Alert: New guide on best practices to protect detained children from torture
Belarus
18.11.21
Urgent Interventions

Belarus: Arbitrary detention of woman rights defender Olga Gorbunova

URGENT APPEAL - THE OBSERVATORY

BLR 009 / 1121 / OBS 121
Arbitrary detention /
Judicial harassment /
Ill-treatment
Belarus
November 18, 2021

The Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders, a partnership of the World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT) and FIDH, requests your urgent intervention in the following situation in Belarus.

Description of the situation:

The Observatory has been informed about the arbitrary detention of Ms. Olga Gorbunova, a woman rights defender and former director of Radislava, a non-governmental organisation working for the defence of women’s rights and providing legal, social and psychological support to women suffering domestic violence in Belarus.

On November 9, 2021, police officers broke into the house of Olga Gorbunova in Minsk and arrested her on charges of “organisation and preparation of actions that grossly violate public order, or active participation in them” (Article 342 of the Criminal Code of the Republic of Belarus). She was subsequently taken to the detention center on Akrestsina Lane in Minsk, where she remained detained at the time of publication of this Urgent Appeal. On the same day of her arrest, the defender started a hunger strike to protest her unjust detention.

Olga Gorbunova’s detention conditions are inhumane, having no access to a mattress and bed linen, and being denied regular walks and showers. Moreover, the heating system is poor and turned off at night, while the radio is on all night and the detainees are woken up every two hours. The charges against Ms. Gorbunova would be related to her alleged participation in women’s marches in September 2020, after which she was detained for two days. If found guilty, Ms. Gorbunova could face up to four years of imprisonment.

The Observatory strongly condemns the arbitrary detention of Olga Gorbunova and underlines that her targeting is part of the ongoing repression started in Belarus amid the widely disputed presidential elections in August 2020. At the time of publication of this Urgent Appeal, over 30 human rights defenders, including seven members of OMCT and FIDH member organisation Viasna Human Rights Centre, face politically-motivated criminal charges and two of them, Leanid Sudalenka and Tatsiana Lasitsa, have been found guilty and sentenced to three years and two and a half years in prison, respectively. Moreover, the absolute majority of independent human rights organisations have been arbitrarily liquidated or are in the process of liquidation in Belarus, including the Belarusian Helsinki Committee, Legal Initiative, and ‘Zvyano’.

The Observatory urges the authorities in Belarus to immediately and unconditionally release Olga Gorbunova and all human rights defenders arbitrarily detained in the country, and to guarantee their physical integrity and psychological well-being.

Actions requested:

Please write to the authorities of Belarus to urge them to:

i. Guarantee in all circumstances the physical integrity and psychological well-being of Olga Gorbunova and all other human rights defenders in Belarus;

ii. Immediately and unconditionally release Olga Gorbunova, and all other detained human rights defenders, as their detention is arbitrary and seem to be merely aimed at punishing them for their legitimate human rights activities;

iii. Put an end to all acts of harassment - including at the judicial level - against Olga Gorbunova and all other human rights defenders in the country, and ensure in all circumstances that they are able to carry out their legitimate activities without any hindrance and fear of reprisals.

Addresses:

  • Mr. Aliaksandr Lukashenka, President of Belarus, Email: contact@president.gov.by;
  • Mr. Andrei Shved, General Prosecutor of Belarus, Email: info@prokuratura.gov.by;
  • Mr Dmitry Gora, Chairman of the Investigative Committee of the Republic of Belarus, Email: sk@sk.gov.by;
  • Mr. Sergey Homenko, Minister of Justice of Belarus, Email: kanc@minjust.by;
  • Mr. Vasily Gerasimov, Chairman of the State Control Committee of Belarus, Email: kgk@mail.belpak.by;
  • Mr. Ivan Kubrakov, minister of Internal Affairs of Belarus, Email: pismo_mvd@mia.by;
  • Mr. Yury Ambrazevich, Permanent Mission of Belarus to the United Nations in Geneva, Switzerland, Email: mission.belarus@ties.itu.int;
  • H.E. Mr. Aliaksandr Mikhnevich, Embassy of Belarus in Brussels, Email: belgium@mfa.gov.by

Please also write to the diplomatic representations of Belarus in your respective countries.

***

Paris-Geneva, November 18, 2021

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 prevent or remedy situations of repression against human rights defenders. FIDH and OMCT and are both members of ProtectDefenders.eu, the European Union Human Rights Defenders Mechanism implemented by international civil society.

To contact the Observatory, call the emergency line:

  • E-mail: Appeals@fidh-omct.org
  • Tel FIDH: + 33 (0) 1 43 55 25 18
  • Tel OMCT: + 41 22 809 49 39
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