PRESS RELEASE – THE OBSERVATORY
Paris-Geneva, June 1, 2012.
The Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders, a joint programme of the International Federation of Human (FIDH) and the World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT), deplores the recent arrest and sentencing of human rights defender Aleh Volchek.
On May 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 in public”. He was later brought to the Department of the Ministry of Internal Affairs of Tsentralniy district in Minsk, and sentenced on the same day to nine days’ administrative imprisonment by the Minsk Tsentralniy District Court, under Article 17.1 of the Code of Administrative 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 the Charter 97 website on May 21, in which he denounced the beatings carried out by the police against young demonstrators, whom they labelled as “criminals”. In the article, Mr. Volcheck also called on Belarusian politicians to take a stand regarding the violent repression of the rights to freedom of expression and the beating of demonstrators by the police, and called on them to take judicial action. The arrest, sentencing and arbitrary detention of Mr Volchek come in the wake of previous harassment and attempts to limit his human rights activities, 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 (see Observatory Urgent Appeal BLR 001 / 0112 / OBS 014.1).
The Observatory urges the Belarusian authorities to release Mr. Volchek immediately and unconditionally as his detention is arbitrary and is related solely to the exercise of his legitimate right to freedom of expression. The authorities should put an end to any kind of harassment against Mr. Volchek and to conform to 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.