2011 02/09
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Belarus – Widespread crackdown on human rights defenders, and break-in at the offices of Human Rights Center ‘Viasna’ Seven human rights defenders were arrested and briefly detained throughout Belarus on 23 August 2011, while holding peaceful demonstrations during which they called for the release of prominent human rights defender Mr Ales Bialiatski who was arrested and detained on 4 August 2011. Ales Bialiatski is the chairman of Human Rights Center ‘Viasna’, one of biggest human rights groups in Belarus that works to defend and promote political, social and cultural rights.

On 23 August 2011, human rights defenders Mr Zmitser Salauyou, Ms Maryna Statkevich and Ms Alena Laptsionak were arrested while distributing informative leaflets calling for the release of Ales Bialiatski in the streets of Minsk. They were taken to the Tsentralny District Police Station where police officers made digital copies of their finger-prints. The leaflets were confiscated by police officers. Later that evening the aforementioned human rights defenders were released without charge.

Another peaceful demonstration calling for the release of Ales Bialiatski was held in Magile ù on the same day. Human rights defender Mr Pavel Varashylau , as well as Ms Alena Skrybunova and Mr Yauhen Hlushakoù , journalist and cameraman respectively, were arrested and detained at the Leninsky District Police Station where they were interrogated about their involvement in the peaceful demonstration. The aforementioned human rights defenders were released without charge later that evening.

Later on 23 August, human rights defender Mr Viktar Sazonau was arrested and detained by police officers in Hrodna. While in police custody, his apartment was reportedly searched. He was released without charge later that evening, at 18.45 approximately.

A break-in was also reported to have taken place on 23 August at the office s of Human Rights Centre ‘Viasna’ in Hrodna, during which two computers and human rights publications, as well as a number of t-shirts and leaflets containing statements calling for the release of Ales Bialiatski were seized.

Similar peaceful protests calling for the release of Ales Bialiatski took place in Zhodzina and Baranavichy however it is reported that police did not intervene in these events.

Front Line believes that the aforementioned human rights defenders were arrested and briefly detained solely as a result of their work in the defence of human rights, in particular, their participation in peaceful demonstrations calling for the release of human rights defender Ales Bialiatski. Front Line further believes that the offices of Human Rights Center ‘Viasna’ were broken into and searched solely because of the human rights work carried out by the organisation.

Front Line urges the authorities in Belarus to:

1. Cease targeting human rights defenders and human rights organisations, and to carpermit them to exercise their legitimate right to peacefully protest, as enshrined in international law;

2. Take all necessary measures to guarantee the physical and psychological integrity and security of the aforementioned human rights defenders;

3. Guarantee in all circumstances that all human rights defenders in Belarus are able to carry out their legitimate human rights activities without fear of reprisals and free of all restrictions including judicial harassment.

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