Liquidation, arrests, trials, and expulsion. After 27 years of repression, Viasna continues its activities
Since its establishment in 1996, the human rights organization Viasna-96, transformed into the Viasna Human Rights Center, has been systematically and ruthlessly persecuted by the Belarusian authorities for its legitimate activities. Criminal prosecutions, arrests, beatings, searches, detentions, fines, censorship of websites and social media, and intimidation have been the reality for many members of the organization. A complete list of facts of persecution would be over a hundred pages long. Most often, however, the "lightning of regime anger" struck the organization's leadership — its head, Ales Bialiatski, members of the organization's board, and the heads of its regional branches. What follows is a chronicle of the persecution of Viasna human rights defenders over the 27 years of the activity of the organization.
26 April 1996. Viasna-96 human rights organization was established.
23 February 1997. Viasna-96 was officially registered as Minsk Human Rights Centre Viasna-96.
In 1998, Viasna-96 was liquidated by the decision of the Justice Department under the Minsk City Executive Committee.
9 November 1998. The Partyzanski District Court of Minsk issued a warning to Ales Bialiatski, chairman of the Viasna-96 Human Rights Center, for attending a protest organized by the Free Trade Union as an observer on 5 November.
15 June 1999. The public association Viasna Human Rights Center was registered.
4 October 1999. Officers of the Centraĺny District Police Department of Minsk and plainclothes police raided the apartment on Kisialiova Street where the Viasna HRC was located. The "inspection" of the flat with elements of search lasted from 6 to 10 pm. As a result, two computers, two printers, a scanner, a printer, a modem, and the entire print run of the Right to Freedom bulletin in three languages were confiscated.
8 November 1999. Ales Bialiatski, chairman of the Viasna HRC, was arrested in the Centraĺny District Police Department of Minsk. Together with the Center's staff, he went there to retrieve his computer, which had been seized along with other office equipment during the search on 4 October of that year. Ales Bialiatski was arrested and taken to Saviecki District Police Department. The duty officer motivated his arrest by the fact that Bialiatski was one of the organizers of the Freedom March on 17 October and was charged with the organization of an unauthorized demonstration (part 2 of article 167-1 of the Code of Administrative Offenses). After being detained at the police station for more than three hours, Bialiatski was transferred to a temporary detention center.
12 November 1999. Ales Bialiatski, chairman of the Viasna HRC, was summoned to the Centraĺny District Court of Minsk as a "violator". He was charged under part 2 of Article 172 of the Code of Administrative Offenses (illegal production and distribution of printed materials). At the trial, Ales Bialiatski was able to prove that the seizure report drawn up after the search of the Viasna office, didn't mention the number of bulletins seized, and that the new report specifying the number was only drawn up in the Centraĺny District Police Department. As a result, the trial was postponed.
26 November 1999. An administrative case, initiated by Centraĺny District Prosecutor's Office based on the submitted reports, was considered in the Centraĺny District Court of Minsk. Ales Bialiatski, the chairman of Viasna HRC, who was also the editor-in-chief of the human rights bulletin Right to Freedom, was charged with violating Part 8 of Article 172-1 of the Code of Administrative Offenses (illegal production and distribution of mass media products). Bialiatski was fined 10 minimal wages.
10 December 1999. Ales Bialiatski was detained for 15 days for participation in an unauthorized protest devoted to the anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
18 August 2000. Viasna HRC received a warning. It pointed out the errors in the organization's letterhead and seal (lack of quotation marks, capitalization of the word "center" on the seal).
26 October 2000. The Ministry of Justice of the Republic of Belarus issued the second written warning to Viasna board. The Ministry stated that in its bulletin Right to Freedom, the Human Rights Center uses a name that doesn't correspond to the name in the registration certificate issued by the Ministry of Justice: the name of the Viasna HRC should include the words "Public Association" in all publications.
10 December 2000. An attempt to arrest the head of Viasna HRC, Ales Bialiatski, was undertaken when he was leaving the Kastryčnickaja metro station.
27 December 2000. Viasna HRC received a repeated written warning from the Ministry of Justice. The document stated that on 26 October 2000, a written warning was issued to Viasna's board. Viasna HRC stated that the relevant response to that warning had been sent to the Ministry of Justice in due time, but it was never received.
2 April 2001. Ales Bialiatski, chairman of Viasna HRC was sentenced to 10 days of administrative detention by the Centraĺny District Court of Minsk. He was arrested on 15 March after the action devoted to Freedom Day and spent the night in a temporary detention center. On 26 March, Judge Pauliuchuk tried Ales Bialiatski under part 2 of Article 167-1 of the Code of Administrative Offenses (organizing an unauthorized demonstration), but the hearing was postponed to 2 April.
27 and 28 August 2001 The Ministry of Justice of the Republic of Belarus issued two written warnings to Viasna HRC. The agency published a press release stating that it was considering liquidating the organization. The Ministry of Justice accused Viasna HRC of publishing a special edition of the bulletin Right to Freedom with more than 299 copies and of failing to submit the lists of observers appointed by Viasna HRC to the Ministry of Justice, thus "violating the requirements of the special order on records management".
1 September 2001. Ales Bialiatski, the Viasna HRC council chair, was arrested on grounds of identity check. He was detained in the Saviecki District Police Department till 7 pm and then released.
28 March 2002. Viasna's website was blocked for three days. The disruption followed the publication of lawyer Siarhei Tsurko’s speach at the trial of Valery Ihnatovich, the former officer of the Almaz special police unit, and others accused of kidnapping the All-Russian TV cameraman Dzmitry Zavadski.
13 April 2002. Ales Bialiatski, Viasna HRC chair, and Siarhei Zaleuski, a member of the organization, were arrested on their way to Kasciukovičy (Mahilioŭ Region) to visit local activists of Viasna. The police found the Right to Freedom bulletins in the car. They were kept in the police station for about an hour.
In July 2003, the fifth governmental audit of the Viasna HRC activity started. The four previous examinations concerned regional branches of the organization: Viciebsk, Brest, Homieĺ, and Minsk. The audits of regional branches' activities started right after the local election. At that time the Ministry of Justice checked all the statutory activities of Viasna HRC.
2 September 2003. The Ministry of Justice of the Republic of Belarus filed a suit with the Supreme Court to liquidate Viasna HRC. The Ministry accused the association of committing violations that could in no way be considered sufficient for it to be liquidated.
21 October 2003. The Supreme Court was to hear the case initiated by the Ministry of Justice for the liquidation of Viasna HRC. At about 10 am, when the registration of those present in the courtroom was underway, police officers appeared and announced that, according to their information, the Supreme Court building had been mined.
28 October 2003. The Supreme Court of Belarus ruled to liquidate Viasna HRC. The reason for the closure of the organization was a warning from the Ministry of Justice for violating election laws during the 2001 presidential elections. Ales Bialiatski, Uladzimir Labkovich, Valiantsin Stefanovich, Aleh Zhlutka, Uladzimir Vialichkin, Mikalai Lemianouski, Dzmitry Salauyou, and Aliaksei Kolchyn, in protest and disagreement with the court's decision, sat on the floor of the courtroom and began to chant "Shame on you!" The protest action continued till 5.30 pm. As darkness fell, plainclothes police twisted the arms of the demonstrators, escorted them out through the courtyard, and took them to the Leninski District Police Department in Minsk. There they were charged under Article 166 of the Administrative Code (defiance of police orders). The human rights activists received court summonses for October 29 and were released around 10 pm.
29 October 2003. The Leninski District Court of Minsk ordered to fine Valiantsin Stefanovich, Aliaksei Kolchyn, Dzmitry Salauyou, Aleh Zhlutka, Uladzimir Vialichkin, Mikola Lemianouski, and Ales Bialiatski 5 base values each, Uladzimir Labkovich — 10 base values for protesting against Viasna HRC liquidation at the Supreme Court.
25 March 2004. Ales Bialiatski, Viasna HRC chair, and Valiantsin Stefanovich, a lawyer of the organization, were detained and beaten on Freedom Square in Minsk.
29 March 2004. The head of Viasna HRC, Ales Bialiatski, was summoned to the Republican Prosecutor's Office for an "interview" with Prosecutor Novikau, who dealt with the activities of public organizations, political parties, religious organizations, and the media. The prosecutor asked several questions about Bialiatski's activities in non-governmental organizations: in which organizations he participated, and whether he had anything to do with the Assembly of Democratic NGOs and its magazine.
13 April 2004. Viasna HRC filed a complaint with the UN Human Rights Committee. The complaint was submitted on behalf of Ales Bialiatski, the council chair, and nine other members of the association.
22 December 2004. The police of Centraĺny District of Minsk arrested over 60 people who were planning to go to Ukraine as international observers at the presidential election. Among the detained were Ales Bialiatski and other members of Viasna HRC. A few hours later they were released.
17 April 2005. The Saviecki District Prosecutor's Office in Minsk has issued a warning to human rights defender Ales Bialiatski under Article 400 of the Criminal Code (knowingly false report) for his comments on the violent dispersal of a peaceful demonstration on March 25, which were published on the website charter97.org. Similar warnings were issued to human rights defenders Uladzimir Labkovich and Liudmila Hraznova.
10 December 2005. On the anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, riot policemen beat and detained human rights defenders Ales Bialiatski and Valiantsin Stefanovich in Minsk.
10 December 2006. The police arrested Ales Bialiatski and Valiantsin Stefanovich for participating in the action of solidarity with political prisoner Aliaksandr Kazulin.
