Belarus
28.09.20
Urgent Interventions

Sentencing and release of Ms. Liudmila Kazak

URGENT APPEAL - THE OBSERVATORY

New information

BLR 002 / 0920 / OBS 109.1

Arbitrary detention /

Judicial harassment /

Release

Belarus

September 28, 2020

The Observatory for the Protectionof Human Rights Defenders, a partnership of FIDH and the World OrganisationAgainst Torture (OMCT), has received new information and requests your urgentintervention in the following situation in Belarus.

New information:

The Observatory has been informedby reliable sources about the sentencing and release 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[1] 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, in the evening of September 25, 2020, Ms. Kazak wasreleased after Judge Alexander Rudenko of the Court of Oktyabrsky district ofMinsk sentenced her to a fine of 675 rubles (approximately 220 euros) underArticle 23.4 of the Administrative Code. The Court dropped the initial chargeof “participation in an unauthorised mass event”, but found Ms. Kazak guilty of“resisting police officers” while they were arbitrary arresting her, onSeptember 24, without introducing themselves nor explaining the reasons for herarrest (see background information).

The Observatory is relieved aboutMs. Liudmila Kazak’s release, but recalls that she should never have beendetained in the first place, as her detention was arbitrary since it aimed atsanctioning her human rights activities.

TheObservatory further calls for the immediate and unconditional release of twoother lawyers involved in the Coordination Council and the protection of itsmembers, Messrs. Maksim Znak and IlliaSalei[2], who havebeen arbitrarily detained since September 8, 2020 (see background information).

Backgroundinformation:

On September24, 2020, at around 2 pm, Ms. Liudmila Kazak became unreachable on her mobile.Around 7 pm of the same day, Minsk police department spokeswoman NataliaHanusevich reported to the media that Ms. Kazak was being detained for anadministrative offense in one of the police departments of Minsk. Ms.Hanusevich did not specify which were the administrative charges broughtagainst 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. ViktarMatskevich later confirmed that Ms. Kazak was held at the Okrestina PreliminaryDetention Center in Minsk and that two detention protocols were drawn up underArticles 23.34 and 23.4 of the Administrative Code (“participation in an unauthorised mass event”and “disobedience to a police officer”). According to the protocols, on August30, 2020, Ms. Kazak would have attended an unauthorised mass event on thePobediteley Avenue, while she denies this information. The witnesses’ namesindicated in the protocols were changed, and Ms. Kazak was not given copies ofthose 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.[3] On September 25, at 11.00 a.m., theMinsk City Court reviewed the complaint against the decision of the PartisanskiDistrict Court of Minsk which chose the arrest as a preventive measure againstMs. 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.

On September9, two other lawyers involved in the Coordination Council and the protection ofits members, Messrs. Maksim Znak and IlliaSalei, were also arrested, and subsequently charged under Article361.3 of the Criminal Code. Both are currently held in pre-trial detentioncenter No. 1 in Minsk. Mr. Znak started a hunger strike as a protest againstthe charges.

TheObservatory urges the Belarusian authorities to guarantee in allcircumstances the physical and psychological integrity of Ms.Liudmila Kazak, Mr. Maksim Znak andMr. Illia Salei, and to release Mr. Maksim Znak and Mr. Illia Saleiimmediately and unconditionally.

Actionsrequested:

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 Messrs.Maksim Znak and Illia Salei immediately andunconditionally, since their detention is arbitrary as it seems to be merelyaimed at punishing them for their activities as lawyers;

iii. Guarantee the unhindered access ofMr. Maksim Znak and Mr. Illia Salei to lawyers of their choice and their familymembers;

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 on December9, 1998 by the United Nations General Assembly, in particular its Articles 1, 6and 12.2;

vi. Ensure in all circumstances respectfor human rights and fundamental freedoms in accordance with internationalhuman rights instruments ratified by Belarus.

Addresses:

· Mr. Aliaksandr Lukashenka,President of Belarus, Email: contact@president.gov.by ;

· Mr. Andrey Shved, GeneralProsecutor of Belarus, Email: info@prokuratura.gov.by ;

· Mr. Oleg Slizhevsky, Minister ofJustice of Belarus, Email: kanc@minjust.by ;

· Mr. Vasily Gerasimov, ActingChairman of the State Control Committee of Belarus, Email: kgk@mail.belpak.by ;

· Mr. Yury Ambrazevich, PermanentMission of Belarus to the United Nations in Geneva, Switzerland, Email: mission.belarus@ties.itu.int ;

· H.E. Mr. AliaksandrMikhnevich, Embassy of Belarus in Brussels, Email: belgium@mfa.gov.by

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

***

Geneva-Paris,September 28, 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 ProtectDefenders.eu, the European Union Human RightsDefenders Mechanism implemented by international civil society.

[1] Thecoordination Council is an alternative political organ created by the Belarusopposition after the widely contested elections in August 2020. For moreinformation, see Joint Letter of OMCT, FIDH, theBelarusian Helsinki Committee and Viasna to the United Nations SpecialRapporteur on Torture, August 24, 2020, as well as OMCT statement, Belarus: UN Human Rights Councilmust act to prevent torture, September 18, 2020.

[2] Mr. Maksim Znak is a member of the presidium of theCoordination Council. Mr. Illia Salei is another lawyer defending Ms. MaryjaKaliesnikava.

[3] 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.

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