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Belarus: Global letter in solidarity with the Belarusian civil society

July 27, 2021

Joint | Announcements

‘You can cut all the flowers, but you cannot keep the Spring from coming’

Pablo Neruda

 

161 human rights organisations demand an end to the repression against the Human Rights Center Viasna and all other human rights defenders in Belarus. We condemn the systematic arbitrary arrests, beatings and acts of torture they are subjected to. Despite all-out repression by the Belarusian authorities, human rights defenders in Belarus continue to strive to protect human rights. Inspired by their courage, we will not stop fighting until they are all released and able to continue their human rights work freely and unhindered.

 

Over the past few days, we have witnessed another wave of raids and detentions against Belarusian human rights defenders and activists. This repression is a blatant retaliation for their work denouncing and documenting human rights violations ongoing since the brutal crackdown against peaceful protesters in the wake of the August 2020 election. Since August 2020, more than 35,000 Belarusians were arrested for participating in peaceful protests, around 3,000 politically motivated criminal cases were initiated, at least 2,500 cases of torture of Belarusian citizens were documented. We believe these systematic and widespread human rights violations may amount to crimes against humanity. As of July 19, 561 persons in Belarus are considered political prisoners.

 

Between July 14 and 16, 2021, more than 60 searches were conducted at the homes and offices of Belarusian human rights organisations and their staff, including the Human Rights Centre ‘Viasna’, two member organisations of the International Committee for the Investigation of Torture in Belarus, Human Constanta and Legal Initiative, as well as the Belarusian Helsinki Committee, the Belarusian Association of Journalists, the Legal Transformation Center LawTrend, Ecodom and many others. Documents and IT equipment, including laptops, mobile phones and computers were seized during the searches.

 

During these latest raids, more than 30 people were interrogated. 13 of them were detained for a 72-hour period, reportedly in connection to an investigation into public order violations and tax evasion. Most of them were subsequently released, namely, Mikalai Sharakh, Siarhei Matskievich, and Viasna members Andrei Paluda, Alena Laptsionak, Yauheniya Babaeva, Siarhei Sys, Viktar Sazonau, Ales Kaputski and Andrei Medvedev. Several of them, however, remain under travel ban and face criminal charges. Notably, Ales Bialiatsky, Viasna Chairperson Valiantsin Stefanovic, Viasna Deputy Head and Vice-President of the FIDH, and Uladzimir Labkovich, a lawyer and Viasna member, remain detained. On July 17, all four were transferred to a pre-trial detention center “Valadarskaha”. Four other Viasna members Leanid Sudalenka, Tatsiana Lasitsa, Marfa Rabkova and Andrey Chapyuk, as well as Aleh Hrableuski of the Office for the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, remain in pre-trial detention since late 2020 or early 2021.

 

Viasna, one of the country’s top human rights organisations, and a member of the OMCT and FIDH networks, has been targeted by the Belarusian government for over two decades. In August 2011, its chairperson Ales Bialiatsky was sentenced to four and a half years of imprisonment on trumped-up charges, and released in June 2014 after spending 1,052 days in arbitrary detention in appalling conditions. In retaliation for Viasna’s courageous work and unwavering stance for human rights, the Belarusian authorities are trying to destroy the organisation by putting seven of its members behind bars.

 

The raids started only one day after the United Nations Human Rights Council adopted a resolution condemning the situation of human rights in Belarus, demanding the release of all persons arbitrarily detained and an investigation into allegations of torture and other human rights violations.

 

On July 8-9 and July 16, 2021, the authorities also raided the homes and premises of various independent media outlets and their staff, including ‘Nasha Niva’, one of country’s oldest independent newspaper, and detained three of its journalists. The offices of RFE/Radio Liberty and Belsat, the largest independent TV channel covering Belarus, were also searched, and several of their journalists were detained. As of now, over 30 media workers and dozens of bloggers remain in detention.

