Belarus: Zmitser Dashkevich released, while 11 other political prisoners remain detained

Press release
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FIDH and its member organisation in Belarus, the Human Rights Center (Viasna), welcome the 28 August release of Zmitser Dashkevich, leader of the civil and political organisation Young Front, after his having completed his full prison term for charges of “malicious hooliganism” and “repeated failure to obey prison authorities”.

FIDH and Viasna note that in the recent months the already serious human rights situation in Belarus has only deteriorated and Dashkevich’s release should by no means be considered to be a sign of improvement. Our organisations would like to bring attention to the fact that not only had Dashkevich completed his full prison term, but none of the charges against him were dropped. He is now to be placed under police supervision, which gives police officials the right to visit him anytime. Moreover, if brought in on administrative charges three times in the coming year, he faces preventative supervision, which carries more serious restrictions.

“The international community must not be misled. The release of Zmitser Dashkevich does not reflect any improvement of the human rights situation in the country”, declared FIDH President Karim Lahidji. “Eleven political prisoners, including the President of the Human Rights Centre ’Viasna’ and Vice-President of FIDH Ales Bialiatski, remain detained under very harsh conditions in Belarusian prisons and penal colonies. Human rights defenders, journalists, and activists are continuously harassed by the regime. In this context, the recent EU suspension of the visa ban on the Belarusian Foreign Minister Vladimir Makei can just find no justification”, he added.

“As other activists before him, such as Uladzimir Yaromenok and Vasily Parfiankou , Dashkevich is likely to face criminal prosecution again. Police supervision is often used as a means to control political activists and human rights defenders after their release from prison,” added Viasna Vice-Chairman Valiantsin Stefanovich.

Dashkevich was initially sentenced on 24 March 2011 to two years imprisonment on charges of “malicious hooliganism” allegedly committed during the lead up to the last presidential election in December 2010. Since his arrest and detention, he was transferred six times to various detention facilities and penal colonies. During his imprisonment, he was repeatedly subjected to physical and psychological pressure. In addition, on 28 August 2012, he was given a one year prison sentence for “repeated failure to obey prison authorities".

FIDH and Viasna urge the Belarusian authorities to drop all the charges against Dashkevich and reinstate his civil and political rights. Our organisations further call on Belarusian authorities to immediately and unconditionally release all political prisoners.

“We further call on the EU to take such decisions of Aleksander Lukashenko for what they actually are and not to be further deceived by the siren song of the regime”, added Karim Lahidji.

For more information on political prisoners, see the note “Political Prisoners in Critical Situation and Restricted Freedom for 40 Activists”, published by FIDH and Viasna on 5 March 2013.

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