23 August 2007. Viasna HRC was denied state registration. During the examination of the documents submitted by Viasna to the Ministry of Justice, the founders of the organization appealed to the registration body with a proposal to remedy all flaws in case they were revealed. The Ministry of Justice expressly refused such cooperation. This vividly testified to the position of the agency, which was looking for reasons to deny registration rather than objectively reviewing the documents.
26 October 2007. The Supreme Court rejected the appeal against the Ministry of Justice's decision to deny registration to Viasna HRC.
March 2008. Human rights defenders Ales Bialiatski, Valiantsin Stefanovich, Uladzimir Labkovich, Tatsiana Reviaka, Viktar Sazonau, and Uladzimir Khilmanovich were put on special border control registers. Each time they crossed the border, their belongings were subjected to a special inspection, and a customs inspection report was drawn up for some of them.
10 December 2008. Ales Bialiatski, Uladzimir Labkovich, Aleh Matskevich, Maryna Statkevich, Valiantsin Stefanovich, Siarhei Sys, and Iryna Toustik were violently arrested while handing out Declarations on Independence Avenue in Minsk. All of them were taken to Centraĺny District Police Department and kept there for about two hours and then released. The leaflets were confiscated.
26 February 2009. The Ministry of Justice refused to register the public association Nasha Viasna. On April 22, the Supreme Court of the Republic of Belarus rejected the appeal of Nasha Viasna founders and upheld the ruling of the Ministry of Justice of February 26. On May 25, the Ministry of Justice again refused to register Nasha Viasna.
12 August 2009. The Supreme Court of Belarus dismissed the appeal of the founders of Nasha Viasna against the Ministry of Justice's refusal to register the NGO.
24 March 2010. Human rights defenders Valiantsin Stefanovich, Ales Bialiatski, and Iryna Toustik and journalist Siarhei Sys were arrested by riot police in front of the Presidential Administration holding a banner reading "No to Death Penalty". They were protesting against Belarus' violation of its international obligations by executing Vasil Yuzepchuk and Andrei Zhuk. The human rights activists were taken to Leninski District Police Department, where administrative offense reports were drawn up. Siarhei Sys was released. The human rights activists spent the night before the trial in Minsk temporary detention center. They were punished with a fine of 0.5 base values.
20 December 2010. Plain-clothed police seized all computers and other equipment from Viasna HRC's office. Human rights activists and observers Valiantsin Stefanovich, Uladzimir Labkovich, Nasta Loika, Andrei Paluda, Dzmitry Salauyou, Siarhei Sys, Uladzimir Mikalayeu, Aleh Zhlutka, Kanstantsin Staradubets, and Vital Charniauski were arrested. They were taken to the Pieršamajski District Police Department of Minsk. The following morning all 10 detainees were released from the station after providing explanations; no reports were drawn up. OSCE representatives facilitated this.
17 January 2011. The Viasna HRC office and the home of human rights defender Ales Bialiatski were searched. KGB officers produced a warrant signed by the prosecutor of Minsk. The investigative activities were carried out in the criminal case related to post-election protests.
16 February 2011. Ales Bialiatski, Viasna HRC chair and vice-president of the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH), was officially warned against potential law violations. The warning was signed by Deputy Prosecutor General of the Republic of Belarus M. I. Kuklis. The warning stated that Bialiatski's actions on behalf of Viasna HRC, which doesn't have state registration, contradict the legislation of the Republic of Belarus. The human rights defender was warned that he could face criminal charges if he continued his activities.
4 August 2011. Ales Bialiatski was detained for three days on suspicion of "committing a crime". Viasna's office and the human rights defender's home and summer house were searched. Ales Bialiatski was taken to the Department of Financial Investigations for interrogation.
12 August 2011. Ales Bialiatski was charged under Part 2 Article 243 of the Criminal Code (grand concealment of income).
23 August 2011. Human rights defenders Dzmitry Salauyou, Maryna Statkevich, Aleh Matskevich, Alena Laptsionak, and several activists were detained at Kastryčnickaja Square in Minsk for holding an awareness-raising action calling on people to become guarantors for Ales Bialiatski. They were released after providing explanations.
24 November 2011. Judge of the Pieršamajski District Court of Minsk Siarhei Bandarenka pronounced the sentence upon the vice-president of the International Federation of Human Rights and chairman of Viasna HRC Ales Bialiatski: four and a half years of imprisonment and civil asset forfeiture. The defendants' assets, including those registered in the names of other persons, were confiscated. The court ordered Bialiatski to pay $828.7 million in damages and $41.4 million in state duty.
24 January 2012. The Minsk City Court upheld the verdict, and the human rights defender was transported to Babrujsk correctional facility No. 2 to serve his sentence.
