In 2020, the National Human Rights Index was 3.1* out of 10. However, as frightening as 2020 compared to 2019 may seem, the estimate index score fell just 1.0 point. It means only one thing: all systemic human rights problems have been created earlier, but society was not ready to look out for them.
The Belarusian Helsinki Committee is constantly communicating with the relevant UN Special Rapporteurs for the protection of Belarusian lawyers. On this page, we collect all information about the work done by human rights defenders in this regard.
Joint statement of Belarusian human rights organizations on violations of freedom of association and pressure on human rights organizations
To date, we know about the forced liquidation of more than 250 civil society organizations. Among them there are numerous human rights organizations. Back in July 2021, the authorities ordered the closure of such human rights institutions as Human Constanta, Center for the Promotion of Women’s Rights “Her Rights”, Office for the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, Center for Legal Transformation, and TimeAct. On August 9, the Supreme Court ruled to liquidate the Belarusian PEN Center; on August 27, the Belarusian Association of Journalists; on August 30, Ecohome; on September 30, the Belarusian Helsinki Committee; and on October 5, Legal Initiative. On the same day, October 5, the Minsk City Court ruled to liquidate Zvyano. In addition, decisions were made to liquidate a number of other organizations whose activities are aimed at protecting the rights of vulnerable groups.
Amnesty International, FIDH, Frontline Defenders, Human Rights House Foundation, Human Rights Watch supporting the Belarusian Helsinki Committee
Major international human rights organizations issued the joint open letter to the Ministry of Justice to withdraw the lawsuit requesting the liquidation of the Belarusian Helsinki Committee so that «the organization can continue to carry out its important work, protecting human rights for everyone in Belarus».
Belarus: International human rights groups demand release of Viasna members on first anniversary of crackdown
The joint campaign #FreeViasna, demanding the immediate release of the Viasna seven, calls on the Belarusian authorities to: Fully abide by their international human rights obligations as a party to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights to respect the rights to freedom of association, peaceful assembly, and expression of all people in Belarus. Fully respect and protect the work of human rights defenders and ensure that everybody has the right to complain about the policies and actions of individual officials and government bodies and to offer and provide professionally qualified legal assistance or other relevant advice and assistance in defending human rights and fundamental freedoms. In line with these obligations, release Marfa Rabkova, Andrei Chepyuk, Tatsyana Lasitsa, Leanid Sudalenka, Ales Bialatski, Valiantsin Stefanovich, and Uladzimir Labkovich immediately and unconditionally, drop charges against them, Maryia Tarasenka, and other Viasna staff and volunteers, and ensure their right to a remedy for unlawful persecution.
Human Rights Defenders for Free Elections urge Georgian electoral authorities to reconsider decision to invite members of Belarusian CEC to observe local elections
Under such circumstances, inviting representatives of the CEC of Belarus and its chairperson Lidziya Yarmoshyna to participate in observing local elections in Georgia is unacceptable and, in fact, would be regarded as approval by Georgian institutions, primarily the CEC of Georgia, of the falsification of voting results in Belarusian elections, which directly involved the invited Belarusian officials.
The Supreme Court will held a preliminary hearing on the claim to liquidation of the Belarusian Helsinki Committee
The decision of the Supreme Court on the liquidation of the Belarusian Helsinki Committee could violate the right to protection of persons involved in criminal proceedings.
We find the court's decision to be clearly unjust. It is aimed at creating the conditions necessary to carry out the liquidation of an organization that has been protecting human rights in Belarus for over 25 years. In our opinion, if the Supreme Court has accepted the position of the Ministry of Justice in such an unambiguous situation, it becomes quite obvious that the court was guided not by legal approaches, but by political expediency.
Since then, almost a year has passed. Today we appealed to the House of Representatives and the General Prosecutor's Office. The BHC wants to know about the the results of the Commission’s work.
Detention conditions in Akrestsin Centre and TDC. Part 4. Brest Detention Center accepts parcels in normal mode
The review of the appeal found that the measures introduced by the facility have been temporary and the Brest Temporary Detention Center currently accepts parcels in a normal mode. What a nice coincidence!
The Belarusian Helsinki Committee appealed to the General Prosecutor's Office. In their appeal, human rights defenders claim that “the Minsk City Prosecutor's Office is evading the main obligations that the state entrusted it to perform, namely ensuring the rule of law, legality and order, protecting the rights and legitimate interests of citizens and organizations, as well as public and state interests.”
