The organisation and functions of the Office of the Legal Adviser in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs

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Contribution of 06/08/2018
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Database of the CAHDI "The organisation and functions of the Office of the Legal Adviser in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs" - contribution of Belarus - 06/08/2018

1. What is the title, rank and position of the Legal Adviser?

The legal adviser’s title is the Director-General for Treaty and Legal Affairs of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Belarus. The Director-General is a member ex officio of the MFA Collegial Board entrusted with the task of considering the most significant matters of foreign policy and external economic relations as well as a member of the MFA personnel assessment, recruiting and posting commissions. The Director-General is also a member of several inter-ministerial committees and national commissions, including the Commission on the Implementation of International Humanitarian Law attached to the Government of the Republic of Belarus.
In accordance with legislation of Belarus the Director-General is entitled to 3rd or 2nd civil servant class (12th class being the lowest) and to diplomatic rank of Envoy Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the First Class.
The Director-General reports on most issues to the Deputy Minister for Foreign Affairs who is also responsible for bilateral relations with countries of Europe and North America as well as State protocol service. The Director-General also reports to the First Deputy Minister for Foreign Affairs on legal aspects of accession to WTO, Eurasian economic integration and bilateral relations with CIS Member States. Legal opinions are also provided directly to the Minister upon request.

2. What are the principal functions of the OLA?

The Directorate-General for Treaty and Legal Affairs (the DG) performs the following functions:
- controlling and coordinating the international treaty-making procedure in the Republic of Belarus, as well as implementation of international obligations of the State;
- supporting the rule of law in daily activities of the Ministry and its staff, including legal expertise of draft legislative acts, prepared by the MFA, providing legal advice to other MFA departments on their activities, maintaining the registry of local legislative acts, court representation;
- providing international legal support for delimitation, demarcation and related issues of the State border of the Republic of Belarus.

3. Please give a brief description of staff employed by the OLA, including overseas staff. What is the distribution of posts between men and women within the OLA and what category of staff do they respectively belong to?

The DG currently employs 13 persons, all of whom are lawyers. Of those, 11 have diplomatic ranks. Ambassador-at-larger on border cooperation is also attached to the DG. Three officers (Deputy Director-General, counsellor and third secretary) are women. All DG officers are subject to general rotation policy of the Ministry. The staff of the DG is recruited on a competitive basis. All legal officers hold law degrees from recognized Belarusian and foreign law schools (universities) and use at least two foreign languages (one of which is English).

The staff of the Directorate-General should additionally display a good knowledge of national legislation, in particular, in the area of civil and labor law.

Legal officers are posted abroad on general terms to work as a diplomats or consular officers at Belarusian diplomatic or consular missions. Thus, the DG officers can be assigned to any diplomatic post and receive any diplomatic or consular portfolio. The only position officially assigned to the DG is the position of the legal adviser of the Permanent Mission of Belarus to the United Nations in New York.

4. Are there any specific recruitment and promotion policies, provisions and/or quotas to ensure non-discrimination and equal opportunities, e.g. for the underrepresented sex, for persons with disabilities or for persons belonging to ethnic or religious minorities or of immigrant origin?

In accordance with Article 39 of the Constitution of the Republic of Belarus citizens of the Republic of Belarus have the right of equal access to any position in government agencies in accordance with their skills and professional training. Article 6 of the Law on Civil Service of Belarus stipulates the principle of equal access of citizens to any civil service position and promotion in accordance with their capabilities, professional skills and education. Article 14 of the Labour Code of Belarus prohibits discrimination defined as limitation of rights or gaining advantage due to sex, race, national or social descend, language, religious or political convictions, participation or non-participation in labour unions or other NGOs, income, official position, age, place of residence, physical or mental disabilities (which do not prevent performing job responsibilities assigned), and any other circumstances, not related to professional skills and not related to specific job responsibilities. Any distinctions, exclusions, preferences or limitations, based on the need of special protection of certain persons (women, minors, persons with disabilities etc.) are not considered discriminatory.
The recruitment and promotion policies are merit- and experience-based in line with abovementioned rules.

5. Is OLA staff trained on gender equality issues and are these issues mainstreamed into the OLA’s work?

While there is no specific training on gender equality issues, the DG staff receives legal training on applicable human rights and other instruments. Relevant considerations form part of legal analysis performed by the DG in accordance with its functions described above.

6. Briefly describe the organisation and structure of the OLA.

The Directorate-General for Treaty and Legal Affairs consists of two Divisions – the Division of International Treaties and the Division of International Commercial Law.
The Director-General is in charge of overall management, planning, coordination and control of the work of the Directorate-General. He or she is generally responsible for cooperation with other departments of the Foreign Ministry and other governmental agencies. The Director-General authenticates the copies of international treaties with his/her signature and seal (soon to be replaced by electronic signature). In his/her capacity as the legal adviser of the Ministry the Director-General provides legal expertise of documents and drafts prepared by other departments and approves them.
The head of each Division reports directly to the Director-General and performs the Director-Generals duties during his/her absence. Heads of Divisions and their deputies each have their personal responsibilities in addition to managerial ones.

7. What is the OLA’s place within the Ministry of Foreign Affairs?

The Directorate-General for Treaty and Legal Affairs is one of eight DGs of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. The Directorate-General reports on most issues to the Deputy Minister for Foreign Affairs who is also responsible for bilateral relations with countries of Europe and North America as well as State protocol service. Legal opinions are also provided directly to the Minister upon request.

8. What are the main contacts of the OLA within Government?

The DG routinely works with the Ministry of Justice, departments of international cooperation (or similar) of other ministries and Government, Constitutional and Supreme Courts, as well as Administration of the President of Belarus. Occasionally legal departments are also contacted on matters of national law.

9. Please describe the relations of the OLA with lawyers in private practice, academics and legal institutions.

The DG maintains close contacts with academia and legal community. More specifically, views of prominent international lawyers are sought and occasionally received on issues of codification and progressive development of international law (mainly as the preparation for the discussion of ILC report in the Sixth Committee of the UNGA). Most of DG staff are members of the Belarusian Lawyers’ Union non-profit NGO, with Director-General being a member of International Relations Board. The DG works closely with the National Centre of Legislation and Legal Studies of the Republic of Belarus on treaty-making procedure and other legal issues. The DG officers lecture occasionally at law faculties of Belarusian university as a part of career orientation for students.
The DG organizes workshops on international law and related practice. The DG takes part in Ministry’s or other government agencies cooperation with private lawyers and law companies employed for investment and other sorts of disputes.

10. Please provide a brief bibliography on the OLA, if available.