The international foundation for the protection of human rights defenders ‘Frontline’ expresses concern with legal proceedings against Leanid Svetsik
The international foundation for the protection of human rights ‘Frontline’ expresses concern with legal proceedings against Leanid Svetsik
President Alexander Lukashenka,
Office of the President,
vul. Karl Marksa 38,
8 April 2009
Legal proceedings against human rights defender Mr Leanid Svetsik
Front Line is concerned following reports regarding the legal proceedings brought against human rights defender Mr Leanid Svetsik. Leanid Svetsik is a member of the Vitsebsk branch of the human rights centre Viasna and one of the founders of the civil human rights organisation Nasha Viasna. Leanid Svetsik is providing legal aid for victims of human rights violations and he contributed to the preparation of numerous complaints accepted by the UN Human Rights Committee.
On 31 March 2009, Leanid Svetsik was informed that two criminal cases were open against him. He is accused of stirring up national and racial hatred, under Article 130 of the Criminal Code, and of libel against the President of the Republic of Belarus, under Part 2 of Article 367 of the Criminal Code.
In 2006 and 2007, Leanid Svetsik was providing legal advice to Vitsebsk activists, who were receiving letters with threats from the Vitsebsk branch of the Russian National Unity (RNU), a Russian neo-nazi organisation. The first time, the police refused to open a case explaining this decision with the fact that the RNU was an unregistered organisation. A criminal investigation into these threats from the RNU was only initiated on 20 May 2008. On 23 May 2008, the police made a nine-hour search at the home of Leanid Svetsik, during which KGB officers seized a computer, other office equipment and printed materials on human rights issues. The search was conducted according to a regulation, in which Leanid Svetsik was mentioned as a witness in the case against the RNU. After the search, Leanid Svetsik was interrogated by KGB officers in KGB headquarters, where he was told that he was suspected of “inciting racial, national, or religious enmity or discord” under Article 130.1 of the Criminal Code. The criminal case against him was suspended in September 2008.
Legal proceedings were opened again on 31 March 2009 and Leanid Svetsik is facing new charges. According to Leanid Svetsik, the police failed to explain the grounds for the resumption of proceedings. The human rights defender attributes it to the growing pressure against human rights activists in Belarus and the refusal of Belarussian authorities to register the human rights organisation Nasha Viasna on 26 February 2009.
Front Line believes that the legal proceedings against Mr Svetsik are unfounded and related to his legitimate and peaceful human rights work.
Front Line urges the Russian authorities to:
- Immediately drop the charges made against human rights defender Leanid Svetsik;
- Guarantee the physical and psychological integrity of Leanid Svetsik;
- Ensure that all human rights defenders in Belarus, carrying out their legitimate work in the defense of human rights, can exercise their right to freedom of expression and association, and are able to operate free of restrictions and reprisals, including judicial harassment.
Front Line respectfully reminds you that the United Nations 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 consensus by the UN General Assembly on 9 December 1998, recognises the legitimacy of the activities of human rights defenders, their right to freedom of association and to carry out their activities without fear of reprisals. We would particularly draw attention to Article 5 (b and c): “For the purpose of promoting and protecting human rights and fundamental freedoms, everyone has the right, individually and in association with others, at the national and international levels: (b) To form, join and participate in non-governmental organizations, associations or groups; (c) To communicate with non-governmental or intergovernmental organizations,” to Article 11: “Everyone has the right, individually and in association with others, to the lawful exercise of his or her occupation or profession (...),” and to Article 12 (2): “The State shall take all necessary measures to ensure the protection by the competent authorities of everyone, individually and in association with others, against any violence, threats, retaliation, de facto or de jure adverse discrimination, pressure or any other arbitrary action as a consequence of his or her legitimate exercise of the rights referred to in the present Declaration.”