URGENT APPEAL – THE OBSERVATORY
August 6, 2013
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 sentencing of Mr. Uladzimir Labkovich and Ms. Tatsiana Reviaka, members of the Human Rights Centre (HRC) ‘Viasna’, after they took part in a solidarity action in Minsk on August 5, 2013 to mark the second anniversary of the arbitrary arrest of Mr. Ales Bialiatski, President of the HRC ‘Viasna’ and FIDH Vice-President.
According to the information received, on August 6, 2013, Mr. Uladzimir Labkovich and Ms. Tatsiana Reviaka were found guilty of “violation of the order of organizing and holding mass events” under Article 23.34 of the Code of Administrative Violations. Both were sentenced to a fine of 3,000,000 Belarusian roubles (around 260 euros), and subsequently set free.
Mr. Labkovich and Ms. Reviaka had been arrested by the police at 12.20 p.m. on August 5, 2013, as they were handing out postcards with the portrait of Mr. Ales Bialiatski near the department store ‘TsUM’ in Minsk. Both were taken to the Savetski District Police Department and charged under Article 23.34 of the Code of Administrative Violations. Their mobile phones were switched off.
At 4 p.m on the same day. Mr. Uladzimir Labkovich and Ms. Tatsiana Reviaka were taken to the Savetski District Court of Minsk and were tried by Judges Dzmitry Pauliuchenka and Maryna Fiodarava, respectively. Both judges found defects in the “violation reports” submitted to them, and ruled that they were to be returned to the police for correction. After the hearings, at about 5 p.m., the two human rights defenders were released from the court room.
However, late in the evening, Mr. Labkovich and Ms. Reviaka both received a phone call ordering them to come back to the police station the next day, i.e. on August 6, at 11 a.m., in order to sign new protocols, before being summonsed to appear at a new hearing scheduled in court on August 6 at 3 p.m.
Previously, on August 4, 2013, Ms. Diana Burakova, a volunteer at the HRC ‘Viasna’, had also been arrested just after another solidarity action that took place in Mogilev. Although she was released on the same day, it is still unclear whether or not she will face charges.
The Observatory condemns the sentence issued against Mr. Uladzimir Labkovich and Ms. Tatsiana Reviaka, as well as the arrest of Ms. Diana Burakova, and considers that the harassment against them is merely aimed at sanctioning their right to freedom of assembly and more generally their legitimate human rights activities. These events are further evidence of the harassment already faced by the HRC ‘Viasna’ and other human rights organisations in Belarus.
Please write to the Belarusian authorities, urging them to:
i. Put an end to any kind of harassment – including at judicial level – against Mr. Uladzimir Labkovich, Ms. Tatsiana Reviaka, Ms. Diana Burakova, Mr. Ales Bialiatski and all members of ‘Viasna’, as well as against all other human rights defenders in Belarus;
ii. Release Mr. Ales Bialiatski immediately and unconditionally since his detention is arbitrary as it seems to only aim at sanctioning his human rights activities;
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.