International human rights organization “Front Line” protests against unlawful punishment of human rights defender Valery Shchukin
On 30 March 2012, human rights defender Mr Valery Shchukin was condemned to an administrative fine
in relation to a protest held
on the previous day against the trial of political activists which was about to
take place behind closed doors in Orsha. Following his protest, he was detained
and put in pre-trial detention before being charged. Valery Shchukin is a
70-year-old human rights defender based in Vitsebsk who is particularly active
in defending political and civil rights.
Orsha city court fined Valery Shchukin 140,000 Belarusian rubles (approximately 13 euro) for disorderly conduct under Article 17.1 of the Code of Administrative Offences of the Republic of Belarus, and 1,050,000 BLR (approximately 99 euro) for disobeying a police officer under Article 23.4 of the Code of Administrative Offences.
On 29 March 2012, Valery Shchukin together with other observers were refused entry to the court room in Orsha where the hearing of three political activists was about to take place. In protest against the hearing being held behind closed doors, Valery Shchukin laid on the floor blocking the entry to the third floor of the building.
The court hearing was that of Aliaksandr Atroshchankaù, an activist of the civil campaign 'European Belarus', Anatol Liabedzka, head of United Civil Party, and Siargey Kaliakin, head of 'Fair world' political party. On the night of 27 March 2012, the three men were arrested on a train travelling from Minsk to Moscow allegedly on suspicion of drug trafficking. They were subsequently charged with 'disorderly conduct' under Article 17.1 of the Code of Administrative Offences.
It is believed that the reason for their detention was to prevent them from travelling to Brussels where they had planned meetings with representatives of the European Commission. The incident is reportedly linked to the European Union's policy of strengthening the sanctions against the Belarusian regime. As a response to this policy, the Belarusian authorities have imposed a travel ban on a number of oppositional activists, journalists and human rights defenders (see Front Line Defenders appeal dated 15 March 2012 http://www.frontlinedefenders.org/node/17755).
Front Line Defenders believes that the administrative conviction of Valery Shchukin is linked to his peaceful and legitimate human rights work in the defense of political and civil rights in Belarus.
Front Line Defenders urges the authorities in Belarus to:
- Cancel the administrative conviction against human rights defender Valery Shchukin as it is believed that it is solely motivated by his peaceful activities in defense of human rights;
- Guarantee in all circumstances that all human rights defenders in Belarus are able to carry out their legitimate human rights activities without fear of reprisals and free of all restrictions including judicial harassment.