BLR 002 / 0920 / OBS 109
Arbitrary detention /
Judicial harassment /
At risk of torture
September 25, 2020
The Observatory for the Protectionof Human Rights Defenders, a partnership of FIDH and the World OrganisationAgainst Torture (OMCT), requests your urgent intervention in the followingsituation in Belarus.
Description of the situation:
The Observatory has been informedby reliable sources about the arbitrary arrest and judicial harassment of Ms. Liudmila Kazak,a human rights lawyer renowned for her work defending politically motivatedcases. Ms. Kazak is notably a defence lawyer in a high profile case broughtagainst a member of the Presidium of the Coordination Council of the Belarusopposition Ms. Maryja Kaliesnikava, who isfacing charges under Article 361.3 of the Criminal Code (“calls to actionsaimed at harming the national security of the Republic of Belarus”).
According tothe information received, on September 24, 2020, at around 2 pm, Ms. LiudmilaKazak became unreachable on her mobile. Around 7 pm of the same day, Minskpolice department spokeswoman Natalia Hanusevich reported to the media that Ms.Kazak was being detained for an administrative offense in one of the policedepartments of Minsk. Ms. Hanusevich did not specify which were theadministrative charges brought against Ms. Kazak.
Ms. Kazakcould not get access to her lawyers - Mr. Viktar Matskevich and Ms. SviatlanaGorbatok - for more than three hours following her arrest. Mr. Viktar Matskevichlater confirmed that Ms. Kazak was held at the Okrestina Preliminary DetentionCenter in Minsk and that two detention protocols were drawn up under Articles23.34 and 23.4 of the Administrative Code (“participation in an unauthorisedmass event” and “disobedience to a police officer”). According to theprotocols, on August 30, 2020, Ms. Kazak would have attended an unauthorisedmass event on the Pobediteley Avenue, while she denies this information. Thewitnesses’ names indicated in the protocols were changed, and Ms. Kazak was notgiven copies of those protocols.
The HumanRights Centre (HRC) Viasna, FIDH’s member-organisation in Belarus, believesthat the administrative case against Ms. Kazak was brought by the authoritiesin order to impede her work on the case of Ms. Kaliesnikava, and even todeprive her of her lawyer status. On September 25, at 11.00 a.m., the Minsk City Courtreviewed the complaint against the decision of the Partisanski District Courtof Minsk which chose the arrest as a preventive measure against Ms.Kaliesnikava. As a result of the arrest and the charges brought against Ms.Kazak, she was unable to defend her client. Mr. Aliaksandr Pylchenko, anotherlawyer of Ms. Kaliesnikava, was the only one attending the hearing.
The Observatoryis deeply concerned about Ms. Liudmila Kazak’s detention and the chargesbrought against, which appear to be aimed at sanctioning her human rightsactivities.
On September9, two other lawyers involved in the Coordination Council and the protection ofits members, Messrs. Maksim Znak and IlliaSalei, were alsoarrested, and subsequently charged under Article 361.3 of the CriminalCode. Both are currently held in pre-trial detention center No. 1 in Minsk. Mr.Znak started a hunger strike as a protest against the charges.
TheObservatory urges the Belarusian authorities to guarantee in allcircumstances the physical and psychological integrity of Ms. Liudmila Kazak,Mr. Maksim Znak and Mr. Illia Salei, and to release them immediately andunconditionally.
Please writeto the authorities of Belarus to urge them to:
i. Guarantee in all circumstances thephysical integrity and psychological well-being of Ms. Liudmila Kazak, Mr.Maksim Znak and Mr.Illia Salei, as well as of all other Coordination Councilmembers and human rights lawyers in Belarus;
ii. Release Ms.Liudmila Kazak, Mssrs. Maksim Znak and Illia Salei immediatelyand unconditionally, since their detention isarbitrary as it seems to be merely aimed at punishing them for their activitiesas lawyers;
iii. Guarantee the unhindered access ofMs. Liudmila Kazak, Mr. Maksim Znak and Mr. Illia Salei to lawyers oftheir choice and their family members;
iv. Put an end to all acts ofharassment - including at the judicial level - against Ms. Liudmila Kazak,Mr. Maksim Znak and Mr. Illia Salei and all other human rights lawyers andhuman rights defenders in Belarus, and ensure in all circumstances that theyare able to carry out their legitimate activities without any hindrance andfear of reprisals;
v. Conform in all circumstances withthe provisions of the Declaration on Human Rights Defenders, adopted onDecember 9, 1998 by the United Nations General Assembly, in particular itsArticles 1, 6 and 12.2;
vi. Ensure in all circumstances respectfor human rights and fundamental freedoms in accordance with internationalhuman rights instruments ratified by Belarus.
Please also write to the diplomatic representations ofBelarus in your respective countries.
Geneva-Paris,September 25, 2020
Kindly inform us of any actionundertaken quoting the code of this appeal in your reply.
The Observatory for the Protection ofHuman Rights Defenders (the Observatory) was created in 1997 by the WorldOrganisation Against Torture (OMCT) and FIDH. The objective of this programmeis to prevent or remedy situations of repression against human rightsdefenders. OMCT and FIDH are both members of , the European Union Human RightsDefenders Mechanism implemented by international civil society.
 Thecoordination Council is an alternative political organ created by the Belarusopposition after the widely contested elections in August 2020. For moreinformation, see , August 24,2020, as well as OMCT statement, ,September 18, 2020.
 Localhuman rights groups point out that in some cases Administrative charges broughtagainst lawyers might be inconsistent with the lawyers’ ethics which couldserve a basis for the lawyer’s licence withdrawal.
 Mr. Maksim Znak is a member of thepresidium of the Coordination Council. Mr. Illia Salei is another lawyerdefending Ms. Maryja Kaliesnikava.