Belarus: Arbitrary arrest and subsequent release of seven observers of Viasna and BHC, and obstacles to the right to peaceful assembly
The Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders, a partnership of FIDH and the World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT), requests your urgent intervention in the following situation in Belarus.
Description of the situation:
The Observatory has been informed by reliable sources about the arbitrary arrest and subsequent release of Mr. Maksim Kavaliou, Ms. Tatsiana Mastykina, Mr. Andrus Krechka, Mr. Ihar Bahachou, Ms. Nasta Loika, Ms. Hanna Sakhankova, and Ms. Nasta Vasilchuk, observers of the Human Rights Center Viasna and the Belarusian Helsinki Committee (BHC), as well as about obstacles to the right to peaceful assembly.
According to the information received, on March 25, 2018, the seven human rights defenders were arrested during an unauthorised demonstration in Yakub Kolas Square, Minsk, organised to commemorate the 100th anniversary of Belarus’ proclamation of independence. The seven observers mandated by the HRC Viasna and the BHC were part of the observation delegation monitoring the demonstration and were wearing an armband signalling them as observers.
While at the Sovetskyi police station, Mr. Maksim Kavaliou, Ms. Tatsiana Mastykina, Mr. Andrus Krechka, Mr. Ihar Bahachou, Ms. Nasta Loika and Ms. Hanna Sakhankova were ordered to face the wall outside, with their hands up and their personal belongings on the ground. Their bags were searched, and the police officers took their photos and fingerprints. Ms. Tatsiana Mastykina refused to obey and was taken away, forcibly fingerprinted, and was held by her hair when photographing. All six of them were released the same day.
Ms. Nasta Vasilchuk was detained at the Pervomaiskyi police station in Minsk and released without drawing up a detention protocol.
Mr. Maksim Kavaliou, Ms. Tatsiana Mastykina, Mr. Andrus Krechka, Mr. Ihar Bahachou and Ms. Nasta Loika were charged with “participation in unauthorised mass gatherings” under Article 23.34 of the Code of Administrative Offences. Ms. Tatsiana Mastykina was additionally charged with “resisting demands of a public official” under Article 23.4 of the same Code. They were supposed to appear before the Soviet District Court on March 26, 2018, but the hearings were cancelled without any postponed date.
The police also detained several dozen protesters and four journalists of the Belsat TV channel. At least 120 people were detained in connection with the demonstration throughout the country.
The Observatory strongly condemns the arbitrary arrest of Mr. Maksim Kavaliou, Ms. Tatsiana Mastykina, Mr. Andrus Krechka, Mr. Ihar Bahachou, Ms. Nasta Loika, Ms. Hanna Sakhankova and Ms. Nasta Vasilchuk, as well as the judicial harassment of five of them, as it appears to be a retaliation of their legitimate and peaceful human rights activities.
The Observatory urges Belarusian authorities to put an end to all forms of harassment, including at the judicial level against them and to uphold international human rights standards to which Belarus is bound with respect to freedom of assembly.
Please write to the authorities of Belarus, urging them to:
i. Put an end to any form of harassment, including at the judicial level, against Mr. Maksim Kavaliou, Ms. Tatsiana Mastykina, Mr. Andrus Krechka, Mr. Ihar Bahachou, Ms. Nasta Loika, Ms. Hanna Sakhankova and Ms. Nasta Vasilchuk as well as all human rights defenders in Belarus;
ii. Guarantee in all circumstances the physical and psychological integrity of all human rights defenders in Belarus;
iii. Comply with all their international obligations to respect the exercise of the citizens’ right to freedom of association and assembly, as established in the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, in particular its Articles 21 and 22;
iv. Comply with the provisions of the United Nations Declaration on Human Rights Defenders, in particular with its Articles 1, 2, 5 and 12.2;
v. Ensure in all circumstances respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms in accordance with international human rights standards and international instruments ratified by Belarus.
· President Aliaksandr Lukashenka, Belarus, Fax: + 375 172 26 06 10 or + 375 172 22 38 72, Email: email@example.com
· General Prosecutor, Alexander Konyuk, Belarus, Fax: + 375 17 226 42 52
· Minister of Justice of Belarus, Mr. Oleg Slizhevsky, Email: firstname.lastname@example.org, Fax: + 375 17 200 86 87
· Chairman of the State Control Committee of Belarus, Mr. Leonid V Anfimov, Email: email@example.com
· H.E. Mr. Yury Ambrazevich, Permanent Mission of Belarus to the United Nations in Geneva, Switzerland, Fax: +41 22 748 24 51. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
· H.E. Mr. Aleksandr Mikhnevich, Embassy of Belarus in Brussels, Fax: + 32 2.340.02.87, Email: email@example.com
Please also write to the diplomatic representations of Belarus in your respective countries.
Paris-Geneva, March 28, 2018
Kindly inform us of any action undertaken quoting the code of this appeal in your reply.
The Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders (the Observatory) was created in 1997 by FIDH and the World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT). The objective of this programme is to intervene to prevent or remedy situations of repression against human rights defenders. FIDH and OMCT are both members of ProtectDefenders.eu , the European Union Human Rights Defenders Mechanism implemented by international civil society.