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Viasna statement on the unprecedented attack on Belarusian human rights defenders

(February 17, 2021)


On February 16, a wave of searches of human rights defenders took place throughout Belarus. The searches were carried out at the office of the Public Association “Belarusian Association of Journalists”, at the apartments of chairman of the organization Andrei Bastunets, vice-chairmen – Barys Haretski and Aleh Aheyeu, as well as a lawyer – Kristina Richter; searches were also held at the offices of the Human Rights Center “Viasna”, the apartments of coordinator of the campaign “Human Rights Defenders against the Death Penalty in Belarus”, Viasna’s human rights defender Andrei Paluda, leaders and activists of the Independent Trade Union of Radioelectronic Industry, as well as regional human rights defenders.

Subsequently, the official Telegram channel of the Investigative Committee published a report according to which “a criminal investigation under article 342 (organization and preparation of acts seriously disturbing public order or active participation in them) of the Criminal Code of Belarus is underway. As part of the preliminary investigation to determine the circumstances of the financing of the protest activities, searches have been initiated in organizations that identify themselves as human rights groups. Officials of the General Directorate for Combating Organized Crime and Corruption of the Ministry of Internal Affairs are authorized by the Prosecutor General’s Office to conduct the proceedings. A final legal assessment of the situation will be made after the entire set of proceedings”.

Earlier, searches were carried out at the office of another Belarusian human rights organization, the Office for the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. Later, the director of the organization, Siarhei Drazdouski, and the lawyer, Aleh Hrableuski, were detained. They are currently under house arrest and detention, respectively. In addition, four more human rights defenders, members of the Human Rights Center “Viasna”, Marfa Rabkova, Andrei Chapiuk, Leanid Sudalenka and Tatsiana Lasitsa, were also detained for carrying out human rights activities.

Assistance to victims of reprisals is increasingly becoming a reason for criminal proceedings against Belarusians defending human rights.

Reaffirming the position expressed in the  A list of those attacked or detained is regularly updated (in Russian and Belarusian) on Viasna’s website here

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