Amnesty International: Activist facing jail for helping the homeless
Aliaksei Shchadrou, a 28-year-old devout Catholic, had been running a shelter for homeless people, with a prayer room, in his detached house in a village in the western region of Hrodna, since December 2011. He has provided those in need, including the homeless, alcoholics and drug users with food, clothing, a bed and a bath. During the cold weather of 2012 and 2013 almost 30 people were living in his shelter. In February and April 2013 police raided his home, and during the February raid police confiscated religious books.
The head of Shchychyn District Police Department began criminal proceedings against Aliaksei Shchadrou on 11 June under Article 193-1 of the Criminal Code of Belarus, which criminalizes activities by unregistered organizations. Amnesty International has been campaigning for the removal of Article 193-1 because it violates the right to freedom of association. Aliaksei Shchadrou has been charged with organizing “at his place of residence an unregistered religious organization and secured the condition for its functioning without registration in accordance with the procedure established in law” since July 2012. Aliaksei Shchadou told Forum 18, a human rights organization that promotes religious freedom: "I give them food, a bed, a bath and clothes and I pray together with them. But this is no religious organization, just charity."
On 15 July, Aliaksei Shchadrou appealed against the charge to the Prosecutor of Shchychyn District, arguing that the case against him under Article 193-1 is unconstitutional and violates the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.
Please write immediately in Belarusian, Russian, English or your own language:
Calling on the authorities to halt criminal proceedings against Aliaksei Shchadrou, and stating that if he is jailed for his human rights activities Amnesty International will consider him a prisoner of conscience;
Reminding them of their obligation under international law to respect and protect the rights to freedom of expression, peaceful assembly and association;
Urging them to abolish article 193-1 of the Criminal Code, as it violates the freedom of association.