On January 21, Tatsiana Lasitsa, a human rights activist and volunteer of the Human Rights Center “Viasna”, was detained at the Minsk airport by officers of the Interior Ministry.
At the moment, she is a suspect in a criminal case under Part 1 and Part 2 of Art. 342 of the Criminal Code (organization or active participation in group actions that grossly violate public order). She was remanded in custody pending indictment and sent to a pre-trial detention center in Homieĺ.
The arrest is yet another detention of Viasna’s human rights activists working in Homieĺ.
On January 5, the local socio-political center “Palesskaya 52”, where Viasna’s office is located, was searched for nearly 10 hours. Leanid Sudalenka, head of the office, was present during the entire raid. After the search, he was taken to the city department for combatting organized crime. A search was also carried out in his house. On January 18, Sudalenka was detained and remanded in custody, and on January 28, he was formally charged under Part 1 and Part 2 of Art. 342 of the Criminal Code.
The same evening, January 18, Maryia Tarasenka, a volunteer of the Homieĺ branch of the Human Rights Center “Viasna”, was detained and placed in a detention center. Her house was also searched. She was detained for three days as a suspect under Part 1 of Art. 342 of the Criminal Code, but later released.
Marfa Rabkova, coordinator of the volunteer service of the Human Rights Center "Viasna", and Viasna volunteer Andrei Chapiuk are still in pre-trial detention, while several other human rights activists have been subjected to administrative persecution.
The criminal prosecution of human rights activists is taking place against the background of unprecedented political repressions and a profound human rights crisis in Belarus, which has claimed several lives. Representatives of the country’s human rights community are no exception, as they are also subjected to repression and pressure in connection with their human rights activities.
In this regard, we, representatives of Belarusian human rights organizations, once again note the following:
According to article 1 of the Declaration on the Right and Responsibility of Individuals, Groups and Organs of Society to Promote and Protect Universally Recognized Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms (adopted by UN General Assembly resolution 53/144 of December 9, 1998) , everyone has the right, individually and in association with others, to promote and to strive for the protection and realization of human rights and fundamental freedoms at the national and international levels.
Human rights work is a legitimate public activity, and harassment for such activities is an absolutely unacceptable and gross violation of human rights by the authorities.
Based on this, we consider the persecution of Tatsiana Lasitsa to be politically motivated, as it is only aimed at stopping her public and non-violent activities seeking the protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms. Tatsiana Lasitsa is therefore a political prisoner, according to paragraph 3.1 (b) of the Guidelines on the Definition of Political Prisoners.
In this regard, we, representatives of human rights organizations in Belarus, call to:
- immediately and unconditionally release Tatsiana Lasitsa and drop the criminal charges she is facing;
- immediately release all political prisoners and put an end to political repression in the country.
Human Rights Center "Viasna"
Belarusian Documentation Center
Center for Legal Transformation “Lawtrend”
Barys Zvozskau Belarusian Human Rights House
Belarusian Helsinki Committee