2011 2011-01-19T14:17:49+0200 1970-01-01T03:00:00+0300 en http://spring96.org/files/images/sources/absiervatoryjapaabaroniepravaabaroncau-logo.jpg The Human Rights Center “Viasna” The Human Rights Center “Viasna”
The Human Rights Center “Viasna”
The Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders

The Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders

 BLR 001 / 0111 / OBS 004
Search and seizure/
Judicial harassment
January 18, 2011

The Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders, a joint programme of the International  Federation  for  Human  Rights  (FIDH)  and  the  World  Organisation  Against Torture (OMCT), has received new information and requests your urgent intervention in the following situation in Belarus.

New information:

The Observatory has been informed by reliable sources that Mr. Ales Bialiatski, President of  the  Human  Rights  Centre  “Viasna”  (Viasna)  and  FIDH  Vice-President,  was  allowed  by KGB officers to go home at approximately 11 p.m. on January 17, 2011 after the searches of Viasna offices, his residence and country house had been completed. 

According  to  our  information,  following  the  search  of  Viasna's  headquarters1,  the  KGB carried  out  two  simultaneous  searches.  One  took  place  at  Mr.  Bialiatski's  home  in  the presence of his wife, the other one at his country house in his presence. At 11 p.m., after the end of the searches, Mr. Ales Bialiatski was allowed to go back home. 

The Observatory remains concerned by the ongoing harassment of Viasna and its members in the framework of the criminal investigation on the events of December 19, 2010, which seems  to  merely  aim  at  sanctioning  their  human  rights  activities,  and  calls  upon  the Belarusian authorities to put an immediate end to it.

Furthermore,  according  to  the  information  received,  on  January  14,  2011,  the  on-line information website Sovetskaya Belorussiya (Soviet Belarus) published an article in which it accused the opposition to the regime of being controlled and financed by  foreign powers. The  same  article  also  contained  alleged  quotes  from  a  skype  chat  between  Mr.  Ales Bialiatski and a donor as well as an alleged copy of a contract with another donor. Below, the author of the article insinuated that the funds mentioned as being allocated for human rights activities were misused for other purposes. 

The  Observatory  urges  the  Belarusian  authorities  to  refrain  from  harassing  human  rights defenders,  and  to  guarantee  their  rights  to  freedom  of  association  and  expression.  The Observatory  more  generally  calls  upon  the  Belarusian  authorities  to  conform  in  all circumstances  with  the  United  Nations  Declaration  on  Human  Rights  Defenders,  the Universal Declaration of Human Rights as well as international and regional human rights instruments ratified by Belarus.

The  Observatory  also  recalls  that  the  paragraph  8  of  the  OSCE  Parliamentary  Assembly Resolution on Strengthening OSCE Engagement with Human Rights Defenders and National Human Rights  Institutions2,  states  that  OSCE  Participating States  recognise  “the need for particular  attention,  support  and  protection  for  human  rights  defenders  by  the  OSCE,  its Institutions and field operations, as well as by participating States”. 

1. See the Observatory's Press Release, January 17, 2011.

2. Adopted by the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly in Kiev on July 10, 2007.

Background information:

On  December 20,  2010,  in  the  aftermath  of  election  day,  15  persons  in  plain  cloth  raided “Viasna”  headquarters  at  around  3  am.  According  to  reliable  information,  the  15  persons belonged to the Committee for State Security (KGB). At  3.45  am,  ten  Viasna  members  were  arrested  and  taken  to  the  police  department  of Pervomaisky district. Lawyers Valentin Stefanovich and Vladimir Labkovich were among those arrested. The others were Messrs. Andrey Paluda, Zmitser Salaueu, Siarzhuk Sys, Uladzimir Mikalaeu, Aleg Zhlutka, Kanstantsin Staradubets, Vital Charniauski and Ms. Nasta Loyka. Special forces then carried out a search of the premises. All Viasna computers and documentation were seized.

At  the  moment  of  the  arrest,  Viasna  members  were  analysing  the  data  that  had  been collected the day before from 600 election monitors across the country, in the framework of the “Human Rights Defenders for Free Elections” monitoring project, run jointly by Viasna and the Belarus Helsinki Committee (BHC).

