#FreeViasna: Weekly news digest on Viasna’s imprisoned human rights defenders
Imprisoned Viasna human rights defenders were mentioned during the UN Human Rights Council session
On June 28, 2022, UN Special Rapporteur on Belarus Anaïs Marin presented her report on the situation of human rights in Belarus at the 50th Session of the Human Rights Council.
The Interactive Dialogue followed the presentation with the Special Rapporteur in which Viasna human rights defender Pavel Sapelka took part. He thanked the Human Rights Council for founding and maintaining the mandate of the Special Rapporteur on Belarus since 2012, and Ms. Anaïs Marin for providing the Belarusian human rights community with an important tool for reporting and drawing the attention of the international community.
Pavel Sapelka asked not to ignore the human rights situation in Belarus because, in his opinion, terror against its own citizens allowed the Belarusian authorities to unleash an aggressive war against the will of the Belarusian people.
A representative of the Right Livelihood Foundation thanked the Special Rapporteur for the attention she paid to imprisoned Viasna human rights defenders. She noted that it had been almost a year since the Viasna leadership had been imprisoned, the number of political prisoners had doubled, and they were all in inhumane conditions.
The representative of Human Rights Watch also noted that there were more than 1,200 political prisoners in Belarus, including seven representatives of the renowned human rights organization Viasna. In 2021, The Belarusian authorities closed down all human rights organizations in the country in 2021, and participation in them is equal to a crime.
The representative of the World Organization Against Torture (OMCT) in her speech said that human rights defenders are subjected to continuous persecution and stressed:
“In just two weeks we will be commemorating the first anniversary of the arbitrary detention of the leaders of Human Rights Center ‘Viasna’ – Ales Bialiatski, Valiantsin Stefanovich, and Uladzimir Labkovich. Four other Viasna members are also imprisoned, as well as at least 30 journalists and media workers and four lawyers. There are more than 1200 political prisoners in Belarus. Torture and ill-treatment both against political detainees and other prisoners remain widespread.”
In her speech, she called on the Human Rights Council to extend the mandate of the Special Rapporteur on Belarus.
Marfa Rabkova: “By no means should you give up and fall into despair”
Marfa Rabkova, Andrei Chapiuk, and eight other political prisoners have been on a closed trial for a third month now, but she has not lost optimism:
"I hope you are all as well as possible considering the circumstances. By no means should you give up and fall into despair. I believe that everything must come to an end and fall into place.’\”
Hanna, a friend of Marfa Rabkova, ‘takes’ the human rights activist on trips and continues to ‘show’ her different countries and interesting places. This time Marfa has been to Istanbul (Turkey), Tbilisi and Batumi (Georgia), where she "saw" the sea, the "Museum of Innocence" founded by writer Orhan Pamuk, the Galata Tower, and other landmarks.
Aksana Kolb, the editor-in-chief of Novy Čas newspaper who was recently released from detention sentence awaiting the commencement sentence met Marfa Rabkova in detention and spoke to Viasna about the human rights defender's condition.
It is known that correspondence with volunteer Andrei Chapiuk has deteriorated significantly in recent months.
Valiantsin Stefanovich: "I was shocked by such news"
In one of his letters, Viasna human rights defender Valiantsin Stefanovich shared his impressions of the news about the amendments to the legislation related to the death penalty. Recall that the House of Representatives of the National Assembly adopted in two readings at once the amendments to the Criminal Code which introduce the death penalty for "attempted acts of terrorism". He wrote that he had been shocked by such news and had not even been able to imagine the possibility of the death penalty being used for political purposes.
There was no news from Viasna Chairperson Ales Bialiatski and lawyer Uladzimir Labkovich last week.
July 14 will be one year since the arrest of Ales Bialiatski, Valiantsin Stefanovich, and Uladzimir Labkovich detained for their peaceful human rights activities.
The correspondence of the head of Viasna Homieĺ branch Leanid Sudalenka (sentenced to three years of imprisonment) and volunteer Tatsiana Lasitsa (sentenced to 2.5 years) deteriorated significantly since they were transferred to penal colonies.