29 February 2012. Valiantsin Stefanovich received two rulings on the initiation of enforcement proceedings based on the court decision for the recovery of income tax, penalties, and state duty. Within seven days, he was to pay $39.4 million in income taxes, $28.5 million in non-payment penalties, and $3.4 million in state duty. The case of Valiantsin Stefanovich was directly related to the case of the convicted Ales Bialiatski and the far-reaching persecution of Viasna members.
28 March 2012. The Prosecutor General's Office informed the deputy chairman of Viasna HRC, Valiantsin Stefanovich, who had been banned from traveling, that his complaint was forwarded to the Ministry of Defense. On April 12, the Ministry of Defense, in its turn, forwarded the complaint to the Partyzanski District Directorate of Internal Affairs. The reason for the imposition of the travel ban on Stefanovich was his alleged evasion of military conscription.
22 April 2012. Hrodna human rights activists Viktar Sazonau and Uladzimir Khilmanovich, who were returning to Belarus from Vilnius, were detained by customs officers at the Pryvalka border crossing. A customs officer saw human rights literature in their bags and ordered their car into a special inspection zone. Sazonau and Khilmanovich underwent a pat frisk. A seizure report was drawn up for Nasha Viasna books and photo albums dedicated to political prisoners and 2010 post-election protests.
17 August 2012. Tatsiana Reviaka, Viasna HRC board member, was summoned to the KGB for an interview "as a person cognizant of the circumstances affecting the national security of the Republic of Belarus". The interview was conducted by Captain Aliaksandr Rubinau and Senior Operative Officer Aliaksandr Breyeu. KGB officers were interested in the information posted on the spring96.org website.
27 September 2012. The Saviecki District Tax Inspectorate of Homieĺ demanded that human rights defender Leanid Sudalenka declare his income and assets for the past five years. Income and property declarations also had to be provided by his wife and son, who was serving in the army at the time.
6 October 2012. Human rights activist Nasta Loika was detained for several hours on the Lithuanian-Belarusian border. She was returning from Vilnius by bus.
26 November 2012. Enforcement agents, police officers, a plain-clothed cameraman, utility service providers, and two witnesses to the search came to the Viasna HRC office, which the organization occupied for 12 years. The enforcement agents sealed the apartment.
18 December 2012. Human rights defenders Viktar Sazonau, Raman Yurhel, and Uladzimir Khilmanovich were questioned at the police station, and late on December 19 they were charged under Article 23.34 of the Administrative Offenses Code for taking part in an unauthorized protest. The case was related to an article that appeared on Viasna's website on December 10, International Human Rights Day. The article featured photos of Hrodna human rights defenders expressing solidarity with the imprisoned Ales Bialiatski.
5 January 2013. The Leninski District Court of Hrodna considered the administrative cases of Hrodna human rights defenders Viktar Sazonau, Raman Yurhel, and Uladzimir Khilmanovich. On 10 December 2012, they were photographed with portraits of imprisoned human rights defender Ales Bialiatski and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. This was qualified as an "unauthorized picket" and they were fined 15 base values each.
2 March 2013. Malicious users accessed the website of the Mahilioŭ branch of Viasna and published three provocative articles, including a threatening publication allegedly written by human rights defender Barys Bukhel addressed to independent journalist Ales Burakou. Unknown persons hacked into the website and changed the admin passwords. Furthermore, human rights publications from the past two years were destroyed.
25 April 2013. The website of Viasna HRC was hacked. As a result of the unauthorized access to the site, the message of some publications was changed drastically. This was done in three languages: Belarusian, Russian, and English.
26 April 2013. Hrodna human rights defender and journalist Uladzimir Khilmanovich was summoned to the KGB Directorate for the Hrodna Region. A KGB agent explained that the reason for the summons was "within the competence of the KGB Directorate". Uladzimir Khilmanovich received a verbal warning for certain publications. The KGB believed that some content bordered on discrediting Belarus.
5 August 2013. Human rights defenders Tatsiana Reviaka and Uladzimir Labkovich were detained while handing out postcards with information about imprisoned human rights activist Ales Bialiatski in Minsk. They were charged with violating the public assembly law (Article 23.34 of the Code of Administrative Offenses) and fined 30 base values the following day.
10 February 2014. The Ašmiany District Court heard the civil case of human rights activist Tatsiana Reviaka against the Ašmiany customs office, which ordered to re-export to Lithuania 40 copies of a book by human rights defender Ales Bialiatski, confiscated from her at the border crossing. At the second hearing, the court dismissed the human rights activist's case and ruled that the ban on importing the publication into Belarus was legally valid.
24 November 2015. An unauthorized protest organized by opposition politician Mikalai Statkevich was held in the center of Minsk. The action was timed to the anniversary of the 1996 referendum. Administrative offense reports were drawn up against at least 12 people. Among them were Natallia Satsunkevich and Siarhei Kaspiarovich, observers from Viasna HRC and Belarusian Helsinki Committee.
