Distinguishes Judges and Prosecutors,

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Dear colleagues,


I have great pleasure in welcoming you all on behalf of the Council of Europe.

As you are aware, our Organisation is both the owner and the cherisher of the common legal space for Greater Europe which covers today 47 member States, a vast space which extends from the Pacific to the Atlantic Ocean.

Obviously, Belarus is an integral part of this space in geographic and cultural aspects. Being Contracting Party to 10 conventions of the Council of Europe, Belarus can be seen as one foot in this common legal space too.

A major goal of our enhanced cooperation with Belarus is to highlight the relevance and the benefit of the Council of Europe law to Belorussian State and to Belorussian people.

Our conference is yet another step in this process. We consider it as an important regional event which will benefit not only to Belarus but also serve as a platform for exchange of good practices between several neighbouring countries.

While it is my first time in Minsk, it is not our first joint venture with the General Prosecutor’s Office. A first joint event took place in Minsk last year and I would like to thank General Prosecutor Alexander Konyuk for his interest to the Council of Europe which has led us to a new, more targeted event we are holding today.

I also see our Conference as an outstanding occasion to enhance the Council of Europe cooperation with the main actors of the legal and judicial system of Belarus, including the Supreme Court. I am grateful to President Sukalo for attending our conference on the topic which is eminently relevant to the judiciary too. I am also delighted to see other legal authorities represented today at a high level and appreciate their genuine interest in the Council of Europe’s activities.

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The topic of the Conference – “Appeal in Criminal Justice System” was proposed by the General Prosecutor’s Office of Belarus. We found it most interesting and readily supported it given that the Council of Europe has a lot to share and to offer in this area.

The appeal instance was recently established in the criminal justice system of Belarus. Naturally, any reform in the judicial system takes some time to become fully effective. I therefore find our discussion to be quite timely. I also find it very important that we have invited eminent experts from countries which have undergone similar reforms since 15-20 years, replacing a former system of cassation by a full-fledged appeal and thus reinforcing the right to a fair trial.

Most recent changes of this kind took place in the Russian Federation. In 2011-2013 the Council of Europe implemented a large-scale, and indeed successful, project to support the authorities in the introduction of the appeal in both in criminal and civil proceedings. We will today benefit from reports by several actors who were directly involved in that project and will to hear to both positive sides and the difficulties in this complex process.

Our Conference’s aim is precisely to exchange view with the Belorussian judiciary on where the weak points of the new system could be and to spot them well in advance. The structure of today’s discussion, which will have separate panels on the role of courts and the role prosecutors should serve this purpose from different perspectives.

The European Court of Human Rights had also a lot to deal with the intricacies involved in the reform of the cassation instance and the introduction of the appeal instance. Our Conference will provide an excellent occasion to present the European Court’s perspective on those matters and its current case-law.

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Ladies and Gentlemen,

Dear colleagues

I would also like to recall that this Conference is organized in the framework of the project “Human Rights for All”, which is a part of the Council of Europe/European Union Joint Programme entitled “Partnership for Good Governance”. I would like to thank the European Union its support to the Council of Europe actions in Belarus with a view further integrating it into our pan-European common legal space on the basis of numerous conventions that embrace the whole continent.

As you are aware, the Project is a part of the Council of Europe’s Action Plan for Belarus for 2016-2017. When adopted last year, this document was largely seen in both Minsk and Strasbourg as a milestone in our co-operation. Much hope was therefore put into it. Today we see that the number activities implemented in Belarus is unprecedented, including at the top level of the Belorussian legal and judicial system.

My Directorate General – the Directorate General Human Rights and Rule of Law – is implementing three full-scale projects in the legal and judicial areas besides a number of ad hoc events being organized on a regular basis for the benefit of all legal professionals and civil society.

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Dear Prosecutor General,

Dear President of the Supreme Court,

Ladies and Gentlemen,

The level and the intensity of cooperation we have achieved so far essentially translate our common commitment towards the same principles and values, which remain the same to all European States and should be the main basis of their inherent unity. The Council of Europe was created almost 70 years ago on the ashes of WWII with a primary aim to cherish and safeguard this unity. Achieving a common understanding of the fundamental rights and freedoms through legal means and cooperation is an important part of this collective exercise.

I see our current intensive cooperation with the Belorussian legal community as an integral part of the pan-European cooperation within the Council of Europe. No doubt it will be beneficial for Belarus as it be for Europe as a whole.

I wish you all a successful Conference !