Observatory calls to quash convictions of Masliukova and Zmitrovich
The Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders, a partnership of FIDH and the World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT), has received new information and requests your urgent intervention in the following situation in Belarus.
The Observatory has been informed by reliable sources about the sentencing of Ms. Alena Masliukova, member of Human Rights Centre “Viasna” in Svetlogorsk and Mr. Anatoly Zmitrovich, an environmental activist.
According to the information received, on October 8 and 9, 2018, Mr. Anatoly Zmitrovich and Ms. Alena Masliukova were respectively convicted by the Svetlogorsk District Court for the organisation of the “Svetlogorsk - For Clean Air” flash-mob that took place on September 15, 2018, to protest against the damages caused by a bleached-pulp factory (see background information below). Both of them were sentenced to a fine of 612,5 BYR (around 250 Euros), equivalent to two-thirds of the average monthly salary in Belarus. They plan to appeal that decision.
The Observatory recalls that the Belarusian legislation violates the right to peaceful assembly by prohibiting citizens to hold peaceful assemblies without authorisation. In Belarus, the authorities routinely reject requests to hold peaceful assemblies related to most societal issues, either without providing adequate reason or by imposing excessive burdens on the organisers, such as requesting organisers to ensure first medical aid during the event and to clean the venue after the protest.
The Observatory strongly condemns the sentencing of Ms. Alena Masliukova and Mr. Anatoly Zmitrovich which seems to be only aimed at sanctioning their peaceful human rights activities and calls on the authorities to quash this decision and drop all charges against them.
On September 24, 2018, Ms. Alena Masliukova and Mr. Anatoly Zmitrovich appeared before the Svetlogorsk District Court on charges of “taking part in an unauthorised mass event” (Part 1 of Article 23.34 of the Code of Administrative Offences). They faced up to 15 days of administrative detention.
The charges relate to a flash-mob which took place on September 15, 2018 on a public square in Svetlogorsk to protest against the environmental damage caused by a bleached-pulp factory. The flash-mob gathered at least 150 people, many of them held green balloons and wore medical masks as symbols of clean air. During the event, police officials warned the protesters that the event was unauthorized and subject to sanctions under Article 23.34 of the Code of Administrative Offenses.
On September 14, 2018, Ms. Alena Masliukova was summoned by the District Prosecutor A. Evseenko who threatened her of prosecution in case of violation of the legislation on mass events, alleging that she was involved in the organization of a mass protest of the following day. Ms. Alena Masliukova denied every involvement in the organisation of the event.
On September 15, 2018, Mr. Anatoly Zmitrovich filed a request before the District Executive Committee of Svetlogorsk in order to organise a protest against the factory. The request was denied, arguing that another event had already been planned for that same day. Therefore, a group of activists decided to hold a flash-mob instead.
Five days after the flash-mob, on September 20, 2018, Ms. Alena Masliukova and Mr. Anatoly Zmitrovich were summoned to the Svetlogorsk District Police Department, where police officer Dmitri Shpak charged them under Part 1 of Article 23.34. The two claimed that they had not participated in any unauthorised mass event. None of the other flash-mob participants are known to have been summoned. Ms. Alena Masliukova claims she observed the event in her capacity as human rights defender while Mr. Anatoly Zmitrovich links his prosecution with the fact that it was him who submitted the application for authorisation to organise the protest that was subsequently denied.
Please write to the authorities of Belarus, urging them to:
i. Guarantee in all circumstances the physical and psychological integrity of Ms. Alena Masliukova and Mr. Anatoly Zmitrovitch, as well as of all human rights defenders in Belarus;
ii. Quash the decision sentencing Ms. Alena Masliukova and Mr. Anatoly Zmitrovich, and put an end to any form of harassment, including at the judicial level, against them and 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 adopted by the UN General Assembly on December 9, 1998, 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 Lukashenko, Belarus, fax: + 375 172 26 06 10 or + 375 172 22 38 72, email: firstname.lastname@example.org ;
General Prosecutor, Alexandr Konyuk, Belarus, fax: + 375 17 226 42 52, email: email@example.com ;
Minister of Justice of Belarus, Mr. Oleg Slizhevsky, Belarus, fax: + 375 17 200 86 87, email: firstname.lastname@example.org ;
Chairman of the State Control Committee of Belarus, Mr. Leonid Anfimov, Belarus, fax: +375 17 289 14 84, email: email@example.com ;
Permanent Mission of Belarus to the United Nations in Geneva, Mr. Yury Ambrazevich, 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 ;
Svetlogorsk district court, Belarus, fax: +375 (2342) 7-02-47, 4-02-39; e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org .
Please also write to the diplomatic representations of Belarus in your respective countries.
Paris-Geneva, October 12, 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.