Ukraine must react harshly to mass raids on Belarusian human rights activists and journalists – statement
The authorities of the Republic of Belarus continue to attack civil society. On 16 February, the regime of dictator Alexander Lukashenko cracked down on 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 at homes of more than 30 human rights defenders and journalists across the country.
In particular, searches began in the morning at homes of chairman of the Belarusian Association of Journalists Andrey Bastunets; BAJ press secretary Boris Goretsky; BAJ lawyer Oleg Ageyev and in the BAJ office (after searches, the organization’s office was sealed off); at home of freelance journalist Larisa Shchyrakova in Gomel; journalist Anatoly Gotovchits in Gomel; activist and volunteer Valeriy Slepukhin; human rights activist from the Viasna Human Rights Centre Natalia Satsunkevich in Minsk; members of Viasna’s Mogilev branch, Alexei Kolchin and Boris Bukhel; heads of Viasna’s Mozyr and Svetlogorsk branches, Vladimir Telepun and Elena Masliukova; in the Viasna office in Minsk; at home of Yevgenia Parashchenko, press secretary of the Barys Zvozskau Belarusian Human Rights House; at home of journalist Ales Burakov in Mogilev; at home of human rights activist Irina Tretyakova in Vitebsk; at home of Andrey Poluda, coordinator of the campaign “Human rights defenders against the death penalty in Belarus”; at homes of volunteers Kateryna Bazhko and Anna Bogdanovich in Brest; at homes of members of the Belarusian Radio and Electronic Industry Workers’ Union (REP) Igor Komlik, Andrey Komlik-Yamatin and in the office of this organization; at home of lawyer Kristina Rikhter; at home of parents of human rights activist and co-founder of the BY_help and BYSOL initiatives Andrey Strizhak in Richitsia, as well as at homes of other human rights activists and journalists. Human rights activist Vladimir Velichkin, head of the REP Gennadiy Fedinich and trade union chairman Vasiliy Zavadsky do not answer the calls.
The searches were preceded by a wave of libel in articles and television broadcasts in the pro-government media, calling human rights activists and independent journalists “extremists hiding behind the Declaration of Human Rights” and actually accusing them of plotting a “coup d’etat.”
A conclusion can be made that the Belarusian authorities have long been preparing to strike a devastating blow at civil society which remains almost the only safeguard against structural arbitrariness in the country. Other active members of Belarusian society are likely to be targeted in the near future.
Right before our eyes, the Lukashenko regime is violating demonstratively and grossly all human rights commitments made by the Republic of Belarus. If he is not stopped, crimes against human rights in Belarus will become even more brutal and widespread and will ultimately bring suffering not only to the Belarusian people but also undermine the entire collective security system of Europe.
As a reminder, having adopted the Declaration on human rights defenders, the 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 human rights commitments of the Belarusian government to the world community. In the current situation, it is the duty of all democracies to take all necessary action to end the unlawful pressure on the human rights and journalistic community in Belarus and to prevent even more brutal and widespread violations.
We call on the Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine, the Cabinet of Ministers of Ukraine, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Ukraine and the President of Ukraine to:
- demand that the Belarusian authorities immediately end the persecution of human rights defenders and independent journalists;
- publicly condemn repression and political pressure exerted by the Belarusian authorities on human rights defenders and independent journalists;
- urge the governments of the partner countries to impose tougher economic sanctions and strengthen the international isolation of Alexander Lukashenko’s regime;
- to abandon economic cooperation with state-owned enterprises of the Republic of Belarus and commercial structures affiliated with the Belarusian authorities;
- to consider the issue of severing diplomatic relations with the Republic of Belarus if there is no proper reaction of the Belarusian authorities.
ZMINA Human Rights Centre
Center for Civil Liberties
Human Rights Center Postup
Institute of Mass Information
National Union of Journalists of Ukraine
NGO Media Detector
Charity Foundation Stabilization Support Services
Human Rights Action Center
Kharkiv Regional Foundation “Public Alternative”
NGO “Human Rights Vector”
NGO “Human Rights Platform”
Transparency International Ukraine
Project “Without Borders”
Kharkiv Institute for Social Research
Educational Human Rights House Chernihiv
Ukrainian Helsinki Human Rights Union
NGO “Liberal Democratic League of Ukraine”
NGO “Strong Communities”
Open Dialogue Foundation
NGO “Kharkiv Anti-Corruption Center”
Kharkiv Human Rights Protection Group
Public Interest Journalism Lab
NGO “Platform of Public Diplomacy”
Free Belarus Center
Photo credit: Natalia Fedorenko / TASSПІДПИСАТИ