Vera Stremkovskaya is a Belarusian human rights lawyer and Director of the Center for Human Rights in Belarus. She has represented many politically unpopular clients and has recently become an object of increasingly negative state attention.
She has been threatened with removal from the Collegium of Advocates in Belarus and charged with criminal slander for her inquiry into information that had been seized from her client’s home. Although lawyer’s speech is usually protected, criminal charges were filed. Ms. Stremkovskaya has often criticized the deficiencies in Belarus’ legal system as well as its weak human rights record, despite her knowledge that her personal and professional safety has been at risk in doing so.
Ms. Stremkovskaya continues to represent clients on a pro bono basis even though “private” practice of law is restricted by the Belarus Collegium of Advocates. Her courage has been widely recognized by the international community, and Stremkovskaya has received human rights awards from German Association of Judges and American Bar Association. These awards have not deterred the government of Belarus from reprimanding and threatening Vera Stremkovskaya.
Officials and judges at the highest levels of the law in Belarus have warned Stremkovskaya that she must “choose” between being a lawyer and protecting human rights.