Picks of the week
The Human Rights Center "Viasna" has written to the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention about the persecution of bloggers and activists for their participation in peaceful protests against what is known as “advanced integration” with Russia.
Fourteen people were sentenced to a total of 405 days of short-term detention following their involvement in a series of protests held in December. Among them were several critical bloggers who advertised the demonstrations in their YouTube accounts.
All these cases are instances of arbitrary detention, as they result from exercising the rights and freedoms guaranteed by the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.
Ales Krutkin, for example, was ordered to serve 45 days. Meanwhile, detention centers with their poor conditions are not suited to accommodate people serving terms exceeding 15 days. Moreover, human rights defenders fear that after his release on March 12 he may receive new penalties.
Hanna Kostseva, the sister of the Kostseu brothers who were earlier sentenced to death, has launched an online petition asking President Lukashenka to commute the death sentences to life imprisonment.
Hanna writes that she realizes the gravity of the crimes her brothers committed but asks the president to show mercy and save their lives, as it is his power and right.
“Spare my brothers, do not take their lives, give them a unique and last opportunity to realize what they have done, to repent of their acts, and let me see them from time to time,” she says in the open letter.
Viasna has joined the petition urging the head of state to act out of principles of humanism.
“We call on every citizen of Belarus, on all those who believe in human life as the highest value, on those who are opposed to killing, including in the name of the state, to join this petition. By signing in, we will demonstrate that not everyone in Belarus is ready to applaud yet another death sentence,” Viasna activist said.
A group of human rights and LGBT-rights organizations of Belarus, including Viasna, have released a joint statement to abandon the adoption of legislative changes that would result in further discrimination of LGBT people.
The appeal came in response to a petition calling to criminalize “propaganda and public display of homosexuality and other sexual perversions among minors”. The call was launched by groups affiliated with the Catholic church of Belarus. It was signed by 55,000 people. The petition also suggested raising the age of consent for same-sex relationships to 18.
LGBT-rights groups say the proposals are contrary to a number of basic human rights, namely the right not to be subjected to arbitrary or unlawful interference with his privacy and family life (Article 17 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights), the right to freedom of expression (Article 19 of the Covenant), as well as the protection against discrimination (Art. 26 of the Covenant).
Raising the age of consent or legitimate same-sex relationships is pronounced discrimination because the reform will not affect opposite-sex relationships.
In 2013, Russia introduced administrative responsibility for “propaganda among minors of nontraditional sexual relations”. The Council of Europe’s Venice Commission concluded that such restrictions ran counter to the principles of human rights, rejecting Russia’s argument that children were the beneficiaries of this innovation. As noted by the Commission, “it cannot be deemed to be in the interest of minors that they be shielded from relevant and appropriate information on sexuality, including homosexuality.”