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

2021 2021-11-08T17:12:11+0300 2021-11-08T17:12:50+0300 en https://spring96.org/files/images/sources/poster_freeviasna.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.

Leanid Sudalenka and Tatsiana Lasitsa convicted

On November 3, the Centraĺny District Court of Homieĺ announced its verdict in the criminal trial of Viasna human rights activist Leanid Sudalenka and volunteer Tatsiana Lasitsa.

Judge Siarhei Salouski found Sudalenka and Lasitsa guilty of “organizing and preparing actions that grossly violated public order” (Part 1, Article 342 of the Criminal Code), and “training and preparing persons to participate in such actions, as well as their financing or other material support” (Part 2, Article 342 of the Criminal Code). Leanid Sudalenka was sentenced to three years of imprisonment in a general-security penal colony, and Tatsiana Lasitsa to two and a half years of imprisonment in a general-security penal colony.

Another defendant in the trial, Viasna volunteer Maryia Tarasenka, left Belarus before the verdict was announced.

Eighteen human rights organizations issued a statement calling on the Belarusian authorities to immediately overturn the outrageous verdict and drop all charges against Sudalenka and Lasitsa. They also urge Belarus to release the other five members of Viasna currently waiting for their trials in detention.

Joint Statement on the Sentencing of Two Members of Human Rights Group Viasna in Belarus

Politically motivated prosecutions of Viasna members and volunteers are part of the ‘purge’ of Belarusian civil society declared by Aliaksandr Lukashenka and his government. Belarusian authorities’ targeting of Viasna in particular is no doubt designed to punish the organization for its outstanding and courageous human rights work over the course of 25 years.

The Human Rights Center "Viasna" released a separate statement in support of Leanid Sudalenka and Tatsiana Lasitsa:

“We, human rights defenders of Viasna, strongly protest against this new wave of attack on the organization, condemn the use of cruelty and arbitrary imprisonment as instruments of pressure on human rights defenders and all segments of civil society in general, and reaffirm our readiness to continue peaceful legitimate activities for the promotion of human rights.

We urge the authorities return to the law-ruled relations with the country’s civil society, immediately overturn the arbitrary sentences against Leanid Sudalenka and Tatsiana Lasitsa, and release the detained members and volunteers of the Human Rights Center “Viasna” - Marfa Rabkova, Ales Bialiatski, Valiantsin Stefanovich, Uladzimir Labkovich, and Andrei Chapiuk. We also call to release other political prisoners deprived of their liberty for the peaceful exercise of their rights and to reconsider the sentences handed down to them.”

Viasna strongly protests sentencing of Leanid Sudalenka and Tatsiana Lasitsa

The criminal prosecution of the three human rights defenders of Viasna is an arbitrary repressive response of the authorities to their exclusively legitimate, peaceful and public activities to protect and promote human rights.

Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights Dunja Mijatović reacted to the sentencing of the two members of Viasna:

“[The] verdict against two members of the Belarusian human rights centre Vyasna - Leanid Sudalenka and Tatsiana Lasitsa – sentenced respectively to three and to two and a half years of imprisonment in a colony, is another illustration of the reprisals against human rights defenders taking place in Belarus since the presidential elections of August 2020.”

Maryia Tarasenka told about Tatsiana Lasitsa’s health during the trial

Leanid Sudalenka’s aide Tatsiana Lasitsa was seriously ill during her stay in the pre-trial detention center. Tatsiana was in great pain during the closed two-month trial, but the judge did not pay due attention to her complaints.

“During the first two or three hearings, a prison doctor came to the courtroom, and then the judge said that you [the defendants] were distracting pre-trial detention center staff from their work and the paramedic was supposed to perform other duties and could not be in court all the time. Both Leanid and Tatsiana were examined and signed papers certifying that they were fit to attend the trial,” Tarasenka said.

We do not disclose Tatsiana's diagnosis, but we know it from Maryia Tarasenka, who was present at the trial. In addition, Tatsiana reportedly has low hemoglobin and suffers from anemia.

Tatsiana Lasitsa during the trial. Credit: newsgomel.by
Tatsiana Lasitsa during the trial. Credit: newsgomel.by

Uladzimir Labkovich: “Thank you very much for so many rays of warmth”

Uladzimir Labkovich sent a message from behind bars. He says that he has not been allowed to receive and send letters on a regular basis, so in his rare answers Labkovich again stresses that letters to prisoners are a breath of fresh air and inspiration:

“Thank you so much for your birthday greetings! You can’t even imagine how inspiring every letter that comes here is. It’s incredible support! Thank you so much for so many rays of warmth.”

A postcard Uladzimir Labkovich sent

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)