BLR 003 / 0221 / OBS 028
February 26, 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 by the Human Rights Centre ‘Viasna’ about the acts of harassment and intimidation against them as reprisals for their work documenting human rights abuses and providing legal assistance to victims amid the ongoing crackdown on human rights defenders and organisations in Belarus.
On February 19, 2021, 85 Members of the European Parliament and ambassadors to Belarus received a fraudulent email from an address named ‘firstname.lastname@example.org’ under false pretenses. The email stated that ‘Viasna’ was “seriously concerned about the unprecedented increase in violations of citizens’ rights to freedom of expression and peaceful assembly in a number of European countries” and called for investigations to take place into other European states, namely France, Germany, Belgium, the Netherlands, and Poland.
On February 22, ‘Viasna’ officially declared that the emails were fraudulent and had not been sent by the organisation. ‘Viasna’ further pointed out that they considered this attack a “sordid provocation by the Belarusian security forces”.
The Observatory recalls that ‘Viasna’ has been subjected to continuous acts of harassment since August 2020, including the search and raiding of their offices and the ongoing arbitrary detention of its members, namely Maria Rabkova, Leanid Sudalenka, Tatsiana Lasitsa and Maryna Kastylianchanka.
The Observatory strongly condemns the acts of intimidation against ‘Viasna’ as well as the ongoing prosecution of its members. The Observatory urges the Belarusian authorities to immediately cease their harassment of ‘Viasna’, and to immediately and unconditionally release the above-mentioned human rights defenders.
The Observatory further condemns the ongoing persecution of ‘Viasna’ members, as well as of all local human rights groups and human rights defenders who document abuses and provide legal and other assistance to victims in Belarus.
Please write to the authorities of Belarus to urge them to:
- Guarantee in all circumstances the physical integrity and psychological well-being of all ‘Viasna’ members and all other human rights defenders in Belarus;
- ii. Put an end to all acts of harassment - including at the judicial level - against ‘Viasna’ as well as all organisations engaged in human rights activities in Belarus, and ensure in all circumstances that they are able to carry out their legitimate activities without any hindrance and fear of reprisals;
- Immediately and unconditionally release Maria Rabkova, Leanid Sudalenka, Tatsiana Lasitsa and Maryna Kastylianchanka, and drop all charges against them, as their detention is arbitrary and the criminal charges against them seem to be merely aimed at punishing them for their legitimate human rights activities.
- Mr. Aliaksandr Lukashenka, President of Belarus, Email: email@example.com;
- Mr. Andrei Shved, General Prosecutor of Belarus, Email: firstname.lastname@example.org;
- Mr. Oleg Slizhevsky, Minister of Justice of Belarus, Email: email@example.com;
- Mr. Vasily Gerasimov, Acting Chairman of the State Control Committee of Belarus, Email: firstname.lastname@example.org;
- Mr. Ivan Kubrakov, minister of Internal Affairs of Belarus, Email: email@example.com;
- Mr. Yury Ambrazevich, Permanent Mission of Belarus to the United Nations in Geneva, Switzerland, Email: firstname.lastname@example.org;
- H.E. Mr. Aliaksandr Mikhnevich, Embassy of Belarus in Brussels, Email: email@example.com
Please also write to the diplomatic representations of Belarus in your respective countries.
Geneva-Paris, February 26, 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 the World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT) and FIDH. The objective of this programme is to prevent or remedy situations of repression against human rights defenders. OMCT and FIDH 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 OMCT: + 41 22 809 49 39
- Tel FIDH: + 33 (0) 1 43 55 25 18