Viasna calls to suspend administrative detention during COVID-19 pandemic
Under the conditions of the pandemic declared by the World Health Organization, it is incumbent on the Belarusian authorities to take immediate steps to prevent the spread of the virus among the categories of people most at risk of infection: low-income and homeless persons, alcohol abusers and prisoners.
Information on the spread of respiratory diseases, including the COVID-19 virus, among people serving sentences of administrative detention, suggests that the preventive measures taken by the authorities are clearly insufficient. Most of those detained for up to 25 days (more than 70,000 people a year) represent vulnerable groups. Given the long incubation period of the COVID-19 virus, as well as the lack of reliable ways of diagnosing it in those who arrive at detention facilities, we are confident that these places will become the outbreaks of the disease. Moreover, prison staff and their families, as well as the family members of people who have served their sentences, are at risk of infection.
By definition, administrative offenses and the perpetrators themselves do not pose a public danger. The sanctions of all articles of the Code of Administrative Offenses contain alternatives to administrative detention.
Thus, administrative detention in a pandemic violates the constitutional right to life and health, as well as the principles of administrative responsibility: it must be fair and humane; administrative punishment does not have the purpose of causing physical suffering to an individual who has committed an administrative offense.
The Human Rights Center "Viasna" calls on the Belarusian authorities to suspend the application of administrative detention exceeding 3 hours during the COVID-19 pandemic.
At the same time, we reiterate the inadmissibility of using administrative penalties to restrict human rights and fundamental freedoms, including freedom of expression and peaceful assembly. We call to immediately release environmental protesters detained in Brest: Aliaksandr Kabanau, Dzmitry Andrasiuk and Dzmitry Bekaliuk.