FIDH Vice President and President of Human Rights Center Viasna arrested and fined for protesting against the death penalty

Press release
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Paris, March 25, 2010 – FIDH Vice President and President of FIDH member organisation Human Rights Centre Viasna Ales Bialiatski along with two other members of Viasna, Mr. Valiantsin Stefanovich, Ms. Iryna Toustsik, were sentenced on March 24 by the Leninski district court of the city of Minsk to a fine of 17500 belarusian rubles (approximately 4,30 euros) according to Article 23-34 of the Civil Code (“violating of public event procedures”).

The activists were arrested on March 23 and detained until they received the verdict of the court1. The reason for this detention was their peaceful protestation in front of the Presidential Administration Building in Minsk against the recent executions of Andrei Zhuk and Vasil Yuzepchuk, which violated both national legistation and international principles and instruments of protection of Human Rights.

Viasna is indeed leading a campaign against the death penalty. Moreover, the relatives of the convicts2 were not informed of the implementation of the death sentences, as stipulated in law of Belarus. The authorities also ignored the demands of the UN Human Rights Committee not to execute the condemned untill their appeals were examined by the Committee, although Belarus has recognised the competence of the Committee to consider individual appeals since the ratification of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and its first Optional Protocol. Belarusian authorities also ignored the repeated appeals of the European Union and the Council of Europe3 on the abolition of the death penalty.

FIDH recalls that the organisation Viasna has been denied registration by the authorities since 2003 and that when FIDH president Souhayr Belhassen attempted in August 2009 to observe the appeal of Viasna by the Supreme Court about registration, her visa was refused.4 FIDH denounces the detention and harrassment of human rights defenders, in particular the members of Viasna, and the continueing implementation of the death penalty.

FIDH therefore urges the Belarusian authorities:

- to put an end to all acts of harassment, including at the judicial level, against the members of Viasna and all human rights defenders in Belarus;
- to register officially the human rights organisation Viasna;
- to abolish the death penalty or introduce an effective moratorium on the capital punishment.

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