#FreeViasna: Weekly news digest on Viasna’s imprisoned human rights defenders

2021 2021-11-01T18:14:22+0300 2021-11-01T18:14:23+0300 en https://spring96.org/files/images/sources/chapyuk_22.jpg The Human Rights Center “Viasna” The Human Rights Center “Viasna”
The Human Rights Center “Viasna”

On September 17, dozens of Belarusian and international human rights groups launched #FreeViasna, the campaign of solidarity with the imprisoned human rights activists of Viasna. Here’s the latest news about the Viasna members held behind bars.

Rik Daems, President of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, has strongly condemned the crackdown on civil society and human rights defenders in Belarus. He is particularly concerned that seven members of Viasna, which documents human rights violations committed by the Belarusian authorities after the August 2020 presidential election, remain in custody:

“These seven people include three Viasna leaders, amongst whom are Ales Bialiatski, another winner of the Václav Havel Human Rights Prize. These and many others are rightly considered political prisoners.”

PACE President condemns recent reprisals against civil society and human rights defenders in Belarus

The President called on the authorities to fully respect the rights to freedom of association, assembly and expression, as well as all other human rights guaranteed by the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, to which Belarus is a party. 

Marfa Rabkova: “Everything has happened and is going happening as it should be”

Marfa Rabkova, coordinator Viasna’s network of volunteers, who has been in custody for more than a year already, has sent another letter:

“I have been in the pre-trial detention center for a long time, so I have already outstayed everyone else. Many were convicted, transferred or released. And I am still under investigation.”

Marfa writes that she is in good spirits and has no regrets:

“Do not regret it, everything has happened and is happening as it should be. I have a little faith in destiny and I don’t particularly regret what has already happened. I still believe that people come into our lives and leave for a reason. I don’t particularly believe in esotery, but I do believe in this.”

“He tries to enjoy the little things.” One year since Andrei Chapiuk's arrest

Andrei Chapiuk, a Viasna volunteer, has been kept in the pre-trial detention center for more than a year. During this time, he has read 55 books, written three digests of a programming manual and learned to do one-arm push ups.

“In his letters he says that he tries to enjoy the little things: he writes about his outdoors time and how happy he was to hear the birds singing,” says his partner Alena.

Andrei Chapiuk showing a martial arts technique to a Spider-Man
Andrei Chapiuk showing a martial arts technique to a Spider-Man

Valiantsin Stefanovich: “I will always remember this birthday”

Valiantsin Stefanovich, deputy chairman of Viasna and vice-president of the International Federation for Human Rights, has sent new letters to his family and friends. In one of them, he reflected on his imprisonment and shared the circumstances under which he had to celebrate his birthdays earlier:

“A weird place to celebrate one’s birthday, to put it mildly :) I’ve had to celebrate my birthdays in various circumstances: in the army, in international election observation missions, and during various work trips to different strange cities. So, no doubt, I will always remember this birthday. Most of all, I wish I do not have to celebrate my next few birthdays in a medium-security penal colony. I would not like to, of course, but as it will be, so it will be. I will accept any challenge of fate.”

Stefanovich also expressed his views on the referendum scheduled for February:

“I watch a lot of TV, so I am aware of the latest events. I mean the referendum. I realized that there would be a ‘soft transit’ of power. Well, what can you say? This is the result of last year’s events, when society very clearly expressed its distrust. Of course, this is not what people want and it is far from a full-fledged democracy in the country, but it is a forced step and it is the beginning of the end.”

Leanid Sudalenka and Tatsiana Lasitsa still on trial in Homieĺ

On October 18, the Centraĺny District Court of Homieĺ was expected to hear oral arguments in the trial of Leanid Sudalenka, Tatsiana Lasitsa and Maryia Tarasenka. However, Maryia did not appear in court. Later, it was confirmed that the volunteer had left Belarus.

Trial of Viasna members resumes in Homieĺ, volunteer Maryia Tarasenka leaves Belarus

Maryia Tarasenka, a volunteer of the Human Rights Center “Viasna” and a defendant in a politically motivated trial in Homieĺ, left the country, according to Andrei Stryzhak, co-founder of the BY_help and BYSOL initiatives.

According to available information, the trial was postponed to October 20, but Maryia had not been found by that time. As a result, the prosecutors asked for a month’s break to prepare a separate criminal case against Tarasenks, but Judge Siarhei Salouski gave them only a week. The trial resumed on October 26. The verdict is likely to be handed down in mid-November.

Support imprisoned members of Viasna by writing to them:

SIZO-3, 246003, Homieĺ, vul. Knižnaja, 1A

Leanid Sudalenka (Леаніду Леанідавічу Судаленку)

SIZO-3, 246003, Homieĺ, vul. Knižnaja, 1A

Tatsiana Lasitsa (Таццяне Леанідаўне Ласіцы)

SIZO-1, 220030, Minsk, vulica Valadarskaha 2

Marfa Rabkova (Марыі Аляксандраўне Рабковай)

SIZO-1, 220030, Minsk, vulica Valadarskaha 2

Ales Bialiatski (Аляксандру Віктаравічу Бяляцкаму)

SIZO-1, 220030, Minsk, vulica Valadarskaha 2

Andrei Chapiuk (Андрэю Сяргеевічу Чапюку)

SIZO-1, 220030, Minsk, vulica Valadarskaha 2

Uladzimir Labkovich (Уладзіміру Мікалаевічу Лабковічу

SIZO-1, 220030, Minsk, vulica Valadarskaha 2

Valiantsin Stefanovich (Стэфановічу Валянціну Канстанцінавічу)