 

We, the undersigned civil society organisations, condemn the massive human rights violations perpetrated by the Belarusian authorities, which we fear may trigger more violence. This latest wave of repression, together with the brutal crackdown over the last months, demonstrates that the authorities aim at having every human rights defender either detained or exiled.

 

We stand in solidarity with our colleagues and friends who are detained, harassed, and persecuted for their brave work. We regard their struggle with great concern and sorrow, and we are inspired by their commitment and resilience.

 

We urge the Belarusian authorities to stop the harassment and intimidation of critical voices, and to free all unjustly detained human rights defenders, journalists and activists.

 

We call on the international community to take a strong stance in support of the Belarusian human rights community, and to speak out for the release of all those who are still behind bars, and whose only crime is to demand a society based on justice instead of fear.

 

Signatories

  1. Abdorrahman Boroumand Center for Human Rights in Iran - Iran

  2. ACAT Belgique - Belgium

  3. ACAT Burundi - Burundi

  4. ACAT España-Catalunya (Acción de los Cristianos para la Abolición de la Tortura) - Spain

  5. ACAT Germany (Action by Christians for the Abolition of Torture) - Germany

  6. ACAT Italia - Italy

  7. ACAT République Centrafricaine - Central African Republic

  8. ACAT République Démocratique du Congo - Democratic Republic of Congo

  9. ACAT Suisse - Switzerland

  10. ACAT Tchad - Tchad

  11. ACAT Togo - Togo

  12. Action Against Violence and Exploitation (ACTVE) - Philippines

  13. Action des Chrétiens Activistes des Droits de l’Homme à Shabunda (ACADHOSHA) - Democratic Republic of Congo

  14. Advocacy Forum – Nepal - Nepal

  15. Agir ensemble pour les droits humains - France

  16. Albanian Human Rights Group

  17. ALTSEAN-Burma - Myanmar

  18. Anti Death Penalty Asia Network (ADPAN) - Malaysia/Asia-Pacific

  19. Anti-Discrimination Centre Memorial - Belgium

  20. ARTICLE 19

  21. ASEAN Parliamentarians for Human Rights - Indonesia

  22. Asia Pacific Solidarity Coalition (APSOC) - Philippines

  23. Asociación para una Ciudadanía Participativa (ACI PARTICIPA) - Honduras

  24. Asociación pro derechos humanos (Aprodeh) - Peru

  25. Association Mauritanienne des droits de l'homme (AMDH-Mauritanieuri) - Mauritania

  26. Association of Parents of Disappeared Persons (APDP) - India

  27. Association Tchadienne pour la promotion et la Défense des Droits de l'Homme (ATPDH) - Tchad

  28. Association tunisienne des femmes démocrates - Tunisia

  29. Avocats Sans Frontières France (ASF France) - France

  30. Banglar Manabadhikar Suraksha Mancha (MASUM) - India

  31. Belarusian-Swiss Association RAZAM.CH - Switzerland

  32. Bulgarian Helsinki Committee - Bulgaria

  33. Cambodian Center for Human Rights (CCHR) - Cambodia

  34. Capital Punishment Justice Project (CPJP) - Australia

  35. Center for Civil Liberties - Ukraine

  36. Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR) - United States of America

