Belarus: Arbitrary detention of Viasna members Leanid Sudalenka and Tatsiana Lasitsa

08/02/2021
Urgent Appeal

New information
BLR 001 / 0121 / OBS 003.2
Arbitrary detention /
Judicial harassment
Belarus
February 8, 2021

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

New information:

The Observatory has been informed by the Human Rights Center “Viasna” about the indictment and ongoing arbitrary detention of Leanid Sudalenka, lawyer of the Homieĺ (Gomel) branch of Viasna [1], and the arbitrary detention of Tatsiana Lasitsa, Viasna’s volunteer.

On February 1, 2021, Leanid Sudalenka was charged under Parts 1 and 2 of Article 342 of the Belarus Criminal Code (“organization and preparation of actions grossly violating public order and financing such activities”). If convicted, he could face up to three years of imprisonment. Mr. Sudalenka remains detained in pre-trial detention center No. 3 in Homieĺ.

Moreover, on January 21, 2021, Tatsiana Lasitsa, who works with Mr. Sudalenka, was detained at the Minsk airport while attempting to travel from Belarus to Lithuania by officers of the Interior Ministry. She is considered as a suspect in the same criminal case. She was also taken into custody in Homieĺ pre-trial detention center No. 3, where she remains detained.

The Observatory recalls that on January 18, 2021, the Investigative Committee of Belarus detained Leanid Sudalenka and interrogated him as part of a criminal case, without granting him access to his lawyer for several hours. Later in the evening, Maria Tarasenka, another Viasna volunteer and Mr. Sudalenka’s assistant, was also detained in Homieĺ. Law enforcement officials searched her apartment, and she was placed in a preliminary detention center. She was released without charges on January 21, 2021.

The Observatory further recalls that Leanid Sudalenka was interrogated and his office was searched on January 5, 2021, by officers of the Main Department for Combating Organized Crime and Corruption of the Ministry of Internal Affairs in connection with another criminal case opened earlier in December 2020 against a Homieĺ opposition activist, Uladzimir Nepomniashchykh, in which Leanid Sudalenka is figuring as a witness.

The Observatory condemns the arbitrary detention and judicial harassment of Leanid Sudalenka and Tatsiana Lasitsa which seems to be only aimed at punishing them for their legitimate human rights activities.

The Observatory further condemns the persecution of local human rights groups who document abuses and provide legal and other assistance to victims, and of all human rights defenders in Belarus, including Maria (a.k.a. Marfa) Rabkova, volunteer coordinator of Viasna, who has been in the pre-trial detention center in Detention Center №1 on Volodarskogo Street in Minsk since September 17, 2020, and who is facing between six months and three years in prison under Article 293.3 of the Belarus Criminal Code ("training or other preparation of persons for the participation in mass riots, or financing of such activities") in retaliation for her legitimate human rights work.

The Observatory urges the Belarusian authorities to immediately and unconditionally release Leanid Sudalenka, Tatsiana Lasitsa, Maria Rabkova 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 Leanid Sudalenka, Tatsiana Lasitsa and Maria Rabkova as well as all human rights defenders in Belarus;

ii. Immediately and unconditionally release Leanid Sudalenka, Tatsiana Lasitsa, Maria Rabkova 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 Leanid Sudalenka, Tatsiana Lasitsa, Maria Rabkova and all other human rights defenders in Belarus, as well as 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 8, 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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