The Obervatory: harassment of “Viasna” Board member Tatsiana Revyaka

August 20, 2012

Urgent appeal – THE OBSERVATORY

The Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders, a joint programme of the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH) and the World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT), has received new information and requests your urgent intervention in the following situation in Belarus.

Description of the situation:

The Observatory has been informed by reliable sources about the interrogation by the KGB of Ms. Tatsiana Revyaka, Board member of the Human Rights Centre “Viasna”.

According to the information received, on August 17, 2012, Ms. Revyaka was summoned to the KGB “as a person knowledgeable about the circumstances relevant to the national security of the Republic of Belarus”.

Ms. Tatsiana Revyaka reported that KGB officers interrogated her about a publication on Viasna website on August 15, 2012 titled “Mahiliou KGB interferes with electoral process”. The officers also showed her a printout from the website charter97.org containing the same reprinted information under the heading “Mogilev KGB terrorises collectors of signatures”. The officers also inquired about the source of the information and its authors and asked her whether she checked the date mentioned in the article, arguing that publishing such information without confirming it would discredit the state security of Belarus. As a result, Ms. Revyaka was warned over the publication of unchecked information on Viasna’s website. 

However, despite all these verbal criticisms, the KGB allegedly told Ms. Revyaka that it had no legal motivation to open judicial proceedings against her.

The said publication describes how a KGB officer in Mogilev broke into the apartment of Mr. Uladislau Yaroshau, a collector of signatures and student at the Mogilev State University of Arkady Kuliashou, and tried to learn about how much money he received for the collection of signatures and who managed the process. He threatened to dismiss Mr. Yaroshau from the university for his work in the team of an opposition candidate and proposed to him to cooperate with the KGB.

The Observatory strongly condemns the harassment of Ms. Tatsiana Revyaka, since it seems to merely aim at sanctioning her human rights activities.

The Observatory is particularly concerned that the pressure on her, and more generally on human rights defenders, has intensified in the current pre-electoral context, while HRC Viasna and the Belarusian Helsinki Committee conduct monitoring of the electoral process in the framework of a campaign entitled “Human Rights Defenders for Free Elections”.

Actions requested :

Please write to the Belarusian authorities, urging them to :

i. Guarantee in all circumstances the physical and psychological integrity of Ms. Tatsiana Revyaka, as well as of all human rights defenders in Belarus;

ii. Put an end to any kind of harassment – including at the judicial level – against Ms. Tatsiana Revyaka as well as against all other human rights defenders in Belarus;

iii. Conform with the provisions of the UN Declaration on Human Rights Defenders, adopted by the General Assembly of the United Nations on December 9, 1998, especially:

- its Article 1, which states that “everyone has the right, individually and in association with others, to promote and to strive for the protection and realization of human rights and fundamental freedoms at the national and international levels”,

- its Article 6 (b) and (c), which states that “Everyone has the right, individually and in association with others […] as provided for in human rights and other applicable international instruments, freely to publish, impart or disseminate to others views, information and knowledge on all human rights and fundamental freedoms and [...] to study, discuss, form and hold opinions on the observance, both in law and in practice, of all human rights and fundamental freedoms and, through these and other appropriate means, to draw public attention to those matters”.

- and its Article 12.2, which provides that “the State shall take all necessary measures to ensure the protection by the competent authorities of everyone, individually and in association with others, against any violence, threats, retaliation, de facto or de jure adverse discrimination, pressure or any other arbitrary action as a consequence of his or her legitimate exercise of the rights referred to in the present Declaration” ;

iv. Ensure in all circumstances respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms in accordance with international human rights standards and international instruments ratified by the Belarusian Republic.

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