Belarus: Sentencing and restriction of freedom of movement of WHRD Volha Harbunova

New information
BLR 009 / 1121 / OBS 121.1
Sentencing /
Restriction on freedom of movement
Belarus
May 10, 2022

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

New information:

The Observatory has been informed about the sentencing and restriction of freedom of movement of Ms. Volha Harbunova, a woman rights defender and former director of “Radislava”, a non-governmental organisation working for the defence of women’s rights and providing legal, social and psychological support to women suffering domestic violence in Belarus.

On May 6, 2022, the Sovetsky District Court in Minsk sentenced Volha Harbunova to three years of restriction of liberty on charges under part 1 of Article 342 of the Criminal Code of the Republic of Belarus (“organising or preparing actions that grossly violate the public order or taking active part in such actions”, respectively). This sentence includes a ban from travelling abroad and from leaving her house in the evening and at night. She was released from detention at the courthouse on the day of the conviction.

Earlier in March 2022, Minsk City Court liquidated “Radislava”.

The Observatory recalls that on November 9, 2021, police officers broke into the house of Volha Harbunova in Minsk and arrested her on charges of “organisation and preparation of actions that grossly violate public order, or active participation in them”. These charges were related to her alleged participation in women’s marches in September 2020, after which she was detained for two days. Following her arrest, she was taken to the detention centre on Akrestsina Lane in Minsk, where she remained detained until her trial. On the same day of her arrest, Volha Harbunova started a two-week hunger strike to protest her unjust detention. After 10 days of detention, she was transferred to SIZO-1 on Valadarskogo. On December 12, 2021, human rights defenders learned that Volha Harbunova had been charged under Parts 1, 2, 3 of Art. 293 and Parts 1 and 2 of Art. 342 of Criminal Code. 

The Observatory recalls that Volha Harbunova’s detention conditions were inhumane, having no access to a mattress and bed linen, and being denied regular walks and showers. Moreover, the heating system was poor and turned off at night, while the radio was on all night and the detainees were woken up every two hours.

The Observatory strongly condemns the sentencing of Volha Harbunova’s and expresses its utmost concern over her restriction of liberty. The Observatory highlights that her targeting is part of the ongoing repression started in Belarus amid the widely disputed presidential elections in August 2020. At the time of publication of this Urgent Appeal, 32 human rights defenders, including seven members of OMCT and FIDH member organisation Viasna Human Rights Centre, face politically-motivated criminal charges and two of them, Leanid Sudalenka and Tatsiana Lasitsa, have been found guilty and sentenced to three years and two and a half years in prison, respectively. Moreover, the absolute majority of independent human rights organisations have been arbitrarily liquidated or are in the process of liquidation in Belarus, including the Belarusian Helsinki Committee, Legal Initiative, and "Zvyano".

The Observatory urges the authorities of Belarus to quash the conviction of Volha Harbunova’s and put an end to all acts of harassment, including the judicial level, against her and all other human rights defenders in the country.

Actions requested:

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

- guarantee in all circumstances the physical integrity and psychological well-being of Volha Harbunova and all other human rights defenders in Belarus;

- quash the conviction of Volha Harbunova and put an end to all forms of harassment, including at the judicial level, against her and all human rights defenders in Belarus, and ensure that they are able to carry out their activities without hindrance or fear of reprisals;

- guarantee in all circumstances the rights to freedom of expression, assembly and of association in the country, as enshrined in international human rights law and particularly in Article 19, 21 and 22 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.

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 Dmitry Gora, Chairman of the Investigative Committee of the Republic of Belarus, Email: sk@sk.gov.by;
- Mr. Sergey Homenko, Minister of Justice of Belarus, Email: kanc@minjust.by;
- Mr. Vasily Gerasimov, 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, May 10, 2022

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 and 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:
• E-mail: Appeals@fidh-omct.org
• Tel FIDH: + 33 (0) 1 43 55 25 18
• Tel OMCT: + 41 22 809 49 39

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