During their interrogation at the police station, the ten Viasna members were asked to write down an explanatory note indicating their exact location on the election day, and whether they had joined the demonstrators. All were then released on the same day at 6 am. Half an hour later, the security forces came again to the Viasna premises, looking particularly for Mr. Labkovich (who had just been released). The latter was not in the premises.

On  January  17,  2011,  at  approximately  3  p.m.,  three  KGB  officers  searched  the headquarters of Viasna, in Minsk, in the presence of two witnesses, as required by the law. It is reported that the police had a search warrant related to the events that took place in the aftermath of the elections on December 19, 2010. The KGB officers asked other Viasna staff to leave the premises, seized a computer and forced Mr. Ales Bialiatski to follow them. 

Actions requested:

The Observatory urges the authorities of Belarus to:

i. Put an end to all forms of harassment against the above-mentioned organisations and their members, in particular Mr. Ales Bialiatski and ensure that in all circumstances its members are able to carry out their work freely without any hindrances;

ii. Put an end to all acts of harassment against human rights defenders in Belarus;

iii.  Comply  with  all  the  provisions  of  the  United  Nations  Declaration  on  Human  Rights Defenders, in particular with:

- its Article 1, which provides that “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”, 

- its Article 5  (a) and (b) wich states that “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  to  meet  or  assemble peacefully;  and  to  form,  join  and  participate  in  non-governmental  organizations, associations or groups”;

- its Article 6 (a) and (b) which provides that  “everyone has the right, individually and in association  with  others  to  know,  seek,  obtain,  receive  and  hold  information  about  all human  rights  and  fundamental  freedoms,  including  having  access  to  information  as  to how  those  rights  and  freedoms  are  given  effect  in  domestic  legislative,  judicial  or administrative  systems;  and  as  provided  for  in  human  rights  and  other  applicable international  instruments,  freely  to  publish,  impart  or  disseminate  to  others  views, information and knowledge on all human rights and fundamental freedoms”;

- its Article 12.2, which states that “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”;

iv. Comply with the provisions of the Document of the Copenhagen Meeting of the 2nd Conference  on  the  Human  Dimension  of  the Cooperation  and  Security  Conference  in Europe  (CSCE)  (1990),  and  uphold  in  all  circumstances  the  principles  and  provisions enshrined in the international and regional human rights instruments ratified by Belarus and which, in particular, guarantee freedoms of association, demonstration, expression and  opinion,  in  particular  the  European  Convention  on  Human  Rights  and  the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights;

vi.  More  generally,  ensure  in  all  circumstances  the  respect  for  human  rights  and fundamental freedoms in accordance with in accordance with the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and with international and regional human rights instruments ratified by Belarus.


•President Alexander Lukashenko, ul .Karla Marksa, 38, 220016 Minsk, Belarus, Fax: +375 172 26 06 10 or + 375 172 22 38 72, Email: infogrp@president.gov.by

•Administration of the President of Belarus

•Head  of  the  Administration  of  the  President  of  Belarus,  Mr.  Vladimir  Vladimirovich Makei, Ul. K. Marksa 34, 220016 Minsk, Fax: +375 17 226-06-10

•General Prosecutor, Grigory Alekseevich Vasilevich, Internatsionalnaya str. 22, 220050 Minsk, Belarus, Fax: + 375 17 226 42 52

•Minister of Justice of Belarus, Mr. Viktor Grigorevich Golovanov, Ul. Kollektornaya, 10, 220004 Minsk, Belarus, Email kanc@minjust.by 

•President of the Supreme Court of Belarus, Mr. Valentin Olegovich Sukalo, Ul. Lenina, 28, 220030 Minsk, Belarus, Email: scjustrb@pmrb.gov.by

•Permanent Mission of Belarus to the United Nations in Geneva, 15 avenue de la paix, 1211  Geneva  20,  Switzerland,  Fax:  +41  22  748  24  51.  Email:mission.belarus@ties.itu.int

•Embassy of Belarus in Brussels, 192 avenue Moliиre, 100 Ixelles, Belgium, Fax : + 322.340.02.87, Email : embbel@skynet.be

Please also write to the diplomatic mission or embassy of Belarus in your respective country.

Paris-Geneva, January 18, 2011