We maintain the position that all possible legal means should be used to preserve the legal status of the Committee. We hope that the Ministry will listen to our arguments. Otherwise, we will appeal the warning to the Supreme Court.
Most of the organizations had partnerships with both government agencies and international institutions. Many organizations have worked within the framework of sustainable development programs at the national and local levels, made significant contributions to the development of Belarusian society, provided legal and other assistance to people, helped the state highlight the problems of vulnerable groups and solve them.
The position of human rights defenders in this regard can be briefly stated as “respect your own laws” and “remember your international responsibilities”.
By 16 July, the Ministry of Justice wants to receive documents on 30 points covering the period from 1 January, 2018 to July, 2021. Among other things, this list includes the organization’s correspondence, annual management plans, minutes of all sittings of the BHC elected bodies, and documents related to the events held within Belarus and abroad.
On 14 July 2021, another attack on civil society took place: searches, interrogations, and detentions of human rights defenders, journalists, civil activists, and members of non-profit organizations were carried out throughout Belarus. Searches were carried out in the offices of the Human Rights Center "Viasna", Belarusian Association of Journalists, public organization "Imena", Lawtrend Center for Legal Transformation, "For Freedom!" movement, World Association of Belarusians "Baćkaŭščyna", BEROC Center for Economic Research, Gender Initiative, Belarusian Helsinki Committee, public organization Union of Belarusian Writers, Belarusian Popular Front party, United Civic Party, the Rights Territory space, etc.
We conclude that the real grounds for the criminal prosecution of Yahor Martsinovich, Andrei Skurko, Volha Rakovich, and Andrei Dynko are political motivations aimed at stopping or changing the nature of their public joint activities for legitimate purposes within the editorial board of Nasha Niva in connection with the non-violent exercise of freedom of expression and information distribution.
In light of the shocking details of torture and ill-treatment by GUBOP officers, voiced by Mikalai Dziadok in court on 1 July 2021, we, representatives of the Belarusian human rights community, urge the General Prosecutor's Office and the Investigative Committee to institute criminal proceedings, identify those responsible for torture and ill-treatment and take measures to hold them responsible. We also demand an inspection of other cases of torture and ill-treatment of detainees by GUBOP officers, in particular of Stsiapan Latypau, Ivan Bahdzevich, Ihar Yarmolau, Aliaksandr Marjasau, David Slashchou, Vital Shyshlou, Artsiom Anishchuk, and many others, and to take appropriate measures to bring the perpetrators to justice and prevent such actions in the future.
We demand that the Belarusian authorities immediately release from custody political prisoners Daniil Kalesnikau, Maksim Zharau, Illia Tolkach, Aliaksandr Ivulin, and Ruslan Volkau and stop their criminal prosecution.
A criminal investigation against Hary Pahaniaila was denied due to the lack of criminal elements in his action according to Article 367 of the Criminal Code of the Republic of Belarus (defamation of the president of the Republic of Belarus).
Immediately release political prisoners Herman Bykhau, Siarhei Bobashau, Aliaksandr Ahraitsovich, Dzmitry Babok, and Yury Biruk and stop the criminal prosecution against them
We, the representatives of Belarusian human rights organizations, call on the Belarusian authorities to reconsider the detention measures and the court ruling imposed on Siarhei Monich, while respecting his right to a fair trial and eliminate the factors that influenced the verdict, as well as to release the convict, selecting other measures that will ensure his appearance in court
The Baranavičy District and City Court found Mikhail Dobysh guilty of threatening to use violence in a grocery store on September 17, 2020 in order to obstruct legal actions by police officer I. Mitsura. The officer experienced “psychological influence and intimidation, suppression of his will through personal expression of verbal threats of physical violence, while the victim had real reason to fear the implementation of these threats.” As a result, Dobysh was sentenced to three years of restricted freedom in an open correctional facility under Art. 364 of the Criminal Code.
We call on the Belarusian authorities to immediately release political prisoners Aliaksandr Yemeliyanovich, Siarhei Shchytsenka, Aleh Kulesha, Mikalai Isayenka, Siarhei Kastsiukevich, Barys Liashkevich, Vital Litvin, Hleb Ramanau, Daniil Khabavets, Aliaksandr Tsimafeyeu and Viachaslau Trafimuk and stop their criminal prosecution
The essence of the actions, i.e. the mural, in our opinion, indicates its protest content. Obviously, the purpose of this act was to express protest and disagreement with the falsification of the presidential election and the post-election situation in the country.
