Viasna leader: Authorities oppose human rights defenders fighting for truth and justice
Courts and prosecutors are often used by the authorities to fight their political opponents and human rights defenders, Ales Bialiatski, chairman of the Human Rights Center “Viasna”, said at a side-event entitled “The post-Soviet Judiciary: a tool for administration of justice or a tool of oppression? Lack of independence of the judiciary and prosecution of HRDs in the Eastern part of the OSCE area” held on September 23 in the framework of the OSCE Human Dimension Implementation Meeting in Warsaw.
The meeting was organized by the Netherlands Helsinki Committee and the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH). Besides the Belarusian human rights defender, the event was attended by Mutabar Tajibayeva (Uzbekistan), Aida Baijumanova (Kyrgyzstan), Yevgeny Zhovtis (Kazakhstan), Konstantin Baranov (Russia), and Anar Mammadli (Azerbaijan).
According to Ales Bialiatski, the speakers almost unanimously said that the courts are not independent in all of the post-Soviet countries. They are used as tools of pressure on human rights defenders and political opponents of the regimes in power. Of the six participants, four speakers are former political prisoners in their countries.
“I also talked about the lack of independence of the Belarusian judicial system, that all the judges are appointed by the President of Belarus, their decisions have political implications and are controlled by the state security services and the presidential administration. Thus, the courts cannot make independent judgments, since all the sentences in such cases are clearly written in other offices. And the courts are mere executioners, simply legitimizing these decisions,” Bialiatski said.
He mentioned the cases of persecution of human rights defenders in Belarus over the past two years:
“It’s the case of Alena Tankachova who was kicked out of Belarus for three years for administrative offenses — speeding — which is a completely disproportionate punishment. And this is a concrete example of persecution, when administrative tools are used — in this case it was the Department of Citizenship and Migration. The appeal that she filed against the decision on expulsion was not, unfortunately, taken into account by the court. It is obvious that the court was not able to take an independent decision, as the case had a context of struggle against a human rights organization. It is understood that the expulsion of Alena Tankachova was aimed at weakening and paralyzing the work of Lawtrend”.
Another case is the harassment of human rights activist Leanid Sudalenka.
“The Homieĺ activist was first harassed through the tax office, then they sent pornography from his mailbox, which had been hacked. A criminal case was opened. But due to the fact that Leanid Sudalenka had information about the hacking, the criminal case ended with nothing. Nevertheless, they continued to harass him throughout the year. This included searches and detentions on trains while crossing the border, confiscation of computer equipment,” Viasna leader said.
Ales Bialiatski concluded that the Belarusian judicial system is extremely politicized, it depends on the administrative authorities and is part of the political system of Belarus.
“All these cases show that the Belarusian secret services, using the courts, the investigation committee, the prosecutor's office, consistently and methodically put pressure on the Belarusian human rights defenders, seeing us as a threat. It is obvious that the Belarusian authorities do not like that we are fighting for truth and justice,” he said.