16 international and Belarusian human rights organizations call for Nasta Loika’s immediate and unconditional release
On 20 June 2023, the Minsk City Court sentenced the human rights defender Nasta (Anastasia) Loika to seven years of prison. The trial was closed to the public, and the details of the court hearings are unknown. Alena Shylko, the judge of the Minsk City Court, found her guilty of “incitement of social enmity or discord” (Article 130, Part 3 of the Belarusian Criminal Code). These accusations are based on the contribution Loika made in 2018 to a report that assessed human rights violations by law enforcement officers during state-sponsored persecution of the anarchist community in Belarus.
16 international and Belarusian human rights organizations call for Nasta Loika’s immediate and unconditional release, Human Constanta reports.
Nasta Loika is a prominent Belarusian woman human rights defender working in the field of human rights education. She also analyzed repressive “anti-extremist” legislation and advocated for the protection of the rights of migrants and stateless people in Belarus. In the summer of 2021, Belarusian authorities shut down Human Constanta, the organization where she previously worked, as part of an orchestrated attack against civil society in the country. Human Constanta promoted public interests and joint actions in response to current human rights challenges in Belarus. In 2022, the Barys Zvozskau Belarusian Human Rights House named Nasta Loika the human rights defender of the year.
Nasta Loika was arrested on 28 October 2022 and has been arbitrarily detained ever since, first on administrative charges. During the 58 days of administrative detention the authorities tortured Nasta, treated her inhumanely, and denied her the right to receive medication and warm clothes, and access legal help. Her mother’s house was raided in November 2022.
On 24 December 2022, Belarusian law enforcement officials transferred Nasta Loika to a Pre-trial Detention Center in Minsk over “incitement of social enmity or discord” and “organizing group activities that gravely violate public order.” Ultimately, the prosecutor dropped the second charge.
The Belarus authorities also targeted human rights lawyers, who acted as Nasta Loika’s defense attorneys. In November 2022, Tatsiana Lishankova was detained and subsequently lost her license to practice law. In March 2023, the Qualification Commission under the Justice Ministry refused to pass the qualification examination of another one of her defense lawyers, Inesa Alenskaya, which will lead to her eventual disbarment.
The police first detained Loika on September 6, 2022 near the Minsk City Court, when she arrived to show support for two human rights defenders – Maria Rabkova, who was sentenced that day to 15 years in prison, and Andrey Chapiuk. She was temporarily released on October 5, 2022, only to be detained again on October 28.
The undersigned organizations condemn the arrest and verdict against Nasta Loika. We believe Belarusian authorities are targeting her for her peaceful and legitimate human rights work. We condemn the physical and psychological torture Loika was subjected to during her time in administrative arrest and in pre-trial detention. Her sentencing reflects the systemic aggravated attacks against Belarus’s human rights defenders and civil society by Belarusian authorities. We call for the immediate and unconditional release of human rights defender Nasta Loika.
ARTICLE 19 Europe
Netherlands Helsinki Committee
The Barys Zvozskau Belarusian Human Rights House
Belarusian Helsinki Committee
Belarusian Association of Journalists
International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH), within the framework of the Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders
Front Line Defenders
Human Rights Centre Viasna
Human Rights Watch
Legal Initiative (Belarus)
Office for the Rights of Persons with Disabilities
World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT), within the framework of the Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders