Stop persecution of citizens for exercising their right to peaceful protest and expression
The Human Rights Center "Viasna"
Minsk. 11 March 2017
Viasna calls on the authorities to stop the persecution of citizens for exercising their right to peaceful protest and expression
During the first half of March 2017, many cities across the country hosted protests of citizens against the enforcement of Presidential Decree No. 3 “On the prevention of social dependency”, as well as the government’s economic policy. The protesters urged the authorities to abolish the Decree, to respect their social and economic rights, and to ensure proper social standards of living. It should be noted that all these protests were purely peaceful and did not pose a threat to national security, public order, public morality and public health.
Despite the suspension of the Decree for one year, more protests are expected to be held in the coming days and weeks in Minsk and other Belarusian cities.
The authorities responded to the street protests by increasing repression against the political opposition, civil society activists and human rights defenders.
For the first time since August 2015, we documented arbitrary detentions of civil society activists and opposition members, which aimed to prevent their participation in the protests, searches in private homes and offices of opposition parties and independent non-governmental organizations. More than 10 peaceful protesters have been sentenced to administrative arrests for a period of three to five days. The level of repression against civil society and political activists is escalating on a daily basis.
Of particular concern to us is the persecution of human rights defenders in Homieĺ, members of the Human Rights Center "Viasna" Leanid Sudalenka and Anatol Paplauny, as well as the threats voiced by police officers against Viasna’s activist in Brest Uladzimir Vialichkin. The Human Rights Center "Viasna" considers it unacceptable to persecute human rights defenders in connection with the exercise of their peaceful activities for the protection of the rights of others, which should be guaranteed by the State in accordance with the Declaration on the Right and Responsibility of Individuals, Groups and Organs of Society to Promote and Protect Universally Recognized Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms, adopted by the UN General Assembly’s resolution 53/144 on 9 December 1998.
The Human Rights Center "Viasna" notes the deterioration of the overall human rights situation in the country and calls on the Belarusian authorities to:
- begin negotiations with a broad civil society in order to resolve disputable issues and conflicts;
- refrain from large-scale repression against participants of peaceful protests scheduled for the days to come;
- immediately stop the persecution of peaceful protesters and guarantee the citizens’ right to freedom of peaceful assembly and expression;
- promptly release all people arrested for the exercise of their rights, which are guaranteed both by the Belarusian Constitution and the international law of human rights;
- stop other forms of pressure on the opposition parties, movements, civil society activists and human rights defenders.