  37. Centre for Applied Human Rights (CAHR), University of York - United Kingdom

  38. Centre for the Development of Democracy and Human Rights (CDDHR) - Russia

  39. Centro de Derechos humanos Fray Bartolomé de las Casas A.c. (Frayba) - Mexico

  40. Centro de Derechos Humanos Paso del Norte - Mexico

  41. Centro de Investigación y Promoción de los Derechos Humanos (CIPRODEH) - Honduras

  42. Centro de Prevención, Tratamiento y Rehabilitación de Victimas de la Tortura y sus familiares (CPTRT) - Honduras

  43. Centro de Salud Mental y Derechos Humanos (CINTRAS) - Chile

  44. Changement Social Bénin (CSB) - Benin

  45. CIVICUS

  46. Civil Rights Defenders (CRD) - Sweden

  47. Comision Nacional de los Derechos Humanos (CNDH-RD) - Dominican Republic

  48. Coalition Burkinabé des Défenseurs des Droits Humains (CBDDH) - Burkina Faso

  49. Coalition Marocaine contre la Peine de Mort - Morocco

  50. Coalition Tunisienne Contre la Peine de Mort - Tunisia

  51. Collectif des Associations Contre l'Impunité au Togo (CACIT) - Togo

  52. Comisión de derechos humanos – COMISEDH - Peru

  53. Comité de Familiares de Detenidos Desaparecidos en Honduras (COFADEH) - Honduras

  54. Comité de solidaridad con los presos políticos (FCSPP) - Colombia

  55. Committee on the Administration of Justice (CAJ) - Northern Ireland (UK)

  56. Crude Accountability - United States of America

  57. Czech League of Human Rights Czech Republic

  58. Death Penalty Focus (DPF) - United States of America

  59. Defenders of human rights centre - Iran

  60. DEMAS - Association for Democracy Assistance and Human Rights - Czech Republic

  61. DITSHWANELO - The Botswana Centre for Human Rights - Botswana

  62. Eastern Partnership Civil Society Forum (EaP CSF) - Belgium

  63. Eleos Justice, Monash University - Australia

  64. Enfants Solidaires d'Afrique et du Monde (ESAM) - Benin

  65. Federal Association of Vietnam-Refugees in the Federal Republic of Germany - Germany

  66. FIDU - Italian Federation for Human Rights - Italy

  67. Finnish League for Human Rights - Finland

  68. Free Press Unlimited - The Netherlands

  69. Fundación Regional de Asesoría en Derechos Humanos (INREDH) - Ecuador

  70. GABRIELA Alliance of Filipino Women - Philippines

  71. German Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty (GCADP) - Germany

  72. Greek Helsinki Monitor Greece

  73. Helsinki Citizens' Assembly – Vanadzor - Armenia

  74. Helsinki Foundation for Human Rights - Poland

  75. Citizens' Watch Russia

  76. Human Rights Alert - India

  77. Human Rights Association (İHD) - Turkey

  78. Human Rights Center (HRC) - Georgia

  79. Human Rights Center (HRC) "Memorial" - Russia

  80. Human Rights House Foundation

  81. Human Rights in China (HRIC) - USA

  82. Human Rights Monitoring Institute (HRMI) - Lithuania

  83. Human Rights Mouvement “Bir Duino-Kyrgyzstan” - Kyrgyzstan

  84. Human Rights Organization of Nepal - Nepal

  85. Humanist Union of Greece (HUG) - Greece

  86. Hungarian Helsinki Committee - Hungary

  87. IDP Women Association "Consent" - Georgia

  88. Independent Medico-Legal Unit (IMLU) - Kenya

  89. Instituto de Estudios Legales y Sociales del Uruguay (IELSUR) - Uruguay

  90. International Commission of Jurists (ICJ) - Kenyan Section - Kenya

  91. International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH) - France

  92. International Legal Initiative - Kazakhstan

  93. International Partnership for Human Rights (IPHR) - Belgium

  94. International Service for Human Rights (ISHR) - Switzerland

  95. Jammu Kashmir Coalition of Civil Society - India

  96. JANANEETHI - India

  97. Justice for Iran (JFI) - United Kingdom

  98. Justícia i Pau - Spain

  99. Kazakhstan International Bureau for Human Rights and the Rule of Law - Kazakhstan

  100. Kharkiv Regional Foundation "Public Alternative" - Ukraine

