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Ukraine must condemn onslaught and pressure on Belarusian human rights defenders and journalists - statement

16.02.2021, 16:23

NGOs call on the Ukrainian authorities to publicly condemn the Belarusian authorities' onslaught and political pressure on human rights defenders and independent journalists.

This is said in the statement signed by Ukrainian NGOs alerting the public about mass searches and detentions of human rights defenders and journalists in Belarus.

The authors of the statement call on the Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine, the Cabinet of Ministers, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Ukraine and the President of Ukraine: 

-to demand that the Belarusian authorities immediately stop persecuting human rights defenders and independent journalists;

-to publicly condemn repression and political pressure from the Belarusian authorities on human rights defenders and independent journalists;

-to call on the governments of the partner countries to impose tougher economic sanctions and to strengthen the international isolation of Aleksander Lukashenko's regime;

-to refuse economic cooperation with state enterprises of the Republic of Belarus and commercial structures affiliated with the Belarusian authorities;

-in the absence of a proper reaction of the Belarusian authorities to consider the severance of diplomatic relations with the Republic of Belarus.

The full text of the statement:

The authorities of the Republic of Belarus continue to lash out at the civil society. On February 16, the regime of dictator Oleksandr Lukashenko targetted the most prominent human rights organizations, the “Viasna” Human Rights Center and the Belarusian Association of Journalists (BAJ). Searches took place in the offices of these organizations, as well as in the apartments of more than 30 human rights defenders and journalists across the country.

In particular, in the morning  they searched places of the head of the Belarusian Association of Journalists Andriy Bastunets ; BAJ press secretary Borys Horetsky  ; BAJ lawyer  Oleh Aheyev  and in the BAJ office (after searches the organization's office was sealed); at the home of Homel freelance journalist  Larysa Shchyryakova ; Gomel journalist  Anatoliy Gotovchyts ; activist and volunteer  Valery Slepukhin ; Minsk human rights activist from the Human Rights Center " Viasna "  Natalia Satsunkevych ; members of the Mogilev branch of this organization  Oleksiy Kolchyn  and  Borys Bukhel;  Volodymyr Telepun  ,  heads of the Mozyr and Svetlogorsk branches of the  Viasna Human Rights CenterElena Maslyukova ; in the office of “Viasna” Human Rights Center in Minsk; the press secretary of the Belarusian House of Human Rights named after Borys Zvozskov  Yevhenia Parashchenko ; Mohilev journalist  Oles Burakov ; Vitebsk human rights activist  Irina Tretyakova ; Andriy Poluda , coordinator of the Human Rights Defenders Against the Death Penalty  campaign ; Brest volunteers  Kateryna Bazhko  and  Anna Bogdanovich ; members of the independent trade union REP  Igor Komlyk, Andriy Komlik-Yamatin  and in the office of this organization; lawyer  Christina Richter ; parents of human rights activist and co-founder of BY_help and BYSOL initiatives  Andriy Strizhak in Richitsa, as well as other human rights activists and journalists. Brest human rights activist Volodymyr Velychkin , head of the REP  Hennadiy Fedynych  and trade union chairman  Vasyl Zavadsky could not be reached by phone.

This was preceded by a wave of discrediting articles and television stories in the pro-government media, calling human rights activists and independent journalists  "extremists under the guise of the Declaration of Human Rights"  and effectively accusing them of plotting a " coup d'état ."

It can be concluded that the Belarusian authorities have long been preparing to strike a devastating blow at civil society, which remained almost the only safeguard against structural arbitrariness in the country. It is likely that other active members of Belarusian society will be targeted in the near future. 

Beneath our very eyes, the Lukashenko regime is demonstratively and grossly violating all human rights commitments made by the Republic of Belarus. If unabated, crimes against human rights in Belarus will become even more brutal and widespread, which will ultimately bring suffering not only to the Belarusian people, but also undermine the entire system of collective security in Europe. 

We remind you that in the  Declaration on Human Rights Defenders, UN member states recognized that the activities of human rights defenders are a guarantee of collective peace and sustainable development. Pressure on human rights defenders is an unacceptable violation of the Belarusian government's human rights commitments to the world community. In the current situation, it is the duty of all democracies to take all necessary action to end unlawful pressure on the human rights and journalistic community in Belarus and to prevent even more brutal and widespread violations.  

We appeal to the Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine, the Cabinet of Ministers, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Ukraine, the President of Ukraine with the appeal:

-to demand that the Belarusian authorities immediately stop persecuting human rights defenders and independent journalists;

-to publicly condemn repression and political pressure from the Belarusian authorities on human rights defenders and independent journalists;

-to call on the governments of the partner countries to impose tougher economic sanctions and to strengthen the international isolation of Aleksander Lukashenko's regime;

-to refuse economic cooperation with state enterprises of the Republic of Belarus and commercial structures affiliated with the Belarusian authorities;

-in the absence of a proper reaction of the Belarusian authorities to consider the severance of diplomatic relations with the Republic of Belarus.

 

  1. Vostok-SOS
  2. ZMINA Human Rights Center
  3. Center for Civil Liberties
  4. Human Rights Center "Postup"
  5. Institute of Mass Information
  6. UMDPL Association
  7. National Union of Journalists of Ukraine
  8. NGO " Detector Media "
  9. Stabilization Support Services Charitable Foundation
  10. Human Rights Center DIYA
  11. Kharkiv Regional Foundation "Civic Alternative"
  12. NGO "Human Rights Vector"
  13. NGO “Human Rights Platform”
  14. Transparency International Ukraine 
  15. Without Borders Project
  16. Kharkiv Institute of Social Research
  17. Donbass SOS
  18. Educational House of Human Rights in Chernihiv
  19. Avtomaydan
  20. Ukrainian Helsinki Human Rights Union
  21. NGO "Liberal Democratic League of Ukraine"
  22. NGO “Strong Communities”
  23. Open Dialogue Foundation
  24. NGO “Kharkiv Anti-Corruption Center”
  25. Kharkiv Human Rights Group
  26. Docudays NGO.

As IMI reported, on February 16 in Minsk (Belarus), security forces searched places of members of the Belarusian Association of Journalists (BAJ). Searches are also being conducted on journalists and human rights activists in a number of Belarusian cities.

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