Human rights defenders call to release arrested student activists
Minsk - November 17, 2020
On November 12, Belarusian authorities attacked one of the country's oldest youth organizations: repressive bodies detained leaders and activists of the Belarusian Students' Association (BSA), and the apartments of members of the student union and the organization's office were searched.
Among those who were repressed were former and current students, supporters of the BSA: Ksenia Syramalot, Alana Gebremariam, Yahor Kanetski, Yana Arabeika and Kasya Budzko. BSA activist and member of the Coordinating Council for Resolving the Political Crisis in Belarus, representative of ex-presidential candidate Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya for youth and students Alana Gebremariam, detained on November 12 in Minsk, has been given the status of a criminal suspect and is in the KGB prison.
The suspicion of committing a crime under Article 342 of the Criminal Code ("Organization and preparation of actions that grossly violate public order, or active participation in them") as a ground for detention and investigative actions against members of the BSA is clearly baseless and puts this case in line with hundreds of politically motivated criminal cases currently being conducted by the Belarusian authorities against opponents of the current authoritarian regime.
BSA is one of the oldest and most famous organizations of Belarusian youth. The association emerged as an anti-communist youth organization in the late 1980s, united democratic youth on the grounds of resistance to authoritarian regime during Lukashenko's dictatorship consolidation, for which it was deprived of legal registration in the early 2000s. However, the organization has withstood many repressions and has retained the ability to attract Belarusian youth, for whom the values of freedom, democracy and human rights are important.
Now, in 2020, the Belarusian society has awakened - and the regime has responded to this awakening with repression: dismissals, expulsions, unmotivated violence against protesters, beatings, torture, arrests, fines, criminal convictions, not stopping even before public murders of protestors. The regime has stopped paying attention to even the minimum legal limits on its activities, openly embarking on the path of lawlessness and terror against its own people. Pressure and violence are directed against all public institutions, including non-governmental organizations. Hundreds of NGO activists were detained, arrested, searched, beaten and tortured.
Special and severe repressions are directed by the regime against those organizations that cooperate with the Coordinating Council for Resolving the Political Crisis in Belarus, conduct human rights activities, provide assistance to prisoners and victims of repressions.
Belarusian student youth takes an active part in protests against election fraud and is one of the drivers of the strike movement that is now unfolding in Belarus to protest against violence and systematic violations of the rule of law and human rights in the country.
Taken together, all the known circumstances of the BSA case clearly indicate that the attack on the Association is directly related to the political activity of the organization and its leaders.
Given the above, we, representatives of the human rights movement in Belarus and of coalitions and umbrella associations of the Belarusian civil society:
- strongly protest against criminal prosecution and other forms of repression against leaders, activists and supporters of the Belarusian Students' Association and all other NGOs subjected to political persecution;
- emphasize that the activities of the BSA, the Coordinating Council and other public formations and NGOs are a form of freedom of association and as such are protected by Article 36 of the Constitution of Belarus and Article 22 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights;
- declare that we regard the persecution of members of the BSA as a manifestation of political repression, and we consider prisoners themselves to be political prisoners;
- demand the immediate release of BSA activists and all other political prisoners, as well as the cessation of all criminal cases against NGO activists, journalists, bloggers, human rights activists, volunteers, observers and other participants in the last election campaign;
- warn the authorities against further repression and violence against civil society, which is contrary to national law, the constitution and the country's international human rights obligations;
- support the BSA activists and wish them that perseverance in the trials which helped the BSA to be one of the strongest organizations of the Belarusian civil society, capable of resistance and development, despite various forms of repression against it;
- call on all structures of the Belarusian civil society to show solidarity with those organizations and initiatives that have been persecuted, to mutual assistance through informational and material support.
Assembly of Non-Governmental Democratic Organizations of Belarus
Belarusian Association of Journalists
Belarusian Documentation Center
Barys Zvozskau Belarusian Human Rights House
Belarusian Congress of Democratic Trade Unions
Belarusian National Platform EaP CSF, Secretariat
Belarusian National Youth Council "RADA"
Belarusian Helsinki Committee
Office for the Rights of Persons with Disabilities
Legal Transformation Center (Lawtrend)