FIDH and OMCT: HRC “Viasna” office unlawfully raided, dozens arrested
"At least 57 persons involved in the monitoring of ongoing peaceful protests, including foreign nationals from France, Germany, Ukraine and Russia, were arrested today at the office of Human Rights Centre “Viasna” in Minsk. The arrest took place ahead of peaceful protests to be held on March 25, 2017. Arrests of protesters, journalists and monitors are reportedly on-going," FIDH said on Saturday.
"Geneva-Paris, March 25, 2017 - At least 57 persons involved in the monitoring of ongoing peaceful protests, including foreign nationals from France, Germany, Ukraine and Russia, were arrested today at the office of Human Rights Centre “Viasna” in Minsk. The arrest took place ahead of peaceful protests to be held on March 25, 2017. Arrests of protesters, journalists and monitors are reportedly on-going."
On March 25, 2017, at 1pm, masked and armed members of the special police unit stormed into the Human Rights Centre (HRC) “Viasna” office, forced those present in the office to lay to the floor and subsequently took them in a bus to the Pervomaiskii police station in Minsk. Those detained included several members of HRC “Viasna”, Ms. Raisa Mikhailovskaya, Head of Belarusian Documentation Centre, Mr. Aleh Hulak, Chairman of the Belarusian Helsinki Committee, Ms. Maria Chichtchenkova, Front Line Defenders Coordinator, and Ms. Evgenia Andreiuk, Co-coordinator for the NGO Crimea-SOS. The group was participating in a meeting to coordinate protest monitoring.
They were all released without charge a few hours later. The special police unit did not have a warrant to raid the office. No material or equipment was seized.
“Colleagues were detained harshly - thrown to the floor by special police unit,” Ales Bialiatski, Chairman of the HRC "Viasna", said.
At least one person was taken to the hospital.
FIDH member organisation in Belarus HRC “Viasna” is a major source of independent information on the human rights situation in Belarus, in particular the recent crackdown of peaceful protests against Presidential Decree No. 3 that imposes a tax on the unemployed.
"Banning the right to peaceful assembly is not a sign of power. It is more a sign of weakness and insecurity of the Belarusian regime,” Dimitris Christopoulos, FIDH President, said.
“Belarus must accept that its people has the right to protest peacefully and it must stop harassing human rights defenders. Closer ties between EU and Belarus are no excuse for the international community not to put pressure on the country,” Gerald Staberock, OMCT Secretary General, said.
The massive crackdown, unseen since 2010 when the EU and the US imposed sanctions on Belarus for massively infringing human rights, proves the absence of any change in the nature of this repressive regime.
The statement was co-signed by the Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders.