Viasna calls to end harassment of Andrei Bandarenka and Mikhail Zhamchuzhny in prison
Ales Bialiatski, chairman of the Human Rights Center "Viasna", has sent a petition to the Minister of the Interior and the Prosecutor General, urging the officials to put an end to the harassment of human rights defenders Andrei Bandarenka and Mikhail Zhamchuzhny currently serving their sentences in Mahilioŭ and Navasady.
The appeal refers to numerous facts of ill-treatment of Andrei Bandarenka, former leader of the Platforma NGO, including a threat to his life and health caused by informal relationships among prisoners resulting in cruel and degrading treatment of individual prisoners. According to available information, the facts of abuse were tolerated by the administration of penal colonies Nos. 2 and 17.
“At the same time, instead of protecting the imprisoned human rights defender’s rights, the prison administration formally and without any respect for the special conditions created by some of the prisoners towards Bandarenka and in the absence of proper monitoring harshly reacted to a formal violation of the disciplinary rules. As a result, the prison authorities insisted on Bandarenka’s transfer to a maximum-security prison, where he was eventually sent by a court order,” says the letter.
Viasna reminds that earlier petitions to the Minister of Internal Affairs remained without proper consideration, which led to the continued application of discriminatory and selective measures of harassment against Andrei Bandarenka, which was due to his previous human rights activities. It also reports on the recent refusal of the prosecuting authorities to grant the prisoner’s complaints against cases of illegal and groundless disciplinary penalties: these complaints were forwarded to the Department of Corrections, which demonstrates the authorities’ unwillingness to give them an objective assessment.
Moreover, Andrei Bandarenka has been unable to receive documentation that he needs in order to prepare his defense. He has also been registered as a prisoner “prone to hostage-taking, attacks on the administration and hooliganism.” These penalties were imposed in his absentia and without any objective justification.
Describing the situation with Mikhail Zhamchuzhny, founder of Platform Innovation, Platforma’s successor, Viasna emphasizes that the country's human rights community views him as a political prisoner and demands an immediate review of his sentence with securing the guarantees of the standards of a fair trial. The harassment of Mikhail Zhamchuzhny is also associated with his earlier human rights activities. It is emphasized that the prisoner has been registered as a person showing traits of extremism, which imposed additional restrictions and obligations, while “the decision was not justified by legal norms and does not imply the possibility of any form of appeal.”
Viasna also reports obstacles to the prisoner’s right to file a supervisory appeal against his sentence, as well as the poor conditions of detention, which do not correspond to the state of his health and are a form of ill-treatment, which is prohibited by international commitments of Belarus in the field of human rights.
Referring to the national legislation (guaranteeing protection of the rights, freedoms and legitimate interests of prisoners), as well as international documents — the OSCE ODIHR Guidelines on the Protection of Human Rights Defenders (which refers to a need of special and enhanced protection of human rights defenders at the local, national and international levels in connection with the particular risk associated with their professional activity) and the UN Declaration on Human Rights Defenders (which proclaims everyone’s right to submit complaints to the competent national authorities, the right to attend public hearings, proceedings and trials and the right to offer and provide professionally qualified legal assistance or other advice for the protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms), the Human Rights Center "Viasna" demands to put an end to the unjustified persecution of Andrei Bandarenka and Mikhail Zhamchuzhny by representatives of the Department of Corrections, to investigate the conditions of their detention and to allow them to meet with representatives of human rights organizations in order to clarify the actual conditions of detention and compliance with their legal rights.