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May 21 is the third anniversary of the death of political prisoner activist Vitold Ashurak

2024 2024-05-21T18:32:07+0300 2024-05-21T18:32:07+0300 en The Human Rights Center “Viasna” The Human Rights Center “Viasna”
The Human Rights Center “Viasna”

On May 21, 2021, an activist from Biarozaŭka, Vitold Ashurak, died in Škloŭ colony No. 17: the political prisoner was sentenced behind closed doors to five years of imprisonment. The reported cause of death is cardiac arrest, although, according to relatives, the man did not have any complains about his health. The Investigative Committee stated that the death of the political prisoner was not of a criminal nature, and has not yet initiated a case. Over the years, human rights activists have collected testimonies from former prisoners about the harsh conditions of detention in penal colony-17 and problems with medical care. Viasna human rights activist Pavel Sapelka comments on the current government of Belarus not investigating the death of Vitold Ashurak and other political prisoners.

Vitold Ashurak. Archive photo

"The value of human life has long stopped being a priority for the current Belarusian authorities. This approach emerged in the early days of the post-election protests, when almost the entire arsenal of means available to law enforcement agencies was used against peaceful protesters: even the firearms were used. The attacks on peaceful protesters that led to their deaths have not yet been investigated. Three years have passed since the death of political prisoner Vitold Ashurak. The evidence of the colony administration being guilty in his death was shown by the authorities on state television, but even this did not become an impetus for organizing a real effective investigation. Indifference to the consequences of non-provision of medical care, which was later demonstrated by prison administrations in relation to Mikalai Klimovich, Aliaksandr Kulinich, Ihar Lednik, Ales Pushkin, Vadzim Khrasko, is a delayed result of direct encouragement of inhumane treatment of political prisoners, the result of impunity.

The authorities took away the lives of political prisoners. They also take away from their relatives and friends, from the entire people of Belarus, the hope for the restoration of justice in the future: the environment of total fear, the lack of procedural support and legal assistance inside the country block the way to the search for truth.

Currently, there are hundreds of people in Belarusian colonies and prisons who, for various reasons (disability, severe and chronic diseases), aggravated by inhumane conditions of detention, can at any time appear on the list of irretrievable victims. We do not know exactly about the condition of political and public leaders who are held in complete or almost complete isolation, and this is another risk factor that needs to be eliminated.

We, Viasna the human rights defenders, call on international organizations and democratic governments to take effective measures to change the situation. Evil cannot go unpunished, and impunity generates new crimes," Pavel Sapelka says.

In memory of Vitold, human rights defenders declared May 21 the Political Prisoners' Day.

"It is sad when a person dies in freedom, and unbearably sad when this happens in prison, when a person is left alone, and no one can support them and say goodbye to them at the last minute of their life," Ales Bialiatski said about Vitold's death.

Today we offer you to read the archive materials of Viasna about Vitold:

Heroes Never Die: 21 May, anniversary of death of Vitold Ashurak

Vitold Ashurak was a Belarusian political prisoner coming from Berezovka, Lida Region. In May 2021, Vitold died at the Shklov colony under unclear circumstances.  

Andrei Ashurak: “Bringing Vitold's case to an end is important for the whole society”

Viasna talked to Andrei Ashurak, Vitold’s brother, about the testimonies of Vitold’s fellow prisoners, the investigation, and the restoration of justice.

Ales Bialiatski on the death of political prisoner Vitold Ashurak

Can we hope that the Investigative Committee will conduct an objective investigation and find out the truth?

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