Global letter in solidarity with Belarusian civil society

Open Letter
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‘You can cut all the flowers, but you cannot keep the Spring from coming’
Pablo Neruda

161 human rights organisations demand an end to the repression against the Human Rights Center Viasna and all other human rights defenders in Belarus. We condemn the systematic arbitrary arrests, beatings and acts of torture they are subjected to. Despite all-out repression by the Belarusian authorities, human rights defenders in Belarus continue to strive to protect human rights. Inspired by their courage, we will not stop fighting until they are all released and able to continue their human rights work freely and unhindered.

Over the past few days, we have witnessed another wave of raids and detentions against Belarusian human rights defenders and activists. This repression is a blatant retaliation for their work denouncing and documenting human rights violations ongoing since the brutal crackdown against peaceful protesters in the wake of the August 2020 election. Since August 2020, more than 35,000 Belarusians were arrested for participating in peaceful protests, around 3,000 politically motivated criminal cases were initiated, at least 2,500 cases of torture of Belarusian citizens were documented. We believe these systematic and widespread human rights violations may amount to crimes against humanity. As of July 19, 561 persons in Belarus are considered political prisoners.

Between July 14 and 16, 2021, more than 60 searches were conducted at the homes and offices of Belarusian human rights organisations and their staff, including the Human Rights Centre ‘Viasna’, two member organisations of the International Committee for the Investigation of Torture in Belarus, Human Constanta and Legal Initiative, as well as the Belarusian Helsinki Committee, the Belarusian Association of Journalists, the Legal Transformation Center LawTrend, Ecodom and many others. Documents and IT equipment, including laptops, mobile phones and computers were seized during the searches.

During these latest raids, more than 30 people were interrogated. 13 of them were detained for a 72-hour period, reportedly in connection to an investigation into public order violations and tax evasion. Most of them were subsequently released, namely, Mikalai Sharakh, Siarhei Matskievich, and Viasna members Andrei Paluda, Alena Laptsionak, Yauheniya Babaeva, Siarhei Sys, Viktar Sazonau, Ales Kaputski and Andrei Medvedev. Several of them, however, remain under travel ban and face criminal charges. Notably, Ales Bialiatsky, Viasna Chairperson Valiantsin Stefanovic, Viasna Deputy Head and Vice-President of the FIDH, and Uladzimir Labkovich, a lawyer and Viasna member, remain detained. On July 17, all four were transferred to a pre-trial detention center “Valadarskaha”. Four other Viasna members Leanid Sudalenka, Tatsiana Lasitsa, Marfa Rabkova and Andrey Chapyuk, as well as Aleh Hrableuski of the Office for the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, remain in pre-trial detention since late 2020 or early 2021.

Viasna, one of the country’s top human rights organisations, and a member of the OMCT and FIDH networks, has been targeted by the Belarusian government for over two decades. In August 2011, its chairperson Ales Bialiatsky was sentenced to four and a half years of imprisonment on trumped-up charges, and released in June 2014 after spending 1,052 days in arbitrary detention in appalling conditions. In retaliation for Viasna’s courageous work and unwavering stance for human rights, the Belarusian authorities are trying to destroy the organisation by putting seven of its members behind bars.

The raids started only one day after the United Nations Human Rights Council adopted a resolution condemning the situation of human rights in Belarus, demanding the release of all persons arbitrarily detained and an investigation into allegations of torture and other human rights violations.

On July 8-9 and July 16, 2021, the authorities also raided the homes and premises of various independent media outlets and their staff, including ‘Nasha Niva’, one of country’s oldest independent newspaper, and detained three of its journalists. The offices of RFE/Radio Liberty and Belsat, the largest independent TV channel covering Belarus, were also searched, and several of their journalists were detained. As of now, over 30 media workers and dozens of bloggers remain in detention.

We, the undersigned civil society organisations, condemn the massive human rights violations perpetrated by the Belarusian authorities, which we fear may trigger more violence. This latest wave of repression, together with the brutal crackdown over the last months, demonstrates that the authorities aim at having every human rights defender either detained or exiled.

We stand in solidarity with our colleagues and friends who are detained, harassed, and persecuted for their brave work. We regard their struggle with great concern and sorrow, and we are inspired by their commitment and resilience.

We urge the Belarusian authorities to stop the harassment and intimidation of critical voices, and to free all unjustly detained human rights defenders, journalists and activists.

We call on the international community to take a strong stance in support of the Belarusian human rights community, and to speak out for the release of all those who are still behind bars, and whose only crime is to demand a society based on justice instead of fear.

