BLR 003 / 1018 / OBS 128
Arbitrary detention /
Judicial harassment /
Obstacles to freedom of assembly
October 19, 2018
The Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders, a partnership of FIDH and the World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT), requests your urgent intervention in the following situation in Belarus.
Description of the situation:
The Observatory has been informed by reliable sources about the arbitrary arrest and subsequent detention of Mr. Roman Kislyak, a human rights defender and lawyer, as he was observing a peaceful assembly in Brest, Belarus.
According to the information received, on October 14, 2018, Mr. Roman Kislyak was arrested during an unauthorised peaceful assembly against the construction of a battery plant in Brest. A total of 120 citizens from Brest and its surroundings assembled this day on the Lenin Square to express their disagreement with the authorities’ decision to build the environmentally dangerous plant in the Brest Free Economic Zone.
Police arrested at least 16 people among the more vocal and active participants, including the former Presidential candidate Mikola Statkevich, in connection with the gathering. Three minors, one adult who appeared to be parent of one of the minors and one woman were released shortly after the arrest. The others spent the night in custody in the Leninsky District Department of the Ministry of Internal Affairs of Belarus, including Mr. Roman Kislyak. Twelve people were subsequently charged with Article 23.34 (Part 1) of the Code of Administrative Violations for participating in an unauthorised mass event punishable with up to 15 days of administrative arrest.
On October 15, 2018, while still in detention, Mr. Roman Kislyak felt unwell and was hospitalised due to high blood pressure. After hospitalisation, Mr. Kislyak was not returned to custody. His trial is scheduled for October 24, 2018 before the Leninsky District Court of Brest.
The other protesters were tried on October 15 and 16, 2018. Three were condemned to five days of administrative arrest, including former Presidential candidate Mikola Statkevich and two bloggers, while the others were fined to a total amount of roughly 1,200 EUR.
The Observatory recalls that the Belarusian legislation violates the right to peaceful assembly by unjustifiably prohibiting citizens to hold peaceful assemblies without authorisation. In Belarus, the authorities routinely reject requests to hold peaceful assemblies related to practically any human rights or other societal issue, either without providing adequate reason or referring to the law that requires organisers to ensure first medical aid during the event and to subsequently clean the event venue.
Moreover, the Belarusian authorities generally prosecute human rights defenders who exert their right to observe peaceful assemblies since often they denounce the actions of law enforcement agents when dispersing peaceful protesters.
The Observatory strongly condemns the arbitrary arrest and judicial harassment of Mr. Roman Kislyak, as it appears to be a retaliation of his legitimate and peaceful human rights activities. The Observatory urges Belarusian authorities to immediately put an end to any act of harassment, including at the judicial level, against Mr. Roman Kislyak and to uphold international human rights standards to which Belarus is bound, including with respect to freedom of assembly.
Please write to the authorities of Belarus, urging them to:
i. Put an end to any form of harassment, including at the judicial level, against Mr. Roman Kislyak, as well as all human rights defenders in Belarus;
ii. Guarantee in all circumstances the physical and psychological integrity of Mr. Roman Kislyak and all human rights defenders in Belarus;
iii. Comply with all their international obligations to respect the exercise of the citizens’ right to freedom of association and assembly, as established in the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, in particular its Articles 21 and 22;
iv. Comply with the provisions of the United Nations Declaration on Human Rights Defenders, in particular with its Articles 1, 2, 5 and 12.2;
v. Ensure in all circumstances respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms in accordance with international human rights standards and international instruments ratified by Belarus.
· President Aliaksandr Lukashenko, Belarus, fax: + 375 172 26 06 10 or + 375 172 22 38 72, email: firstname.lastname@example.org ;· General Prosecutor, Alexandr Konyuk, Belarus, fax: + 375 17 226 42 52, email: email@example.com;· Minister of Justice of Belarus, Mr. Oleg Slizhevsky, Belarus, fax: + 375 17 200 86 87, email: firstname.lastname@example.org ;· Chairman of the State Control Committee of Belarus, Mr. Leonid Anfimov, Belarus, fax: +375 17 289 14 84, email: email@example.com ;· Permanent Mission of Belarus to the United Nations in Geneva, Mr. Yury Ambrazevich, Switzerland, Fax: +41 22 748 24 51, email: firstname.lastname@example.org ;· H.E. Mr. Aleksandr Mikhnevich, Embassy of Belarus in Brussels, Fax: + 32 2.340.02.87, Email: email@example.com;· Svetlogorsk district court, Belarus, fax: +375 (2342) 7-02-47, 4-02-39; e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Please also write to the diplomatic representations of Belarus in your respective countries.
Paris-Geneva, October 19, 2018
Kindly inform us of any action undertaken quoting the code of this appeal in your reply.
The Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders (the Observatory) was created in 1997 by FIDH and the World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT). The objective of this programme is to intervene to prevent or remedy situations of repression against human rights defenders. FIDH and OMCT are both members of ProtectDefenders.eu , the European Union Human Rights Defenders Mechanism implemented by international civil society.
 The construction of the plant is largely criticised by ecological activists and civil society of Belarus. They claim that the battery factory constructed 7 km away from the city will pollute the ecology of Brest and the Brest region. Human rights activists highlight that the plant facilities are being built with numerous irregularities in terms of security and environmental norms. Since the beginning of 2018, a civil campaign has therefore been underway against the construction of the battery plant in Brest. In February 2018, a petition of about 40,000 signatures against the construction was transferred to the Administration of the President of Belarus. Since March 5, 2018, every Sunday, the opponents of the construction assemble on the Lenin Square in Brest to express their silent protest by peacefully feeding pigeons on the square. When the organisers started the series of these every-Sunday protests, they sought authorisation, yet only one protest obtained it (in April 2018) while other requests to hold a protest were all denied. As a result, the organisers subsequently stopped requesting authorisation.