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Hughes Hubbard & Reed stands with imprisoned Viasna human rights defenders Document

2023 2023-03-24T12:46:01+0300 2023-05-02T22:06:38+0300 en The Human Rights Center “Viasna” The Human Rights Center “Viasna”
The Human Rights Center “Viasna”

Hughes Hubbard & Reed filed an expert declaration in the Lieninski District Court of Minsk court in the matter of human rights defenders Aliaksandr Bialiatski, Valiantsin Stefanovic, and Uladzimir Labkovich, who were sentenced to 10, 9, and 7 years in jail respectively.

The expert declaration on international law was prepared by a team of lawyers from the world-renowned international law firm Hughes Hubbard & Reed LLP. The firm provides legal services across a variety of practice areas, including public international law.

The declaration focused on how the charges against the human rights defenders in this case violate the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) to which Belarus is a signatory and emphasized that, as a State Party to the ICCPR, Belarus is obligated to “protect the rights guaranteed by the ICCPR and extend these guarantees to the Defendants.”  Having reviewed case materials and accounts of the public trial, Hughes Hubbard perceives that the prosecution of the defendants in this case “is the result of the exercise of their civil and political rights” and “seeks to silence dissent and penalize the Defendants for their work to protect fundamental rights.”  The declaration concluded that the charges against the human rights defenders “have no legitimate basis and constitute impermissible restrictions on the freedoms of expression, assembly, and association guaranteed by Article 19, Article 21, and Article 22 of the ICCPR.” According to the experts, the government has failed to demonstrate that these restrictions are necessary or proportionate. In addition, the pre-trial detention of Mr. Bialiatski, Mr. Stefanovic and Mr. Labkovich violated the ICCPR because it was arbitrary.  The declaration called for the acquittal of the defendants and their release from custody, consistent with Belarus’ obligations under international law.

“The filing of the expert declaration is significant because it is important for Belarus to continue to comply with core international human rights standards and to fulfill its obligations to ensure that the people of Belarus have access to the same protections available to others,” experts note.

Viasna human rights defenders Ales Bialiatski, Valiantsin Stefanovich, and Uladzimir Labkovich were detained on July 14, 2021, and accused of large-scale tax evasion. Shortly before the end of the investigation, the case against them was reclassified as “smuggling by an organized group” and “financing active actions that grossly violate public order.” On March 3, 2023, the Lieninski District court of Minsk sentenced Bialiatski to 10 years, Stefanovich to nine years, and Labkovich to seven years of imprisonment. Human rights defender Zmitser Salauyou who was tried in absentia was sentenced to eight years in a penal colony. In addition, the court imposed heavy fines on all defendants (ranging from 41,300 to 69,000 US dollars) and ordered to collect the amount of 752,000 Belarusian rubles (approx. 300,000 US dollars) as joint debt.

Hughes Hubbard & Reed stands with imprisoned Viasna human rights defenders

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