Ukrainian NGOs call on world to condemn persecution of journalists and human rights activists in Belarus
Ukrainian human rights organizations called on the world community to condemn the new wave of persecution of journalists, civil society activists and human rights defenders in Belarus, to express support for the detainees and to contribute to make pressure on Minsk in order to end political persecution in the European country. The relevant statement has been signed by a number of NGOs in Ukraine, as ZMINA human rights center reported.
The signaotires of the statement reminded that in the space from August 2020 to March 2021 about 400 journalists were detained in administrative proceedings. From December to March, at least 100 journalists were arrested in administrative proceedings and others had been fined. From late September to March, at least 18 criminal cases were opened against journalists.
Lawyers for many of these journalists were forced by the authorities to sign a pledge of secrecy. Several lawyers refused to sign such a agreement in similar cases and lost their lawyer's licenses. The Belarusian Ministry of Justice is revoking the licenses of lawyers, many of whom represent arrested politicians and journalists under various pretexts. In total, since October 2020, 15 such cases have been known.
Repressions against human rights defenders also are going on in Belarus. Searches were conducted in the offices of organizations and at home of individual activists of the Human Rights Educational Institution "Office for the Rights of Persons with Disabilities", NGO "Belarusian Association of Journalists", Human Rights Center "Viasna", "Zvyano" and other organizations. In the last few months, well-known human rights activists Marfa Rabkova, Andriy Chepyuk, Tetyana Lasytsya, Oleh Grablevsky, Andriy Aleksandrov, Leonid Sudalenko, and Serhiy Drozdovsky have been arbitrarily detained and remanded in custody (the latter is under home arrest in fact which is equal to deprivation of liberty). Criminal proceedings have been instituted against all of them on contrived pretexts, while the real reason for it was their human rights activities.
On April 5, 2021, Tetiana Hatsura-Yavorska, the head of the “Zvyano” public association, and four women campaigners with “Zvyano” were detained in Minsk. They organized a photo exhibition "The apparatus does breath, but me, I don’t", dedicated to Belarusian doctors fighting the coronavirus pandemic, and also participated in the creation of the human rights film festival WatchDocs Belarus and the Center for Assistance and Rehabilitation of Prisoners. It later became known that all five detainees had been tried in an administrative case and found guilty of disobeying an order or request of law enforcement officers. Tatiana Hatsura-Yavorska was also fined. However, she was not released from the temporary detention facility in Okrestino, but was transferred to the Volodarsky pre-trial detention center as part of a criminal case. For others, then their status in the criminal case remains unclear.
On April 6, 2021, Belarusian security forces also searched the apartment of the parents of human rights activist, member of the Human Constanta team Enira Bronitskaya.
In March, Belarusian security forces detained a total of 1,139 people for political reasons. Thousands of Belarusians were subject to fines and administrative arrests for participating in rallies. As of April 13, 2021, according to the “Viasna” Human Rights Center, 354 people have been recognized as political prisoners in Belarus.
The signatories of the statement asked the international human rights community, international organizations, governments of democratic countries to appeal to the Belarusian authorities requiring to immediately set free the unlawfully detained persons, contribute to ceasing of crackdown on human rights and political persecution in the European country.
As IMI reported, on February 16, Ukrainian NGOs called on the Ukrainian authorities to publicly condemn the Belarusian authorities onslaught and political pressure on human rights defenders and independent journalists.
On February 18, Ukrainian journalists and media outlets expressed their support for convicted Belarusian Belsat journalists Kateryna Bakhvalova (Andreyeva) and Daria Chultsova, who had been imprisoned for two years for video-streaming from a protest rally.