Belarus: Arbitrary detention of Siarhei Drazdouski and Aleh Hrableuski

12/02/2021
Urgent Appeal

BLR 002 / 0221 / OBS 020
Arbitrary detention /
Judicial harassment /
Obstacle to freedom of association /
Ill-treatment
Belarus
February 12, 2021

The Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders, a partnership of FIDH and the World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT), requests your urgent intervention in the following situation in Belarus.

Description of the situation:

The Observatory has been informed about the arbitrary arrest of Siarhei Drazdouski and Aleh Hrableuski, the founder and director, and the legal counselor, respectively, of the Office for the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, as well as the raid of the office of the NGO.

On February 2, 2021, Siarhei Drazdouski and Aleh Hrableuski were summoned to the Financial Investigations Department of the State Control Committee where they were interrogated for seven hours. Throughout this time, they were not allowed to see their lawyers. Siarhei Drazdouski moves around in a wheelchair, and spending seven hours in the same room without the ability to move was tantamount to torture. Both human rights defenders were released a few hours later while their computers and phones were confiscated.

On February 3, 2021, officers of the Belarusian Investigative Committee raided the premises of the Office for the Rights of Persons with Disabilities in Minsk, seized equipment and documents, placed Siarhei Drazdouski under house arrest and detained Aleh Hrableuski. These actions of the Investigative Committee are part of a criminal case initiated against the two human rights defenders in relation with their participation in disabled persons marches on October 15 and 22, 2020, as well as their provision of legal support for those arrested in protests. At the time of publication of this urgent appeal, Aleh Hrableuski is still being held in the detention center on Akrestsin Street, Minsk, as a suspect in the criminal case, after his detention has been prolonged. Siarhei Drazdouski, who is also a suspect, is still under house arrest with a ban on the use of any means of communication. No formal charges have been pressed against the two human rights defenders at this stage.

The Observatory notes that on February 6, 2021, local human rights organizations recognized Siarhei Drozdouski and Aleh Hrableuski as political prisoners as they consider that their persecution is due solely to their human rights activities.

The Observatory recalls that this is not the first time that the Office for the Rights of Persons with Disabilities is subjected to judicial harassment. On January 21, 2021, the Department of Financial Investigations of the State Control Committee opened an investigation into the activities of the NGO. The agency said that the probe was related to “possible misappropriation of funds received by the institution through donations and international aid for the purpose of providing assistance to Belarusian citizens with disabilities.”

The Observatory condemns the arbitrary detention and judicial harassment of Siarhei Drazdouski and Aleh Hrableuski which seems to be only aimed at punishing them for their legitimate human rights activities.

The Observatory urges the Belarusian authorities to immediately and unconditionally release Siarhei Drazdouski and Aleh Hrableuski and all other human rights defenders arbitrarily detained, and to end all acts of harassment against them.

Actions requested:

Please write to the authorities of Belarus to urge them to:

i. Guarantee in all circumstances the physical integrity and psychological well-being of Siarhei Drazdouski, Aleh Hrableuski and all Office for the Rights of Persons with Disabilities’ members, as well as all human rights defenders in Belarus;

ii. Immediately and unconditionally release Siarhei Drazdouski and Aleh Hrableuski and all other human rights defenders detained as their detention is arbitrary since it merely seems to be aimed at punishing them for their legitimate human rights activities;

iii. Put an end to all acts of harassment - including at the judicial level - against Siarhei Drazdouski and Aleh Hrableuski and all other human rights defenders in Belarus, as well as against the Office for the Rights of Persons with Disabilities and all organizations engaged in legitimate human rights activities in Belarus, and ensure in all circumstances that they are able to carry out their legitimate activities without any hindrance and fear of reprisals.

Addresses:

· Mr. Aliaksandr Lukashenka, President of Belarus, Email: contact@president.gov.by;
· Mr. Andrei Shved, General Prosecutor of Belarus, Email: info@prokuratura.gov.by;
· Mr. Oleg Slizhevsky, Minister of Justice of Belarus, Email: kanc@minjust.by;
· Mr. Vasily Gerasimov, Acting Chairman of the State Control Committee of Belarus, Email: kgk@mail.belpak.by;
· Mr. Ivan Kubrakov, minister of Internal Affairs of Belarus, Email: pismo_mvd@mia.by;
· Mr. Yury Ambrazevich, Permanent Mission of Belarus to the United Nations in Geneva, Switzerland, Email: mission.belarus@ties.itu.int;
· H.E. Mr. Aliaksandr Mikhnevich, Embassy of Belarus in Brussels, Email: belgium@mfa.gov.by

Please also write to the diplomatic representations of Belarus in your respective countries.

***
Paris-Geneva, February 12, 2021

Kindly inform us of any action undertaken quoting the code of this appeal in your reply.

The Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders (the Observatory) was created in 1997 by FIDH and the World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT). The objective of this programme is to prevent or remedy situations of repression against human rights defenders. FIDH and OMCT are both members of ProtectDefenders.eu, the European Union Human Rights Defenders Mechanism implemented by international civil society.
 
To contact the Observatory, call the emergency line:
• Email: Appeals@fidh-omct.org
• Tel FIDH: +33 (0) 1 43 55 25 18
• Tel OMCT: +41 (0) 22 809 49 39

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