Today marks the three-year anniversary of the heavy-handed crackdown on a protest meeting in Minsk’s Independence Square. This event was followed by a wave of arrests, detentions, and subsequent prosecutions of opposition members, activists, citizens, and several presidential candidates participating in peaceful demonstrations throughout Minsk. The opposition politician and presidential candidate Mikola Statkevich was also arrested on December 19, 2010, and remains in prison to this day.
FIDH and the Human Rights Center “Viasna” note that the right to peaceful assembly is guaranteed by both the Constitution of Belarus and international law in the sphere of human rights.
On June 19, 2011, the Working Group on Arbitrary Detention of the UN Human Rights Council issued a decision that Mr. Statkevich’s imprisonment is arbitrary and contravenes Article 9 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and Article 9 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which was ratified by Belarus. The UN Working Group called on the government of Belarus to take the necessary measures to correct this situation, including the immediate release of Mr. Statkevich and payment of adequate compensation.
During his prison term at the penal colony in Škłoŭ, Mr. Statkevich has been repeatedly subjected to various forms of disciplinary measures, including placement in a punishment cell and cell-type room for “malicious violation of regulations.” At a closed meeting on January 12, 2012, the Škłoŭ District Court changed Mr. Statkevich’s punishment regime to a stricter one consisting of three years imprisonment. During the course of his imprisonment, Mr. Statkevich has been pressured with demands to sign a petition for pardon. In an attempt to achieve this goal, the prison administration organized various provocations, including when selecting his cellmates.
FIDH and the Human Rights Center “Viasna” believe that Mr. Statkevich was prosecuted solely due to his political activities, including the peaceful exercising of his rights to freedom of assembly and freedom of expression, and that his prosecution had the sole purpose of putting an end to his political activities.
FIDH and the Human Rights Center “Viasna” therefore demand from the government of Belarus the immediate and unconditional release of Mikola Statkevich and other political prisoners and their full rehabilitation with compensation for damages.