Post-election detainees deprived of the right to a fair trial - finds new report
A coalition of Belarusian human rights defenders presented today a report entitled “Belarus. August 2020: “Justice” for Protesters.” It highlights violations of the standards of a fair trial after tens of thousands of peaceful demonstrators protested the rigged presidential election and thousands were detained en masse and were convicted in August 2020.
The report was prepared by the Human Rights Center "Viasna" and experts of the Barys Zvozskau Belarusian Human Rights House with the support of the International Federation for Human Rights and the World Organization against Torture. It was presented by Viasna lawyers Pavel Sapelka and Aliaksei Loika.
“The report was the result of processing the testimonies of almost 40 people who were detained on August 9-12,” said Pavel Sapelka. “Many of those interviewed by Viasna said that they expected a fair trial as a point that would transfer their situation into the legal field. However, as a result, the courts, proved to be yet another instrument of repression against peaceful protesters.”
The experts concluded that the protesters detained on August 9-12 were deprived of the right to a fair trial. This is confirmed not only by the testimonies of people, but also by procedural and medical documents.
“The documented violations of the basic principles of judicial activities, constitutional rights and internationally recognized human rights and fundamental freedoms in the preparation of administrative cases and their consideration by judges are blatant and shocking. These violations of international norms regarding the rights to a fair trial enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and other relevant international legal instruments are so serious that they made the deprivation of liberty of the people detained on August 9-12 arbitrary,” says the report.
Many detained protesters reported absence of any reaction on the part of the judges to the obvious traces of torture, inhuman and degrading treatment, as well as to torture and ill-treatment reports voiced during the trials.
The human rights defenders once again deplore the absence of legislatively defined safeguards against torture, which, in their opinion, continues to result in impunity.
The Belarusian authorities should immediately implement the recommendations of the UN Human Rights Committee:
- take all necessary measures to ensure that all the rights guaranteed by the Covenant are implemented in the domestic legal system;
- in full compliance with the Paris Principles, establish without delay an independent national human rights institution with a full-range mandate;
- provide individuals standing trials with all guarantees of a fair trial, including presumption of innocence.
The Belarusian authorities should also ensure that the recommendations of the Committee against Torture are fully implemented:
- in law and in practice, provide all detainees with basic legal guarantees from the moment of deprivation of liberty in accordance with international standards;
- ensure in practice that testimonies obtained under torture are regarded inadmissible as evidence in any legal proceeding;
- ensure by law that in all cases where a person claims that the confession was obtained under torture, the consideration of the case was suspended until then the allegation is thoroughly investigated;
- return for reconsideration cases in which reports of using torture for confessions were not investigated.
Presidents of regional (Minsk city) courts and qualification boards of judges should accordingly initiate and implement disciplinary proceedings in against judges who have violated the requirements of the law in the administration of justice.
Supervisory authorities should take steps to review all administrative cases considered in violation of constitutional guarantees.