Front Line Defenders: Authorities cancel residence permit for human rights defender Ms Elena Tonkacheva as she faces expulsion

2014 2014-11-04T01:38:28+0300 2014-11-04T01:38:28+0300 en The Human Rights Center “Viasna” The Human Rights Center “Viasna”
The Human Rights Center “Viasna”
On 30 October 2014, human rights defender Ms Elena Tonkacheva, the head of the Centre for Legal Transformation, received a notification from Pervomayskiy District Police department in Minsk stating that her residence permit in Belarus has been nullified by the authorities, despite the fact that she has lived in the country on a permanent basis for the last thirty years. According to the notification, authorities have begun the process of her expulsion from Belarus.

Elena Tonkacheva is a prominent Belarusian human rights defender working for the promotion and defence of human rights in the country since 1996. Her organisation, Centre for Legal Transformation, is a group of legal experts and activists who work on human rights protection and education and carry out legal analysis.

On 23 September 2014 Elena Tonkacheva was notified by authorities that they had begun the process of nullifying her residence permit. According to the notification, the human rights defender recently violated public traffic regulations by exceeding the speed limit while driving her car, which was recorded on the traffic police's speed cameras. Though Elena Tonkacheva has already paid a fine for the traffic violation, this minor offence has been used as an official basis to begin the cancellation process of her residence permit in Belarus.

On 2 October 2014, the human rights defender provided a detailed explanation to the district police department in Minsk stating that she has been living in Belarus since the age of fifteen when her family moved there. Elena Tonkacheva does not have any residence registration in the Russian Federation, where she has official citizenship, and her daughter is a citizen of Belarus. Elena Tonkacheva refrained from applying for Belarusian citizenship previously due to personal reasons. Her current residence permit was valid until 2017.

Since this notification has been issued, the human rights defender must now obtain temporary registration in Belarus. The human rights defender has been officially invited to Pervomayskiy District Police office where, on 5 November 2014, authorities will have a meeting “to examine the question” of her compulsory expulsion.

Front Line Defenders believes that the nullification of Elena Tonkacheva's residence permit is disproportionate in relation to the recent traffic violation and that it is directly related to her human rights work.

Front Line Defenders urges the authorities in Belarus to:

1. Revoke the nullification of Elena Tonkacheva's residence permit and immediately stop the procedure of her expulsion as it is believed that both decisions were taken solely due to her role as a human rights defender;
2. 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.