#FreeViasna: STOP CRIMINAL PROSECUTION OF VIASNA’S HUMAN RIGHTS DEFENDERS

#FreeViasna: STOP CRIMINAL PROSECUTION OF VIASNA’S HUMAN RIGHTS DEFENDERS

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HRC Viasna started this petition to Government of Belarus

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Over its 25-year history, the Human Rights Center “Viasna” has been repeatedly targeted by the Belarusian authorities, as human rights defenders faced pressure and intimidation for helping people defend their rights and interests.

Viasna’s human rights activities fully comply with the Constitution of Belarus and international treaties ratified by the country, while Viasna itself has always advocated the peaceful exercise of civil and political rights and freedoms.

Since the start of the protests in 2020, Viasna has played a key role in providing assistance to victims in Belarus and continues to report on the human rights situation and political prisoners in the country, both nationally and internationally. Over the months, Viasna has been collecting information on arbitrary detentions in administrative and criminal cases, providing legal assistance and support to the families of detainees and victims, documenting violations of the rights and conditions of detention of prisoners and convicts, documenting evidence of torture, cruel and degrading treatment and other crimes against humanity in Belarus.

When the authorities launched a massive attack on independent media in the country, we knew what was happening in Belarus thanks to Viasna: human rights defenders took risks and now they are paying for it.

At the moment, seven members of Viasna remain behind bars:

  • chairman Ales Bialiatski,
  • deputy chairman Valiantsin Stefanovic,
  • coordinator of the campaign “Human Rights Defenders for Free Elections” Uladzimir Labkovich,
  • coordinator of Viasna’s network of volunteers Marfa Rabkova,
  • head of Viasna’s Homieĺ branch Leanid Sudalenka,
  • volunteers Tatsiana Lasitsa and Andrei Chapiuk.

The criminal prosecution of the human rights defenders can only be linked to the vigorous activity of Viasna, which runs counter to the existing authoritarian political regime of Lukashenka. Against the background of unprecedented repression in the country, the collection of information and the publication of facts of human rights violations are socially significant and necessary so that in the future all the perpetrators are punished for the crimes committed or for silent inaction. That is why human rights defenders are the thorn in the side of the authorities, and that is why they must be immediately released in order to continue their important work.

We call on the Belarusian authorities to:

  1. Immediately close the criminal cases against Viasna and put an end to the prosecution of its members.
  2. Immediately release the human rights defenders and volunteers of Viasna, Ales Bialiatski, Valiantsin Stefanovic, Uladzimir Labkovich, Marfa Rabkova, Andrei Chapiuk, Leanid Sudalenka and Tatsiana Lasitsa, as well as all political prisoners in Belarus, and restore their violated rights.
  3. End the widespread practice of arresting and prosecuting human rights defenders in Belarus, as well as guarantee them the opportunity to carry out their legitimate human rights activities in any circumstances, without restrictions and without fear of retaliation, including without the risk of administrative or criminal prosecution.
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