Immediately release Viasna members and activists! Stop criminal proceedings against protesters!
Statement by Belarusian Human Rights Center "Viasna"
Minsk — November 2, 2020
On October 30, 2020, a member of the Human Rights Center “Viasna” and independent journalist Maryna Kastylianchanka was detained by representatives of the Ministry of Internal Affairs in a cafe in Minsk.
Maryna was taken to the Zavodski District Department of Internal Affairs of Minsk, where she faced charges under Art. 23.34 (participation in an unauthorized mass event) and Art. 23.4 of the Administrative Code (disobedience to the legal demands of a police officer). Following this, Maryna was detained for 72 hours before the trial and placed in the pre-trial detention center.
According to the police reports, the activist was accused of allegedly taking part in an unauthorized picket on October 30, chanting slogans and disobeying police officers.
However, in reality she did not take part in any pickets that day and did not commit the offense she was accused of.
In this regard, Viasna's human rights activists consider her detention as arbitrary and illegal.
On November 2, the Zavodski District Court of Minsk ruled to sentence Maryna Kastylianchanka to 15 days of administrative detention.
In addition, Aliaksandr Paplauski, a volunteer of the Human Rights Center “Viasna”, was detained in the Maskoŭski District Court of Minsk while monitoring the trials of the detained participants in peaceful demonstrations. Aliaksandr faced a charge under Art. 17.1 of the Administrative Code (petty hooliganism) for allegedly refusing to leave the courtroom at the order of a judge during a break. As a result, the volunteer was detained and spent the weekend in the pre-trial detention center.
On November 2, the Maskoŭski District Court of Minsk adjourned his case to November 17, and Aliaksandr was released.
The detentions of Maryna Kastylianchanka and Aliaksandr Paplauski are yet another evidence of persecution and pressure on the activists of the Human Rights Center “Viasna”, which intensified during the election campaign and in the post-election period.
Earlier, Marfa Rabkova, a member of the Human Rights Center “Viasna” and coordinator of the organization’s volunteer service, and Andrei Chapiuk, a volunteer of the Human Rights Center “Viasna”, were arrested on criminal charges and detained in pre-trial detention center No. 1 in Minsk. Both are accused of participating in and preparing riots.
We, members of the Human Rights Center "Viasna", protest against the undisguised persecution and pressure on members of our organization and our volunteers for their legitimate human rights activities.
We stress that such activities are guaranteed to human rights defenders by the Constitution of the Republic of Belarus and international human rights standards, including the Declaration on Human Rights Defenders, approved by the UN General Assembly on December 9, 1998.
We call on the authorities of the Republic of Belarus to:
- immediately release Maryna Kastylianchanka, a human rights activist of the Human Rights Center “Viasna”, and cancel the decision of the Zavodski District Court of Minsk against her as illegal;
- terminate the initiated administrative proceedings against a volunteer of the Human Rights Center “Viasna” Aliaksandr Paplauski;
- stop all attempts of pressure and persecution against members of the Human Rights Center "Viasna" and other Belarusian human rights activists.
Amnesty International condemns Belarus's decision to unleash mass criminal proceedings against hundreds of peaceful protesters
Responding to news that the Belarusian authorities have started mass criminal proceedings against more than 200 peaceful protesters who were detained during a rally on Sunday, and are now at risk of being jailed for up to three years, Denis Krivosheev, Deputy Director of Amnesty International for Eastern Europe and Central Asia said:
“The Belarusian authorities clearly fear freedom of peaceful assembly in the country, and are now criminalizing it wholesale, by attempting to prosecute 231 detained protesters in one single case. The protesters called their rally on Sunday a March against Terror, and now they are being intimidated by the authorities even further.
“By officially calling hundreds of participants of a peaceful demonstration criminals, the Belarusian authorities show their deep disdain for human rights and fundamental freedoms. This criminal case is utterly absurd and sets a dangerous precedent. It must be immediately dropped.
“We call on world governments to respond to the vicious cycle of oppression and deepening injustice in Belarus by putting pressure on the country’s authorities to ensure that human rights are respected and that all Belarusians can freely exercise their rights and freedoms – without these kinds of ugly reprisals.”
On Monday, the Investigative Committee of Belarus opened a criminal case accusing 231 people detained during Sunday’s peaceful protest rally in Minsk of "organizing or preparing activities that gravely breach public order” (part 1 of Article 342 of the Criminal Code of Belarus, a crime punishable by up to three years of imprisonment).
According to the investigation, the suspects took part in an “unauthorized action”, which caused damage to “city infrastructure and a police vehicle” and “obstructed the public transportation and the work of organizations.”
Following overwhelmingly peaceful protests on Sunday, at which there were isolated scuffles between police and protestors the authorities have responded by orchestrating a campaign of mass arrests, disproportionately arresting about 300 people.