The Belarusian authorities refuse to meet the FIDH President

23/11/2007
Press release
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The international fact-finding mission conducted by FIDH and Human Rights Center “Viasna”, its Belarusian member association took place in an atmosphere marked by constant harassment of the Belarusian civil society.

The mission composed of Souhayr Belhassen FIDH President, and two mission delegates Maria Chichtchenkova (France, Belarus) and Kirill Koroteev (Memorial, Russia), visited Belarus from 29 October to 4 November 2007. The aim of the mission was to provide support for the civil society [1] whose members are often subjected to arbitrary arrests and detention, and to investigate the conditions of detention in Belarus.

In Minsk and Grodno the mission met with numerous representatives of Belarusian NGOs, journalists and family members of prisoners of conscience, among which Mrs Klimova: her husband, a political opponent Mr. Klimov, has been arbitrary sentenced to a five-year prison term. The mission was also received by the French Ambassador to Belarus and the Deputy Director of the OSCE Bureau in Minsk.

Conditions of detention

Concerning the conditions of detention, FIDH and the Human Rights Center Viasna were satisfied by the construction of new prisons and temporary detention centres to replace the oldest ones. But the Belarus legal norm of 2.5 m² per prisoner is still below the European standard. Furthermore, because of overpopulated prisons, this norm is seldom respected.

The conditions of "administrative" detention [2] are also alarming. The humidity and low temperatures in the prison cells help spread contagious diseases, the leading one being tuberculosis. Sanitary conditions are particularly deplorable. In administrative detention centers, the prisoners do not even have a bed and have to sleep on the wooden floor. They are poorly fed, are not allowed to receive packages, are not allowed to get to the open air or take a shower during the whole period of detention.
FIDH and the Human Rights Center "Viasna" strongly condemn the application of the death penalty in Belarus. Before being put to death, the prisoners spend up to two years in the death rows completely cut off from the outside world. Although, as the mission noted, the number of death sentences has gone down, the mission deplores the quasi non-existence of civil checks on death row.

The trial of Dmitry Dashkevich

On 9 November, shortly after the mission had ended, a trial was held almost in camera – only the representative of the OSCE mission in Minsk was allowed to attend – in the Shklou common regime colony against Mr. Dmitry Dashkevich, a member of the "Young Front" movement. He has been already sentenced to one and a half year of prison, where he is currently detained, for "participating in activities of an unregistered organisation" and was now fined 600 euros for refusing to give evidence against other members of the movement.

FIDH and the Human Rights Center "Viasna" urgently appeal to the Belarusian authorities to ensure the physical and psychological integrity of Mr. Dashkevich and to release him, as well as all other political prisoners in Belarus, immediately and unconditionally.

More generally, FIDH and "Viasna" condemn the human rights violations perpetrated in Belarus.

FIDH also calls upon the Belarusian authorities to revise their Penal Code to make it compliant with the international and regional instruments on freedom of association and speech, in particular with the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.

FIDH and "Viasna" urge the authorities to comply with Belarus’ commitments to OSCE, especially paragraph 10 of the 1990 Copenhagen document that engages the participating states to reaffirm "their commitment to ensure effectively the rights of the individual to know and act upon human rights [...]". FIDH and Human Rights Center "Viasna" also recall that on 10 July 2007, Belarus pledged to "reaffirm the important role of human rights defenders and national human rights institutions in promoting and protecting human rights and fundamental freedoms, at the 2007 ministerial council [...]" [3] .

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