Danilevich, Mochalov, Lazarenko, Braginets. We informed the Special Rapporteurs about numerous cases of prosecution of lawyers in Belarus.
These facts about detentions, arrests and administrative harassment of lawyers establish the continuation of the policy of repression against and intimidation of lawyers, who protect clients in politically motivated cases.
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.
In the message, we shared the details of Arciom Dubski's disappearance. On May 11, he was detained in Minsk and taken to the KGB for interrogation. On the night of May 12, Arciom was released from the KGB with the requirement to come back at 14:30 for "operational search activities". When Dubski returned to Osipovichi after the interrogation, a passenger car with three "masked men" followed him to his house. In the morning, a minibus joined the passenger car. On May 12, at 12 o'clock in the afternoon, Arciom went outside and did not return. Since then, Artem has not been in touch.
The Belarusian Helsinki Committee contacted the heads of Telegram, Apple, Google with a request to respond to the facts of violations of children's rights in the Belarusian segment of Telegram by channels affiliated with the state. We are talking about the practice of publishing “penitential” videos, the participants of which are children.
INFORMATION TO THE UN SPECIAL PROCEDURES ON AMENDMENTS TO CRIMINAL LEGISLATION EXPANDING THE SCOPE OF APPLICATION OF THE DEATH PENALTY
In the submission, we drew attention to the comment of the House of Representatives that the purpose of such amendments was “to have a deterrent effect on destructive elements, as well as to demonstrate the resolute struggle of the state against terrorist activities.” In this regard, we stressed that it was the inevitability, not the severity of punishment, that was a deterrent factor in committing a crime. The BHC also pointed out that there was no public discussion on this issue, while discussion of such complex and sensitive issues was extremely necessary.
We stressed that the exact legal basis of criminal charges against trade union activists was unknown, and that the search decree listed about 10 articles of the Criminal Code that had traditionally been used over the past two years to persecute civil society and political opposition. In addition, in the message we drew the attention of Special Rapporteurs to the fact that on April 7, the KGB recognized the Belarusian Trade Union of Radio-Electronic Industry Workers (REP) as an extremist formation.
The BHC sent a communication to the UN Special Procedures about the violation of the right of lawyers to freedom of expression
The Belarusian Helsinki Committee has addressed the Special Rapporteurs on freedom of opinion and expression, on the independence of judges and lawyers and on the human rights situation in Belarus with information about violations of the right of lawyers in Belarus to freedom of expression. We reported on disciplinary proceedings initiated against lawyers for signing a petition against the participation of the Republic of Belarus in the armed conflict on the territory of Ukraine, specifying that three lawyers had already been reprimanded, and the other two were awaiting consideration.
Submission to the UN Special Procedures in connection with the violation by the Republic of Belarus of its obligations on the rights of the child
The Belarusian Helsinki Committee has sent information to the UN Special Rapporteurs on torture, on freedom of expression and opinion, on the right to health, on the right to privacy and on the human rights situation in Belarus on the practice of public arrests of teenagers and the publication of "penitential" videos with the participation of children. The submission described 3 cases of demonstrative detention of teenagers in front of their peers, and also gave examples of 6 "penitential" videos.
Referendum 2022: Analytical report of the expert mission on the evaluation of the constitutional referendum
Significant violations of the national legislation and fundamental principles of fair and democratic elections during the referendum, including depriving observers of the opportunity to monitor the counting of voting results, do not provide grounds to trust the election results announced by CEC and consider them reflecting the real will of the citizens of the Republic of Belarus.
On February 24, 2022, the military forces of the Russian Federation began an invasion of Ukraine. This is called by Russian Federation a “special operation”, but we must be blunt: a war has begun, and Russia is an aggressor country, while Belarus has been involved in this war as an aggressor’s ally.
The experts of the Belarusian Helsinki Committee reported on the case of Vladimir Matskevich to the United Nations Working Group on Arbitrary Detention and the United Nations Special Rapporteurs on the right of everyone to the enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of physical and mental health, for freedom of expression and on the situation of human rights in Belarus.
INFORMATION ON VARIOUS FORMS OF VIOLENCE IN BELARUS WAS ADDRESSED TO THE UN SPECIAL RAPPORTEUR ON THE RIGHT TO THE ENJOYMENT OF THE HIGHEST ATTAINABLE STANDARD OF PHYSICAL AND MENTAL HEALTH
Experts of the Belarusian Helsinki Committee, in the response to the announced call for civil society organizations around the world, addressed information to the Special Rapporteur on the right of everyone to the enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of physical and mental health for the preparation of the thematic report «Violence and its impact on the right to health» for the 50th session of the Human Rights Council in June 2022.
We have asked the Special Rapporteurs to contact the Belarusian Government to reconsider their decision to criminalize participation in non-registered or previously dismantled organizations, as well as not to apply article 193-1 in practice, as such action is a violation of international obligations of Belarus in the area of freedom of association.
Belarusian Helsinki Committee appealed to Pavel Durov, the CEO and Co-Founder Telegram, Sundar Pichai, the CEO Google and Alphabet, and Tim Cook, the CEO Apple Inc. We drew their attention to the facts of posting and disseminating through the Telegram resources of Belarusian segment some video and text materials, violating human rights and demonstrating violence and human dignity humiliation (including the right to privacy, prohibition of discrimination based on sexual orientation and political views, and radical forms of hate speech towards LGBTQ+ people).
HUMAN RIGHTS DEFENDERS SENT AN ALTERNATIVE REPORT ON THE HUMAN RIGHTS SITUATION IN BELARUS TO THE COMMITTEE ON ECONOMIC, SOCIAL AND CULTURAL RIGHTS
In addition to the long-standing problems in the realization of social and economic rights, such as forced labour, problems of access to adequate health care in places of deprivation of liberty, the report highlighted key developments of the past two years in terms of perspective of economic, social and cultural rights in Belarus.
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.
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.