  101. La Strada International - The Netherlands

  102. La Voix des Sans Voix pour les Droits de l'Homme (VSV) - Democratic Republic of Congo

  103. Latvian Human Rights Committee (LHRC) - Latvia

  104. Lawyer's Committee for Human Rights YUCOM - Serbia

  105. League for the Defence of Human Rights in Iran (LDDHI) - Iran

  106. Legal Policy Research Centre (LPRC) - Kazakhstan

  107. Libereco Partnership of Human Rights - Germany/ Switzerland

  108. LICADHO - Cambodia

  109. Lifespark - Switzerland

  110. Liga Portuguesa dos Direitos Humanos - Civitas (LPDHC) - Portugal

  111. Liga voor de Rechten van de Mens (LvRM) (Dutch League for Human Rights) - The Netherlands

  112. Ligue des droits de l'Homme (LDH) - France

  113. Ligue Tchadienne des droits de l'Homme - Tchad

  114. Maldivian Democracy Network (MDN) - Maldives

  115. Martin Ennals Foundation - Switzerland

  116. Minority Rights Group - Greece

  117. Mouvance des Abolitionnistes du Congo Brazzaville - Congo Brazzaville

  118. Mouvement Ivoirien des Droits Humains (MIDH) - Côte d'Ivoire

  119. Mouvement Lao pour les Droits de l'Homme - Laos

  120. Movimento Nacional de Direitos Humanos (MNDH) - Brazil

  121. Netherlands Helsinki Committee - The Netherlands

  122. Norwegian Helsinki Committee - Norway

  123. Observatoire du système pénal et des droits humains (OSPDH) - Spain

  124. Observatoire Marocain des prisons - Morocco

  125. Odhikar - Bangladesh

  126. OPEN ASIA|Armanshahr - France

  127. Organisation contre la torture en Tunisie (OCTT) - Tunisie

  128. Organisation Guineenne de Defense des Droits de l'Homme et du Citoyen (OGDH) - Guinea

  129. Österreichische Liga für Menschenrechte ÖLFMR - Austria

  130. Palestinian Center for Human Rights (PCHR) - Palestine

  131. Pax Christi Uvira - Democratic Republic of Congo

  132. People's Watch India

  133. Programa Venezolano de Educación-Acción en Derechos Humanos (Provea) - Venezuela

  134. Promo LEX Association - Republic of Moldova

  135. Protection International (PI)

  136. Public Association "Dignity" - Kazakhstan

  137. Public Association Spravedlivost Human Rights Organization - Kyrgyzstan

  138. Public Verdict Foundation - Russia

  139. Rencontre Africaine pour la Défense des Droits de l'Homme RADDHO - Senegal

  140. Repecap Academics - Spain

  141. Réseau des Defenseurs des Droits Humains en Afrique Centrale (REDHAC) - Cameroon

  142. Réseau National de Défense des Droits Humains (RNDDH) - Haïti

  143. Rights Realization Centre - UK

  144. Rural People`s Sangam - India

  145. Salam for Democracy and Human Rights - UK, Lebanon, Bahrain

  146. Social-Strategic Researches and Analytical Investigations Public Union (SSRAIPU) - Azerbaijan

  147. SOHRAM-CASRA - Centre Action Sociale Réhabilitation et Réadaptation pour les Victimes de la Torture, de la guerre et de la violence - Turquie

  148. SOS-Torture/Burundi - Burundi

  149. SUARAM - Malaysia

  150. Syndicat national des agents de la formation et de l'education du Niger (SYNAFEN NIGER) - Niger

  151. Task Force Detainees of the Philippines (TFDP) - Philippines

  152. Thai Action Committee for Democaracy in Burma (TACDB) - Thailand

  153. The Advocates for Human Rights - United States of America

  154. The Barys Zvozskau Belarusian Human Rights House (BHRH) - Lithuania

  155. The Commission for the Disappeared and Victims of Violence (KontraS) - Indonesia

  156. The International Rehabilitation Council for Torture Victims (IRCT)

  157. Urgent Action Fund for Women's Human Rights United States of America

  158. Vietnam Committee on Human Rights (VCHR) - France

  159. World Coalition Against the Death Penalty (WCADP) - France

  160. World Organization Against Torture (OMCT) - Switzerland

  161. Xumek asociación para la promoción y protección de los derechos humanos - Argentina

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