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

2021 2021-11-22T16:39:49+0300 2021-11-22T16:39:50+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.

On November 24, Tatsiana Lasitsa will celebrate her birthday. Send your birthday wishes to the imprisoned human rights activist!

Tatsiana Lasitsa, the imprisoned volunteer of Viasna, will turn 43 on November 24. Unfortunately, the human rights activist will be behind bars on this special day. Congratulate Tatsiana by writing to her!

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

Tatsiana Lasitsa (Таццяне Леанідаўне Ласіцы)

Leanid Sudalenka: “Just assumptions. The only fact is helping people, but it is not prohibited!”

Leanid Sudalenka, head of Viasna’s branch in Homieĺ, sent a letter to human rights activist Vasil Paliakou. He thanks for the support and tells about his case.

“I am writing to you in a new status, a convict. <...>

Yesterday, I had a meeting with my wife, which I was entitled to after the verdict – 2 hours through the glass by phone. Kiryl and Lyonya are also next in line (Leanid’s elder sons). The youngest son is not allowed here.

I received the 48-page sentence. If you remove the spam, there is evidence obtained in violation of the law, unsubstantiated accusations by witness Kakoita (Katliarou), firewood for children, the meeting of Maryia Tulzhankova after her release from the detention center. It’s just assumptions. The only fact is helping people, but it is not prohibited! I will file a draft appeal by November 10. The period of consideration at the Regional Court will be about 3 months, i.e. until the end of January. I do not look further ahead, and why would I?”

EHU Professor on Marfa Rabkova: “A good and capable student. She studied well and was a worthy member of the student family”

In 2017, Marfa entered the European Humanities University to get a degree in International Law and EU Law.

EHU Professor Aliaksandr Vashkevich positively describes Marfa as a student:

“Marfa is a modest person, but at the same time responsible: she never broke deadlines. In the subjects I lectured, she got 9 points [out of 10]. So, Marfa is a good and capable student. She studied well and was a worthy member of the student family.”

Several EHU teachers signed personal guarantees urging to release Rabkova from pre-trial detention. Then Marfa would be able to continue her studies remotely. However, their request was ignored by the authorities.

"Marfa Rabkova has successfully completed the academic course of the first three years, with an average grade of 9.11 and no unfulfilled program requirements left. [Currently,] she is on the list of the fourth-year students taking advanced courses within the International Law and EU Law continual learning program", said Jolanta Benkauskaitė, head of the Social Sciences Academic Department at the European Humanities University.

On the International Students’ Day, Viasna told about the path taken by human rights activist Marfa Rabkova to receive a university degree.

Worried about being "half-educated". Studentship of Marfa Rabkova

The story of Marfa Rabkova as a student starts in Belarus. In 2012, she was enrolled in the Maksim Tank Belarusian State Pedagogical University majoring in Biology and Geography. However, she wasn’t able to complete her studies there, as in the autumn of 2015 (the year of the presidential election), Marfa was detained during a minor protest near the University building.

Amnesty International called on the Prosecutor General of Belarus to urgently provide medical assistance to human rights activist Marfa Rabkova, whose health is deteriorating after 14 months in pre-trial detention.

Amnesty International: Write to demand urgent medical assistance for Marfa Rabkova

She has been in pretrial detention since September 2020 and risks a lengthy jail sentence simply for her legitimate human rights work. Despite worrying symptoms and a deterioration of her health, the prison authorities have been denying her requests for medical care for months, including urgent dental treatment.

Uladzimir Labkovich: “I hope I will soon be able to hug my family and meet wonderful people”

Imprisoned human rights defender Uladzimir Labkovich has been in jail for more than four months. In a recent letter, he tells how he celebrated his birthday:

“I had a warm birthday. We had a homemade cake with tea. I wrote a fairy tale for my kids. There were also greeting cards. But unfortunately, a lot of congratulations were lost. The more pleasant is every letter that breaks through.

Unfortunately, the situation with letters is not getting any better. A lot of letters are lost along the way. There are only letters from children, wife and mother. This is very important to me. I especially miss my wife and children here”.

Uladzimir also notes that his eyesight is deteriorating, and shares his thoughts:

“Thank you very much for your handwriting and your capital letters. Eyesight is really badly damaged here. Mine is very bad, and so far it is not getting better, but only worse. <…>

Almost all my acquaintances and friends are either in jail or left the country. I was also faced with this choice, but decided I could not leave... I really hope that soon it will all be over and I will be able to hug my family and meet the wonderful people who are trying to support me from behind the walls."

Valiantsin Stefanovich: “You can convince yourself of your victory as much as you want, but the crisis of confidence in the current government will not go away”

Political prisoner Valiantsin Stefanovich sent a letter from behind bars, in which he said that his eyesight had deteriorated, and also reflected on the possible consequences of the announced referendum and the changes in society that have already taken place:

“Everything is more or less fine for me here. I sail in my submarine and occasionally float to the surface (for an hour and a half) to take a breath and look at the sky. Summer is over, now it’s late fall and winter is coming, New Year and Christmastime will soon begin. Surprisingly, I’m in the heart of the city, everything seems so close and at the same time so far.

Now I read nothing but newspapers, gave my eyes a rest. It seems to me my eyesight has dropped, the small letters are hard to read. From TV and newspapers I try to follow the news and try to catch some information about what is happening in the country. Speaking of what I think, then I can say that by the end of February next year the situation will remain difficult, everything will be harsh and repression will continue. All this cleansing, especially in the information sphere, is not accidental. They need to hold a referendum in February and launch a so-called ‘soft transit’ of power. We’ll see what happens next. Everything will depend on their next steps after the referendum. Whether it will be an early election of a new president, or they will take place in 2025. It is very likely that such tensions will persist until this very election. Afterwards, there may be some attempts to reboot and consequently to release political prisoners. It is likely that some of them will be released earlier. In general, I do not expect anything good in the near future.”

The human rights activist believes that the changes will definitely happen:

“Although the referendum itself is an interesting thing, it is obviously connected with the current political crisis. You can convince yourself of your victory as much as you want, but the crisis of confidence in the current government will not go away. They would not have carried out any constitutional reforms had it not been for last year’s events. But we must understand that this referendum is not what the Belarusian society wants. I believe that the crisis will not solve it, the tension will remain. The most important thing is that last year there were profound changes in our society and, as I wrote in my blog “Love No Longer Lives Here”: you can show daily confessions of love for the infamous character on TV, the reality is completely different, and everyone knows it – both them and us. As for the youth, our youth is wonderful, educated, free, without the Soviet burden on their shoulders. These generational changes are crucial. I believe that change is not far off. We observe the beginning of the twilight of this era, even based on the time limit for the infamous character. So, you will live to see these changes.”

#FreedomLetters: Vilnius hosts event to support imprisoned political prisoners

On November 20, within the framework of the Future of Democracy Forum in Vilnius, the Lithuanian Foreign Ministry and Viasna arranged an event of signing postcards for Belarusian political prisoners #FreedomLetters.

During the forum, dozens of diplomats and human rights defenders wrote postcards with words of support to Belarusian political prisoners, including imprisoned members of Viasna: Ales Bialiatski, Uladzimir Labkovich, Valiantsin Stefanovich, Marfa Rabkova, Leanid Sudalenka, Tatsiana Lasitsa and Andrei Chapiuk.

Lithuanian MP Laima Andrikienė writing a postcard to human rights defender Leanid Sudalenka

Write an open letter in support of the imprisoned members of Viasna

Send your open letters of solidarity in support of the Viasna activists by e-mail freeviasna@gmail.com or via Telegram @spring96info, and we will forward them our imprisoned colleagues. You can also write to them directly:

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)