URGENT APPEAL – THE OBSERVATORY
Belarus: Administrative harassment against Messrs. Raman Yurhel, Viktar Sazonau and Uladzimir Khilmanovich
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), requests your urgent intervention in the following situation in Belarus.
Description of the situation:
The Observatory has been informed by reliable sources about the imposition of fines on Messrs. Raman Yurhel, member of the Belarusian Helsinki Committee (BHC), and Viktar Sazonau and Uladzimir Khilmanovich, members of the Human Rights Center “Viasna”.
According to the information received, on January 5, 2013, Messrs. Raman Yurhel, Viktar Sazonau and Uladzimir Khilmanovich were fined a total of 4.5 million Belarusian roubles (1.5 million each) by the Leninski District Court of Hrodna after being charged under Article 23.34 of the Administrative Code, which provides punishment for violating the procedure of “organising or conducting a mass event or demonstration”.
The three defenders were charged after they photographed themselves on December 10, 2012 in the town of Hrodna, Belarus, with a portrait of imprisoned Belarusian human rights defenderAles Bialiatski and brochures containing the text of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. The police issued charge sheets on December 18, 2012, after the December-10 action was qualified as an “unauthorised mass event”. The charge sheets, which contain a description the administrative violations supposedly committed, were brought to the knowledge of the three defenders on December 19, 2012. The three cases were then merged into a single case, and scheduled to be heard on January 5, 2013 before the Leninski District Court of Hrodna.
The hearing lasted 2.30 hours. No witnesses nor any evidence were presented during that hearing and all the accusations were based solely on speculation and reports of police officials. Presiding Judge Vital Letska also failed to interrupt the hearing at any point over the 2.30 hours, before issuing the court ruling.
Please write to the Belarusian authorities, urging them to:
i. Guarantee in all circumstances the physical and psychological integrity of Messrs. Raman Yurhel, Viktar Sazonau and Uladzimir Khilmanovich, as well as of all human rights defenders in Belarus;
ii. Put an end to any kind of harassment – including at the judicial and administrative levels – against Messrs. Raman Yurhel, Viktar Sazonau and Uladzimir Khilmanovich, 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.