Viasna calls to release its activist Dzmitry Salauyou and end repression of human rights defenders
Statement by the Board of the Human Rights Center “Viasna”
Minsk – February 19, 2021
On February 16, 2021, law enforcement officers in Minsk and in other cities of Belarus raided dozens of offices and private apartments of members of the Human Rights Center "Viasna", the Belarusian Association of Journalists, the Independent Trade Union REP and other civil society activists. Viasna’s local offices in Mahilioŭ, Rečyca, Mazyr, and Brest were searched, among others, together with the organization’s two offices in Minsk. The police raids were authorized by Deputy Prosecutor General as part of a criminal investigation under Art. 342 of the Criminal Code (group actions that grossly violate public order).
In one of the raids, the police searched the private house of Dzmitry Salauyou, a member of the Board of the Human Rights Center “Viasna”. At about 7 am, GUBAZIK officers and riot police broke down the front door without and stormed the house any warning. During the raid, Dzmitry Salauyou was beaten, then detained for unknown reasons and placed in a pre-trial detention center.
On February 18, the Minsk District Court found Dzmitry Salauyou guilty of “staging a one-person picket” and sentenced him to 12 days of administrative detention under Part 1 of Art. 23.34 of the Administrative Code (violation of the order of organization and participation in unauthorized mass events). The charge stemmed from a concrete relief of the Belarusian historical emblem Pahonia on the wall of his house. This relief with the image of the coat of arms, which was entered in the state register of historical and cultural values of Belarus, was installed during the construction of the house about eight years ago.
This trial once again clearly demonstrated the depth of the current meltdown of the Belarusian judicial system and resulted in a clearly unlawful and politically motivated sentence.
In response to these events, we, members of the Board of the Human Rights Center "Viasna", once again note the following.
The activities of the Human Rights Center "Viasna" pursue legitimate goals and constitute peaceful work for the protection of human rights in Belarus, guaranteed by both the country’s Constitution and international human rights standards. Any pressure and persecution of Viasna members for such activities is a politically motivated persecution aimed at silencing and wiping out our organization.
We strongly protest against the new wave of repression against Viasna members and declare that we will not stop our human rights activities in defense of the rights of our citizens.
We demand the immediate release of Dzmitry Salauyou, a member of the Board of the Human Rights Center “Viasna”, as well as the release of Viasna members Marfa Rabkova, Andrei Chapiuk, Leanid Sudalenka and Tatsiana Lasitsa. We demand an end to the repression in the country and the release of all political prisoners.