BELARUS: Arrest and harassment ofprominent human rights defender
Paris-Geneva,June 1, 2012. The Observatory forthe Protection of Human Rights Defenders, a joint programme of the International Federation of Human (FIDH) andthe World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT), deplores the recent arrest andsentencing of human rights defender Aleh Volchek.
OnMay 24, 2012, Mr. Aleh Volchek, Head of “Legal Aid to the Population”,an organisation that provided legal assistance until it was liquidated in 2003,was arrested by plain-clothed police officers who accused him of “swearing inpublic”. He was later brought to the Department of the Ministry of InternalAffairs of Tsentralniy district in Minsk,and sentenced on the same day to nine days' administrative imprisonment by theMinsk Tsentralniy District Court, under Article 17.1 of the Code ofAdministrative Offences (“swearing against the police”).
Mr.Aleh Volchek is presently held in the Centre for the Isolation of Delinquents(CID) at the City Department of Internal Affairs in Minsk.His arrest and detention could be related to an article published on theCharter 97 website on May 21, in which he denounced the beatings carried out bythe police against young demonstrators, whom they labelled as ”criminals”. Inthe article, Mr. Volcheck also called on Belarusian politicians to take a standregarding the violent repression of the rights to freedom of expression and thebeating of demonstrators by the police, and called on them to take judicialaction. The arrest, sentencing and arbitrary detention of Mr Volchek come inthe wake of previous harassment and attempts to limit his human rightsactivities, which have intensified since early 2012. Mr.Volcheck had already been sentenced in January 2012 to four days’administrative detention for allegedly using foul language in the street (seeObservatory Urgent Appeal BLR 001 / 0112 / OBS 014.1).
TheObservatory urges the Belarusian authorities to release Mr. Volchek immediatelyand unconditionally as his detention is arbitrary and is related solely to theexercise of his legitimate right to freedom of expression. The authoritiesshould put an end to any kind of harassment against Mr. Volchek and to conformto the provisions of the United Nations Declaration on Human Rights Defenders,and to international human rights standards and instruments ratified by the Republic of Belarus.
Forfurther information, please contact:
· FIDH: Karine Appy / Arthur Manet: + 33 1 43 55 25 18
· OMCT:Isabelle Scherer: + 41 22 809 49 39