In accordance with the Criminal Code, every citizen has the right to protection from socially dangerous encroachment. This right belongs to a person regardless of the possibility of avoiding encroachment or seeking help from other persons or authorities. An action committed in a state of necessary defense, that is, in accordance with the Criminal Code, while protecting not only the life and health, but also the rights of the defender or another person, the interests of society or the state from a socially dangerous encroachment by causing harm to the encroaching, is not a crime, if this was not allowed to exceed the limits of necessary defense. The harm caused, a careless scratch on the police officer’s face, obviously does not go beyond such limits and is proportionate to the victim’s violated right.
Immediately release political prisoners Viktar Dzenisenka, Mikalai Fedarenka, Vital Brukh, Ivan Zubko, Rastsislau Shavel, Siarhei Bialevich, Yauhen Kalpachyk and Andrei Kandrasiuk and stop their criminal prosecution.
Immediately release political prisoners Dzmitry Kachurka, Dzmitry Hryshchanka, Illia Yahorau, Stanislau Machalau, Yauhen Markavets, Dzmitry Sinkevich, Aliaksandr Dabryianik, Yegor Dudnikov, Illia Bokhan, Siarhei Tsibets, Leanid Hermanovich and Uladzislau Barysau and stop their criminal prosecution;
Hary Pahaniaila was summoned to the Tsentralny District Office of Internal Affairs on 3 June at 10.00 to give explanation regarding his newly published interview for Charter97.org (the interview was later republished by moyby.com).
Palianina was found guilty of posting an insulting comment on a social network under the photo of head of the Pastavy police department Aliaksandr Rybakou in December last year. She was also convicted of storing small-caliber rifle cartridges left by her dead father. We consider the punishment under Art. 369 of the Criminal Code to be politically motivated, as it is linked to the peaceful exercise of freedom of expression, while punishment under Art. 295 of the Criminal Code is excessive, as it is related to politically motivated persecution. The sentence imposed on her was not determined by the severity of the crime and the identity of the defendant. The woman was deprived of liberty selectively compared to other convicts, as noted in the conclusions by Viasna experts.
We, representatives of Belarusian human rights organizations, call on the Belarusian authorities to: *immediately release political prisoners Alina Muratava, Natallia Barynava, Siarhei Krasouski, Volha Syravatka, Uladzimir Katsiubka and Maksim Pytsel and stop the criminal prosecution against them; *reconsider the detention and court rulings taken against Yauhen Kambul, Siarhei Silich, Maksim Siliuk, Siarhei Bahdan, Uladzimir Lankevich, Viktar Ivantsou, Siarhei Rozum, Siarhei Shabunia and Pavel Fedukevich, respecting their right to a fair trial; *release them from custody and select other measures to ensure their appearance in court; *immediately release all political prisoners and end political repression in the country.
immediately release political prisoners Aliaksei Siamionau, Dzmitry Yurkoits, Illia Siliankou, Aliaksei Lipen, Mia Mitkevich, Aliaksandr Palivoda, Ivan Kulko, Ihar Bykouskikh, Andrei Liubetski, Volha Takarchuk, Uladzimir Kolas and Liudmila Kuzniatsova and stop the criminal prosecution against them
We assess the persecution of Aliaksandr Khrapko, Ihar Vinakurau, Eduard Kudyniuk, Aliaksandr Viniarski and Sofia Sapegaas politically motivated, as it is related solely to their exercise of freedom of peaceful assembly and expression and recognize them as political prisoners.
The authorities’ references to economic violations, which allegedly led to the outlet’s persecution, have been actively used for many years to justify repressive measures against human rights defenders, the media, and independent trade unions.
Raman Pratasevich’s public activity is nothing but the peaceful exercise of the freedoms guaranteed by both the Constitution of the Republic of Belarus and international human rights law, the freedom to seek and disseminate information and to express one's opinion, among others.
UN WORKING GROUP ON FORCED OR INVOLUNTARY DISAPPEARANCES INFORMED ABOUT DISAPPEARANCE OF YULYA CHARNIAUSKAJA
According to its mandate, the UN Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances is to receive, consider, and transmit allegations of enforced disappearances reported by relatives of missing persons or human rights organisations representing their interests. The Working group urges the states concerned to investigate the cases and inform the Working group of the results.
