Statement by the Human Rights Center Viasna concerning the kidnapping of civil activists
The Human Rights Center Viasna would like to express its deep concern over the purposeful kidnappings of youth activists by representatives of security and law enforcement agencies.
Over the past year, a number of leaders and activists of Belarusian youth organizations and movements, including Artur Finkevich, Nasta Palazhanka, Dzianis Karnou, Uladzimir Lemesh, Zmitser Dashkevich and Yauhen Afnahel, have been repeatedly kidnapped by representatives of security and law enforcement agencies.
On 19 December 2008, Artur Finkevich, leader of the Young Belarus youth association, was detained outside his house in Minsk. The youth was forced into a car by unknown persons. He was then beaten, taken out of town and left in a forest outside the town of Rakau, Minsk region.
On 25 March 2009, a few hours before the beginning of the Freedom Day demonstration, Young Front activists Nasta Palazhanka and Dzianis Karnou were detained by unknown persons in plain clothes not far from the Kamennaya Horka underground station in Minsk and taken out of town. Dzianis Karnou was beaten and robbed, his clothes were cut.
After the incidents, criminal cases were initiated following the victims’ statements with the police. However, the perpetrators were not found. It should be observed that Nasta Palazhanka and Dzianis Karnou identified the person at the head of the kidnapping from a photograph – Aliaksandr Leanenka, officer of the Almaz special police unit – which is another evidence of the investigation’s inefficiency, as well as their unwillingness to punish the culprits.
On 27 November 2009, on the day before the Slutsk Armed Insurrection memorial action, Uladzimir Lemesh, activist of the European Belarus civil campaign, was detained by unknown persons. He was handcuffed and taken out of town in car without license plates. The kidnappers took his passport and mobile phones, as well as a white-red-white flag and several portraits of the Slutsk Armed Insurrection leaders. He was then released some 25 kilometers outside the town of Slutsk.
On 5 December 2009, the Young Front leader Zmitser Dashkevich was attacked by two unknown persons, forced into a bus and taken out of town. The kidnappers put a stick in the sleeves of his coat, so that he could not move freely for some time, and left him in a forest 70 kilometers outside Minsk.
On 6 December 2009, Yauhen Afnahel, activist of the European Belarus civil campaign, was detained by unknown persons in Minsk. He was forced into a car and ordered to hide his head between his knees. The activist was taken and left several kilometers outside Minsk. The kidnappers took his mobile phone battery.
We would like to stress that the above-mentioned actions by representatives of security and law enforcement agencies are illegal and should be considered as a form of political harassment and pressure used against civilians for their civil and political activities.
The detentions and kidnappings are arbitrary, politically-motivated arrests of people and an outrage against human rights, namely, the security of the person and personal freedom.
We call upon the authorities to initiate an unbiased and comprehensive investigation into the cases of kidnapping youth activists and punish the perpetrators.
We find it intolerable to exert any kinds of harassment on political opponents in a democratic society, especially those possessing criminal features.
Minsk, 7 December 2009