Charges Against Human Rights Defender Tatsiana Mastykina Must be Dropped
The trial against Belarusian human rights defender Tatsiana Mastykina came to an end in the afternoon of 8 May, but no final verdict has yet been given. Civil Rights Defenders calls on the Belarusian authorities to immediately drop the charges, and to comply with its international obligations to respect and protect the fundamental right to freedom of assembly.
Tatsiana was detained on 25 March in central Minsk together with other observers from the Belarusian human rights organisation Viasna. Among the detained was also Natalia Project participant Nasta Lojka. They were put in a police bus and taken to the police station.
At the time of the detention, the human rights defenders were about to monitor public events celebrating the 100th anniversary of the establishment of the Belarusian People’s republic.
During Tuesday’s trial, Tatsiana was accused of having participated in the protests, and for refusing to leave her finger prints at the police station even though she by law has the right to do so.
“I have mixed feelings after today’s trial. The worst thing is to be accused of things that you know that you have not done. It was very clear that we were only going to observe the protest, not participate,” said Tatsiana Mastykina. “At least it was a lot easier to go through today knowing that I had supporters in the room”.
“The trial is in itself unjustified. There is no legal ground to detain human rights defenders for observing a protest. I hope that this will soon come to an end and that this will not happen again,” said Nasta Lojka.
During the trial, it became clear that the police’s version did not match the statement made by Tatciana regarding the events on 25 March. Because of that, the judge decided to send the protocols back for revision before issuing a verdict.
“The protocols that were drawn up by the police included so many errors that even the judge sent them back for revision,” Ales Bialiatski, founder of Viasna and recipient of the Civil Rights Defender of the Year Award 2014, commented.
The court has until 25 March to call for a new trial, or the case will be dropped. If a new date is set, Tatciana Mastykina risks fines and up to 25 days in prison.
“I honestly do not know what to expect. Either they drop it or I end up getting fined or imprisoned. What I do know is that this has to do with my human rights work and that the authorities are not happy with it,” said Tatciana Mastykina.
Civil Rights Defenders urges the Belarusian authorities to immediately drop the charges against Tatsiana Mastykina and other observers detained on 25 March. We call on Belarus to comply with its international obligations to respect and protect the fundamental right to freedom of assembly.