18 January 2016. Ales Bialiatski, head of Viasna HRC, received a ruling from the Partyzanski District Compulsory Enforcement Department of Minsk that a share of the apartment where he lived with his family had been forfeited. Only a few weeks later it turned out that the assets had been frozen by mistake.
27 May 2016. Access to the spring96.org website was restricted for government agency workers.
25 October 2016. Aliaksei Kolchyn, head of the Viasna branch in Mahilioŭ, received a notice from the Tax Inspectorate for the Leninski District of Mahilioŭ demanding that he visit the office as soon as possible to provide explanations under the Decree On Prevention of Social Dependency. By November 15, the human rights defender was supposed to pay a "tax on unemployment" as an individual who "does not finance public spending".
25 March 2017. The Viasna HRC office was raided during the briefing of volunteers who were to monitor the demonstration, which had been announced by the opposition the day before. As a result, more than 50 volunteers, journalists, and representatives of foreign and international organizations were detained. Among those detained were Aleh Hulak (Chair of the Belarusian Helsinki Committee), Raisa Mikhailouskaya, Liudmila Kuchura, Dzmitry Drozd (Belarusian Documentation Center), Ales Bialiatski, Nasta Loika, Irina Smiayan-Semianyuk, Siarhei Semyaniuk, Maria Shishchenkova (Front Line Defenders), Evgenia Andriyuk (CrimeaSOS). As a result of the illegal use of physical force by riot police officers, Aliaksei Loika was hospitalized with a head injury. His request to initiate criminal proceedings against the police was later dismissed. According to a response from the Investigative Committee received by Loika, the raid on the office of the Viasna HRC and the subsequent detention of all the human rights defenders present were initiated by the KGB.
26 March 2017. Five human rights defenders were administratively detained for participation in an unauthorized meeting: Leanid Svetsik, Kanstantsin Mardvintsau (Viasna HRC), Pavel Levinau, Ales Yauseyenka and Eduard Balanchuk (BHC). Tatsiana Reviaka, president of the Human Rights House, was arrested and fined based on false testimonies of the riot police.
25 March 2018. While monitoring an unauthorized procession on Yakub Kolas Square in Minsk, seven observers from the joint public assembly monitoring service of Viasna HRC and the Belarusian Helsinki Committee were arrested by riot police. Maksim Kavaliou, Tatsiana Mastykina, Andrei Krechka, Hanna Sakhankova, and Nasta Loika were detained and taken to the Saviecki District Police Department of Minsk, and Anastasia Vasilchuk was taken to Pieršamajski District Police Department of Minsk. She was later released without any charges. The other six observers were administratively prosecuted for violating the rules on participation in a mass meeting (Article 23.34 of the Code of Administrative Offenses). Observer Tatsiana Mastykina was additionally charged with defiance of police orders (Article 23.4 of the Code of Administrative Offenses). In addition, physical force was used against her for refusing to be fingerprinted.
15 September 2018. Svietlahorsk Viasna human rights activist Alena Masliukova received a written warning from the prosecutor. The prosecutor believed that she could be the organizer of an unauthorized public assembly: a rally against the operation of the bleached pulp plant was planned for September 15 in Svietlahorsk, but the authorities had scheduled another event at the same location. However, people still gathered in the square and held a flash mob against the plant's emissions. On 9 October, after three court hearings, Alena Masliukova was fined $286.
8 November 2018. Ales Burakou, a member of the Viasna HRC, was summoned for questioning by Senior Lieutenant Pavel Kot of the Kastryčnicki District Police Department in Mahilioŭ. The reason was an investigation under article 193-1 of the Criminal Code (illegal organization or participation in the activities of a public association, religious organization or foundation) because, according to the police officer, Ales Burakou managed the website "Human Rights in Mahilioŭ", which was affiliated with Viasna HRC and operates without state registration.
23 November 2018. Svislač District Court ruled to fine Viasna member Viktar Sazonau $172 under Article 23.34 of the Code of Administrative Offenses (participation in an unauthorized public assembly). On October 27, activists traditionally gathered in Svislač to commemorate the insurgents of 1863.
16 February 2019. Viasna human rights activist Uladzimir Vialichkin was arrested in Brest. Police officers visited him at home on 15 February, but the human rights activist was out. Vialichkin was arrested for allegedly taking part in a protest action against a car battery plant in Brest. After two days in the temporary detention facility, he was fined $172.
10 May 2020. Human rights defenders Raman Kisliak and Uladzimir Vialichkin were arrested at a protest action against a car battery plant. Their whereabouts were not known for more than a day. As a result, the court punished Uladzimir Vialichkin under part 3 of article 23.34 with a fine of $553. He was detained again.
15 May 2020. The police arrested Ales Burakou (Sasha Raikon), a member of the Mahilioŭ branch of Viasna, in his home. The police officers brought the human rights defender to the Leninski District Police Department of Mahilioŭ. He was accused of taking part in the protest near Mahilioŭ temporary detention facility on May 6. The court sentenced him to 10 days of administrative detention.
17 June 2020. Human rights defender Alena Masliukova from Svietlahorsk was fined $340 under part 1 of Article 23.34 of the Code of Administrative Offenses (violation of the rules of holding a public assembly).
19 June 2020. Human rights defender Siarhei Latsinski was arrested in Babrujsk during a "solidarity chain" protest. His wife Alesia Latsinskaya, a journalist at bobr.by, was also arrested. On June 22, the court sentenced Siarhei Latsinski to 10 days of detention under Article 23.34 of the Code of Administrative Offenses.
29 July 2020. Human rights activist and observer of the Human Rights Defenders for Free Elections campaign Alena Masliukova and six other participants of solidarity bike rallies were detained in Svietlahorsk.
10 August 2020. Viasna human rights defender Aleh Matskevich was arrested in Barysaŭ. He received a call from the police and was asked to come in for questioning in some criminal case. Matskevich was arrested when he was on his way to the election commission for a response to the complaint he had filed earlier. Matskevich was brought to the local police station. This was the fourth Viasna regional coordinator who has been arrested. Earlier, Alena Masliukova was arrested in Svietlahorsk, Uladzimir Vialichkin — in Brest, and Ales Kaputski — in Maladziečna. Aliaksandr and Ales Burakous, Viasna members from Mahilioŭ, were sentenced to a 10-day administrative detention.
17 September 2020. Marfa Rabkova, the coordinator of the volunteer service at Viasna HRC, was arrested by officers of the Main Department for Combating Organized Crime in Minsk. She was placed in the pre-trial detention center in Minsk and accused of preparation and financing of protests (part 3 of Article 293 of the Criminal Code). On 2 October, Andrei Chapiuk, a Viasna volunteer, was arrested and taken into custody. He was charged with part 2 of Article 293 of the Criminal Code (participation in mass riots).
2 November 2020. Viasna human rights activist Maryna Kastylianchanka was tried by the Zavodski District Court of Minsk under two articles of the Code of Administrative Offenses: 23.34 (participation in an unauthorized public assembly) and 23.4 (defiance of police orders). She was accused of "participating in an unauthorized picket for the change of the regime" on 30 October. A group of eight anarchists was arrested on the evening of October 30 after meeting their friend Aliaksandr Bialou, who had just been released from administrative detention. On 14 November, Maryna Kastylianchanka was repeatedly sentenced to 15 days in the temporary detention facility in Baranavičy.
18 January 2021. Human rights defender Leanid Sudalenka was arrested on his way to his office in Homieĺ. Tatsiana Lasitsa, a Viasna volunteer, was detained at Minsk airport on 21 January 2021. They were accused of organizing and preparing actions that grossly violate public order (part 1 of Article 342 of the Criminal Code) and of instructing and preparing individuals to participate in such actions, as well as financing them (part 2 of article 342 of the Criminal Code). On 18 January, Maryia Tarasenka, a Viasna volunteer, was also detained in Homieĺ. Her house was searched and she was placed in a temporary detention facility. Later criminal proceedings were initiated against her.
16 February 2021. Viasna HRC members, the Belarusian Association of Journalists, and other activists were searched across the country. The searches were conducted in the criminal case under Article 342 of the Criminal Code of Belarus (organizing, preparing, or participating in actions that grossly violate public order).
At about 10.40 am, the search in Viasna's headquarters in Minsk began. Ales Bialiatski, chairman of the organization, arrived at the location. After the search in the office, Bialatski's home was searched too. After that, Bialiatski was released.
Later it became known that another search was conducted at the second Minsk office of Viasna. The proceedings ended at about 10 pm. Computers, papers, telephones, and video surveillance systems were seized. Human rights activists Valiantsin Stefanovich and Uladzimir Labkovich were in the office during the search.
On the same day, the police came with a search to Andrei Paluda, a Viasna member and the coordinator of the Human Rights Defenders against the Death Penalty in Belarus campaign. A few hours later the search was over. The police seized devices, a bank card, and some cash. Also, the search was conducted in the home of Viasna lawyer Pavel Sapelka. They seized all kinds of equipment.
Another search took place at Natallia Satsunkevich's mother's home and lasted more than three hours.
The property of Viasna human rights defender Dzmitry Salauyou was also searched. His phone and other devices were seized. Dzmitry was arrested. During the raid, the police broke the door of Salauyou's house.
Dozens of searches were conducted in the regions, including in the apartments of the head of the Mazyr branch of Viasna, Uladzimir Tseliapun, and the head of the Svietlahorsk branch of Viasna, Alena Masliukova. All equipment and various document were seized from her house. Andrei Miadzvedzeu, an independent journalist and Viasna human rights activist from Rečyca, was searched, too. They took papers and notebooks. Valery Putitski, Viasna human rights defender from Rečyca, was also searched.
The homes of members of Viasna's Mahilioŭ branch, Aliaksei Kolchyn and Barys Bukhel, were also searched. Human rights defender Uladzimir Vialichkin and the lawyer of the Radio-Electronics Industry Trade Union and Viasna human rights defender, Uladzimir Malei, were arrested.
Many Viasna members chose to leave Belarus after the crackdown to avoid detentions.
1 March 2021. Human rights defender and Viasna board member Dzmitry Salauyou was arrested in Minsk. He was released from administrative detention the day before. On February 18, Salauyou was sentenced to 12 days of detention under Article 23.34 of the Code of Administrative Offenses. A concrete bas-relief with a Pahonia coat of arms is placed on his house, and Minsk District Court Judge Anzhalika Kazlova classified it as picketing. On March 1, Salauyou was taken to the Investigative Committee and interrogated as a suspect in the criminal case under part 2 of Article 342 of the Criminal Code (instructing or otherwise preparing persons to participate in group actions that grossly violate public order, as well as financing or otherwise providing material support for such activities). After the interrogation, Dzmitry was released with travel restrictions.
17 March 2021. Human rights defenders Leanid Svetsik (Viciebsk), Uladzimir Malei, Marharyta Vialichkina (Brest), and Siarhei Latsinski (Babrujsk) were summoned for questioning as witnesses in the Viasna case. They signed a non-disclosure plea. A human rights defender from Mahilioŭ, Barys Bukhel, was summoned for interrogations on 15 and 16 March. On 20 March, Viasna members Viktar Sazonau, Uladzimir Khilmanovich, and human rights activist Andrei Kotsia were summoned to the Investigative Committee of Hrodna Region.
7 April 2021. Ales Bialiatski, Viasna chair, was summoned to the central office of the Investigative Committee for questioning. Human rights defenders in Svietlahorsk and Mazyr were also questioned.
14 April 2021. Aliaksandr Vaitseshyk, a human rights defender from Baranavičy, was detained in the Baranavičy City and District Court where he was monitoring a trial. The following day it became known that he was detained for 15 days under Article 25.1 of the Code of Administrative Offenses (contempt of court). To protest the illegal detention, Aliaksandr declared a hunger strike. On 22 April, the regional court upheld the appeal of the human rights defender and ordered to release him.
25 April 2021. Tatsiana Zhyvitsa, a volunteer with the MAYDAY human rights team from Mahilioŭ, was summoned to the Mahilioŭ Regional Investigative Committee for questioning as a witness in a criminal case. Tatsiana was interrogated by investigator Shatsko. Earlier he interrogated Mahilioŭ journalist Aliaksandr Burakou and human rights defender Barys Bukhel. Journalist Andrei Miadzvedzeu and human rights activist Valery Putsitski were summoned for questioning in Rečyca. Their status was not specified in the summons. Lawyer Aliaksei Loika was also summoned to the Investigative Committee as a witness in the Viasna case. The day before human rights defenders Siarhei Housha from Baranavičy, Ales Dzerhachou from Smarhoń, and Uladzimir Tseliapun from Mazyr were interrogated. It is worth noting that Tseliapun was taken for interrogation directly from the hospital where he was awaiting surgery.
14 July 2021. The most massive crackdown on the public and human rights sector of Belarus took place. In the early morning that day, searches and detentions swept across the country. The law enforcers searched the house of Viasna lawyer Uladzimir Labkovich. After the search, Uladzimir and his wife Nina were taken to the Financial Investigation Department. Afterward, Labkovich was arrested. Viasna chair Ales Bialiatski couldn't be reached since early morning. Later it became known that Ales Bialiatski was detained. The case was handled by the central office of the Investigative Committee.
They also searched the house of Valiantsin Stefanovich, a Viasna board member. The law enforcers arrested him afterward. The searches and detentions also affected the coordinator of the Human Rights Defenders against the Death Penalty campaign Andrei Paluda, journalist and human rights activist Siarhei Sys, human rights activist Alena Laptsionak, and volunteer Yauheniya Babayeva.
In the regions, searches, interrogations, and detentions affected Smarhoń human rights defender Ales Dzerhachou, Aleh Matskevich from Barysaŭ, and Hrodna human rights defender Viktar Sazonau.
3 September 2021. The trial of Viasna human rights defender Leanid Sudalenka and volunteers Tatsiana Lasitsa and Maryia Tarasenka started at the Centraĺny District Court of Homieĺ. Since 18 January, Leanid Sudalenka was kept in custody. Tatsiana Lasitsa was also on remand since January 21. Maryia Tarasenka awaited trial with travel restrictions and a pledge to appear in court.