The court arbitrarily assessed the evidence presented to it and rendered a verdict contrary to the evidence established during the examination of the case file. The case file included surveillance camera video footage, which confirmed the circumstances of the conflict, as claimed by the defendant, who plead not guilty. Contrary to this evidence, the court found that the defendant had committed a number of illegal acts against the victim Bandarava in the same place immediately after the self-defense actions recorded on video, solely on the basis of the victims’ testimonies, which contradicted other case material.
We consider the persecution and imprisonment of Siarhei Skok, Volha Klimkova, and Maksim Siarheyenka to be politically motivated, as they are related to the peaceful exercise of freedom expression. The convicts are therefore political prisoners, in accordance with paragraph 3.1 (a) of the Guidelines on the Definition of Political Prisoners.
We assess the persecution of Mikhail Firaha, Viachaslau Papou, Vital Shytsikau, Valiantsin Kolb, Vadzim Chapialevich, and Ihar Harchaniuk as politically motivated, as it is related solely to their exercise of freedom of peaceful assembly and expression and recognize them as political prisoners.
We, representatives of the Belarusian human rights community, consider the persecution of Kiryl Kazei, Yury Siarhei and Aliaksei Paviadaila as politically motivated. The convicts are therefore political prisoners.
Reaffirming the position set out in the joint statement of the Belarusian human rights community on the detention of human rights defenders Tatsiana Hatsura-Yavorskaya and Enira Branitskaya, we consider the persecution of Tatsiana Hatsura-Yavorskaya to be politically motivated, as it is aimed at sanctioning her public and nonviolent activities for the sake of protecting fundamental rights freedoms. Tatsiana Hatsura-Yavorskaya is therefore a political prisoner, according to para. 3.1 (b) of the Guidelines on the Definition of Political Prisoners.
We consider the persecution and imprisonment Stanislau Paulinkovich, Valery Loza, Yury Karnilovich, Pavel Berasniou and Vital Zaradzei to be politically motivated, as they are linked to their peaceful exercise of freedom of expression. The convicts are therefore political prisoners.
According to the Guidelines for the Definition of Political Prisoners, violence provoked by the initial disproportionate use of physical force, police equipment or weapons, provided that the actions of the accused were not intended to cause non-symbolic material damage or harm, gives grounds to consider persons in question as political prisoners. In addition, monitoring of these trials proved that the courts handed down excessively harsh (disproportionate to the offense) sentences, as compared to similar sentences pronounced in the same categories of trials outside the political context. The duration or conditions of imprisonment under the sentences handed down to protesters are clearly disproportionate to the offenses of which they were found guilty. In a number of cases, court hearings were held behind closed doors, as members of the public, human rights defenders and the media were not allowed to attend. Moreover, the courts’ orders to classify the hearings were not conditioned by the need to protect state secrets or personal information of the participants in the trials, which could be considered as undesirable for public distribution.
Ales Pushkin’s portrait of Yauhen Zhykhar, a member of the anti-Soviet post-war guerrilla underground, is in no way a justification for the ideology and practice of Nazism. Nor is it an endorsement of crimes against peace and security committed by the Nazis, including war crimes, recognized as criminal by the verdicts of the International Military Tribunal in Nuremberg or judgments of other courts based on the verdicts of the International Military Tribunal. The post-World War II anti-Soviet resistance on the territory of Belarus targeted the totalitarian and extremely repressive Stalinist communist regime and constitutes a chapter in the history of our country. By describing the portrayed person, Ales Pushkin did not incite enmity on national, racial, religious or other grounds, did not propagandize war, did not call for any violent actions. Accordingly, his actions do not constitute a crime under Art. 130 of the Criminal Code.
According to the Declaration on Human Rights Defenders (Article 1), “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.” At the same time, the state must take all necessary measures to ensure the protection, through the competent authorities, of any person acting individually and jointly with others, from any violence, threats, revenge, negative de facto or de jure discrimination, pressure or any other arbitrary act in connection with the lawful exercise of his or her rights mentioned in the Declaration on Human Rights Defenders. Thus, harassment and pressure for legitimate human rights activities, organization of educational activities or provision of free legal aid to citizens is absolutely unacceptable.