Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders condemns ongoing harassment of "Viasna" Board member Tatsiana Reviaka
Objet: THE OBSERVATORY: Belarus:harassment of "Viasna" Board member Tatsiana Revyaka
URGENT APPEAL - THE OBSERVATORY
BLR 002 / 0912 / OBS 077.1
September 24, 2012
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.
The Observatory has been informed by reliable sources about the ongoing harassment of Ms. Tatsiana Revyaka, Board member of the Human Rights Centre “Viasna” and member of the Belarusian Human Rights House in exile.
According to the information received, on September 18, 2012, Ms. Revyaka received a notification from the Tax Inspection of Minsk Pershamaiski District stating that she was “obliged to submit a declaration of income and property not later than October 3, 2012 for the period of 2004-2010, in pursuance of Article 12 of the Law of the Republic of Belarus 'On Declaration of Income and Property by Individuals'”.
The Observatory strongly condemns this new act of harassment against Ms. Revyaka (see background information), which is part of a more general campaign of harassment against members of Viasna, since it seems to merely aim at impeding their legitimate human rights activities.
The Observatory is all the more concerned at this latest development, that the authorities have been increasing tax-related harassment against some human rights defenders in Belarus, by depicting them as tax offenders. In 2011, they also adopted a set of provisions intended to facilitate the criminalisation of legitimate human rights activities in the country in a context where the right to freedom of association is regularly trampled. Tax-related harassment has particularly intensified after Mr. Ales Bialiatski, Vice-President of the FIDH and President of Viasna, was sentenced to four and a half years' imprisonment and to heavy fines under abusive charges of alleged large-scale tax fraud.
On August 17, 2012, Ms. Revyaka was summoned to the KGB “as a person knowledgeable about the circumstances relevant to the national security of the Republic of Belarus”. KGB officers interrogated her about a publication on Viasna's website on August 15, 2012, titled “Mahiliou KGB interferes with electoral process”. The officers showed her a printout from the website charter97.org containing the same reprinted information under the heading “Mogilev KGB terrorises collectors of signatures”. The officers also inquired on the source of the information and its authors and asked her whether she had checked the date mentioned in the article, arguing that publishing such information without confirming it would discredit the state security of Belarus. As a result, Ms. Revyaka was warned over the publication of unchecked information on Viasna's website. However, despite these verbal criticisms, the interrogators allegedly told Ms. Revyaka that the KGB had no legal motives to open judicial proceedings against her.
The said publication described how a KGB officer in Mogilev broke into the apartment of Mr. Uladislau Yaroshau, a collector of signatures and student at the Mogilev State University of Arkady Kuliashou, and tried to learn about how much money he received for collecting signatures, and who managed the process. He threatened to dismiss Mr. Yaroshau from the university for his work in the team of an opposition candidate and proposed to him to cooperate with the KGB.
Actions requested :
Please write to the Belarusian authorities, urging them to :
i. Guarantee in all circumstances the physical and psychological integrity of Ms. Tatsiana Revyaka, as well as of all human rights defenders in Belarus;
ii. Put an end to any kind of harassment - including at the judicial level - against Ms. Tatsiana Revyaka as well as against all other human rights defenders in Belarus;
iii. Conform with the provisions of the UN Declaration on Human Rights Defenders, adopted by the General Assembly of the United Nations on December 9, 1998, especially:
- its Article 1, which states 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 6 (b) and (c), which states that “Everyone has the right, individually and in association with others […] 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 and [...] to study, discuss, form and hold opinions on the observance, both in law and in practice, of all human rights and fundamental freedoms and, through these and other appropriate means, to draw public attention to those matters”.
- and its Article 12.2, which provides 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. Ensure in all circumstances respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms in accordance with international human rights standards and international instruments ratified by the Belarusian Republic.
Paris-Geneva, September 24, 2012