FIDH: Andrei Bandarenka faces extention of his prison term under new criminal charges
Paris, 29 November 2016. FIDH denounces opening of a new case against imprisoned human rights defender Andrei Bandarenka, previously expert on monitored detention facilities. Even if his sentence in 2014 was not related to his human rights activities, FIDH considers the repeated criminal prosecution as a form of politically motivated pressure for his previous human rights activities and calls for dropping of charges.
On 25 November 2016, FIDH was informed by its member organisation in Belarus HRC "Viasna" that on November 14, the Mahilioŭ interdistrict department of the Investigative Committee opened new criminal case against Andrei Bandarenka under Part 2 of Article 411 of the Criminal Code ("Willful disobedience to the correctional institution administration”).
Since the beginning of his term, A. Bandarenka was subject to severe harassment on the part of the prison administration and convicts that put his health and life at risk. The harassment intensified even further since his transfer to the correctional facility "Prison No. 4" in Mogilev on 22 December 2015.
Since then, A. Bandarenka was again subject to three disciplinary sanctions, including one placement in a punishment cell. On 5 May 2015, Bandarenka was labeled by the prison administration as "malicious violator" of prison rules. The violationsA. Bandarenka was accused of confirm the artificial nature of the harassment: violation of the cell cleaning schedule, refusal to clean restrooms (task attributed only in view of humiliating a detainee and therefore considered as unacceptable by prisoners), delay in introducing himself to the prison officer on duty, lying on the bed in daytime and absence from the dining room due to attendance of the church service.
Andrei Bandarenka was supposed to be released on 31 March 2017 at the end of his term, but new charges against him under Art. 411 Criminal Code may result in repeated conviction for up to two years in prison.
"The fact that prior to his conviction Andrei Bandarenka monitored detention facilities gives sound reasons to believe that new ridiculous charges against him are politically motivated," Dimitris Christopoulos, FIDH President, said.
Andrei Bandarenka is currently in solitary confinement and under preventive supervision as "a person prone to seizure of hostages, attacks on the administration and hooliganism". The Leninsky district court of Mogilev refused to consider the complaint filed by Bandarenka in connection to his placement under the preventive supervision.
On 30 November 2016, Andrei Bandarenka is expected to be visited by his lawyer. On the same day, the Mahilioŭ Regional Court will hear two appeals against the disciplinary penalties recently imposed on the prisoner for alleged violation of internal prison rules.
FIDH calls for an end of groundless harassment and politically motivated prosecution of Mr. Bandarenka under new criminal charges. Complaints filed by him must be examined and the lawfulness and proportionality of the sanctions verified in a fair and unbiased manner.
Head of the human rights initiative "Platform" (since 2012 - "Platform Innovation") in 2011-2014, Andrei Bandarenka was actively involved in monitoring the places of detention and defending the rights of detainees. Mr. Bandarenka has submitted several reports to the international bodies on torture in Belarus’ places of detention.
Andrei Bandarenka was regularly subject to pressure from the authorities. Thus, in 2012, the National Security Committee (KGB) placed him under preventive supervision, imposing some serious restrictions of his rights and open surveillance. The same year, he was issued an official warning by the General Prosecutor’s Office for taking part in the campaign targeting the World Ice Hockey Championship in Belarus. He was also among the activists who had been arbitrarily banned from leaving Belarus in 2012. In 2013, he served an administrative arrest for attempting to organize a protest in front of the remand prison in Minsk. In October 2012, under the lawsuit brought to justice by the Ministry of Taxes and Duties, his NGO "Platform" was liquidated. He subsequently created its successor under the name "Platform Innovation".
In August 2014, A. Bandarenka was convicted on charges of hooliganism for 3 years in strict security detention facility.
From December 2015, pursuant to the ruling of the the Court of Shklov district, his detention conditions were hardened: he was transferred to the prison No. 4 in Mogilev until the end of his term.