They were accused of organizing and preparing actions that grossly violate public order (part 1 of Article 342 of the Criminal Code) and of instructing and preparing individuals to participate in such actions, as well as financing them (part 2 of Article 342 of the Criminal Code).
3 November 2021. Viasna human rights defender Leanid Sudalenka was sentenced to three years of imprisonment, and his assistant Tatsiana Lasitsa — to two and a half years in prison. They were accused of organizing and preparing actions that grossly violate public order (part 1 of Article 342 of the Criminal Code) and of instructing and preparing individuals to participate in such actions, as well as financing them (part 2 of Article 342 of the Criminal Code). The prosecutor asked the court to punish Maryia Tarasenka with two and a half years in prison. She had to leave Belarus before the verdict.
December 2021. During the year, Viasna human rights defenders were subjected to extensive tax audits throughout the country.
17 December 2021. Viasna human rights defender Ales Kaputski was arrested in Maladziečna. His computer and smartphone were seized during a search of his house. The trial was held on 20 December. Ales was sentenced to 15 days of detention under Part 2 of Article 19.11 (distribution, production, storage, and transportation of information products encouraging or promoting extremist activity).
Ales Kaputski's term of detention was prolonged several times. Each time there was a trial, and each time the judge punished him with a new 15-day detention. In total, the 60-year-old human rights defender served 60 days behind bars.
25 April 2022. A closed trial began in Minsk City Court in the case of Marfa Rabkova, Andrei Chapiuk, and eight other political prisoners. All defendants were falsely accused of forming an organized criminal group that acted between 2016 and 2020. Marfa Rabkova was charged under ten articles of the Criminal Code, including "organizing mass riots, participating in them, and training or otherwise preparing persons to participate in them" (Part 1-3 of Article 293), "inciting social hatred" (Article 130), and "participating in a criminal organization" (Part 2 of Article 285). In his turn, Andrei Chapiuk was accused of "participating in mass riots" (Part 2 of Article 293) and "participating in a criminal organization" (Part 2 of Article 285 of the Criminal Code).
6 September 2022. After four and a half months of closed court hearings, the Minsk City Court sentenced Marfa Rabkova and Andrei Chapiuk to 15 and 6 years in prison respectively. Eight other defendants in the same trial also received harsh prison terms.
After the verdict, human rights activist and former Viasna member Nasta Loika was arbitrarily detained in Minsk City Court. On 7 September 2022, she was sentenced to 15 days of administrative detention for "disorderly conduct".
5 January 2023. The trial in the Viasna case started in the Leninski District Court of Minsk. Four human rights defenders were put on trial: Viasna HRC Chair and Nobel Laureate Ales Bialiatski, his deputy Valiantsin Stefanovich, Human Rights Defenders for Free Elections Campaign Coordinator Uladzimir Labkovich, and Dzmitry Salauyou, who was tried in absentia as he had left Belarus. They were charged with Part 4 of Article 228 ("smuggling by an organized group") and Part 2 of Article 342 of the Criminal Code ("financing group activities that grossly violate public order"). The three Viasna political prisoners were in custody since 14 July 2021.
28 February 2023. The Supreme Court considered the appeals of Viasna activists Marfa Rabkova, Andrei Chapiuk, and eight political prisoners in the “Revolutionary Action case” in a closed session. The court, chaired by Judge Aliaksei Rybakou, dismissed the complaints of six defendants, while the sentences of Viasna activists Marfa Rabkova and Andrei Chapiuk and anarchists Akikhira Hayeuski-Khanada and Aliaksandr Frantskevich were reduced by three months.
3 March 2023. Judge Maryna Zapasnik of the Leninski District Court in Minsk handed down the verdict in the criminal case against Viasna founder and Nobel laureate Ales Bialiatski, his deputy and FIDH Vice-President Valiantsin Stefanovich, Human Rights Defenders for Free Elections campaign coordinator and lawyer Uladzimir Labkovich, and human rights activist Dzmitry Salauyou (in absentia). They were found guilty under part 2 of Article 342 of the Criminal Code for "financing of 2020 protests" and under part 4 of Article 228 of the Criminal Code for "cash smuggling by an organized group". Sentences of 7 to 10 years in prison and large fines were imposed on Viasna members: Ales Bialiatski — 10 years; Valiantsin Stefanovich — 9 years; Uladzimir Labkovich — 7 years; Dzmitry Salauyou — 8 years.
21 April 2023. The Minsk City Court considered the appeals and the prosecutor's appeal against the verdict of the Leninski District Court of Minsk of 3 March, which sentenced Uladzimir Labkovich, Valiantsin Stefanovich, and Ales Bialiatski to 7, 9, and 10 years in prison. The convicts' appeals were dismissed.
The appeals were considered in a public session, but the Viasna activists themselves were not brought before the court, so they could not fully defend their rights. On April 21, the sentence against the human rights activists came into force — they will soon be transferred to prison.