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  • Co-signatories

    1. Abdorrahman Boroumand Center for Human Rights in Iran - Iran
    2. ACAT Belgique - Belgium
    3. ACAT Burundi - Burundi
    4. ACAT España-Catalunya (Acción de los Cristianos para la Abolición de la Tortura) - Spain
    5. ACAT Germany (Action by Christians for the Abolition of Torture) - Germany 
    6. ACAT Italia - Italy
    7. ACAT République Centrafricaine - Central African Republic
    8. ACAT République Démocratique du Congo - Democratic Republic of Congo
    9. ACAT Suisse - Switzerland 
    10. ACAT Tchad - Tchad 
    11. ACAT Togo - Togo
    12. Action Against Violence and Exploitation (ACTVE) - Philippines
    13. Action des Chrétiens Activistes des Droits de l’Homme à Shabunda (ACADHOSHA) - Democratic Republic of Congo
    14. Advocacy Forum – Nepal - Nepal
    15. Agir ensemble pour les droits humains - France
    16. Albanian Human Rights Group
    17. ALTSEAN-Burma - Myanmar
    18. Anti Death Penalty Asia Network (ADPAN) - Malaysia/Asia-Pacific
    19. Anti-Discrimination Centre Memorial - Belgium
    20. ARTICLE 19
    21. ASEAN Parliamentarians for Human Rights - Indonesia 
    22. Asia Pacific Solidarity Coalition (APSOC) - Philippines
    23. Asociación para una Ciudadanía Participativa (ACI PARTICIPA) - Honduras 
    24. Asociación pro derechos humanos (Aprodeh) - Peru
    25. Association Mauritanienne des droits de l’homme (AMDH-Mauritanieuri) - Mauritania
    26. Association of Parents of Disappeared Persons (APDP) - India
    27. Association Tchadienne pour la promotion et la Défense des Droits de l’Homme (ATPDH) - Tchad
    28. Association tunisienne des femmes démocrates - Tunisia
    29. Avocats Sans Frontières France (ASF France) - France 
    30. Banglar Manabadhikar Suraksha Mancha (MASUM) - India
    31. Belarusian-Swiss Association RAZAM.CH - Switzerland
    32. Bulgarian Helsinki Committee - Bulgaria
    33. Cambodian Center for Human Rights (CCHR) - Cambodia
    34. Capital Punishment Justice Project (CPJP) - Australia
    35. Center for Civil Liberties - Ukraine
    36. Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR) - United States of America
    37. Centre for Applied Human Rights (CAHR), University of York - United Kingdom
    38. Centre for the Development of Democracy and Human Rights (CDDHR) - Russia
    39. Centro de Derechos humanos Fray Bartolomé de las Casas A.c. (Frayba) - Mexico
    40. Centro de Derechos Humanos Paso del Norte - Mexico
    41. Centro de Investigación y Promoción de los Derechos Humanos (CIPRODEH) - Honduras 
    42. Centro de Prevención, Tratamiento y Rehabilitación de Victimas de la Tortura y sus familiares (CPTRT) - Honduras 
    43. Centro de Salud Mental y Derechos Humanos (CINTRAS) - Chile
    44. Changement Social Bénin (CSB) - Benin
    45. CIVICUS
    46. Civil Rights Defenders (CRD) - Sweden
    47. Comision Nacional de los Derechos Humanos (CNDH-RD) - Dominican Republic
    48. Coalition Burkinabé des Défenseurs des Droits Humains (CBDDH) - Burkina Faso
    49. Coalition Marocaine contre la Peine de Mort - Morocco
    50. Coalition Tunisienne Contre la Peine de Mort - Tunisia
    51. Collectif des Associations Contre l’Impunité au Togo (CACIT) - Togo
    52. Comisión de derechos humanos – COMISEDH - Peru
    53. Comité de Familiares de Detenidos Desaparecidos en Honduras (COFADEH) - Honduras 
    54. Comité de solidaridad con los presos políticos (FCSPP) - Colombia
    55. Committee on the Administration of Justice (CAJ) - Northern Ireland (UK)
    56. Crude Accountability - United States of America
    57. Czech League of Human Rights Czech Republic
    58. Death Penalty Focus (DPF) - United States of America
    59. Defenders of human rights centre - Iran
    60. DEMAS - Association for Democracy Assistance and Human Rights - Czech Republic
    61. DITSHWANELO - The Botswana Centre for Human Rights - Botswana
    62. Eastern Partnership Civil Society Forum (EaP CSF) - Belgium
    63. Eleos Justice, Monash University - Australia
    64. Enfants Solidaires d’Afrique et du Monde (ESAM) - Benin
    65. Federal Association of Vietnam-Refugees in the Federal Republic of Germany - Germany
    66. FIDU - Italian Federation for Human Rights - Italy
    67. Finnish League for Human Rights - Finland
    68. Free Press Unlimited - The Netherlands 
    69. Fundación Regional de Asesoría en Derechos Humanos (INREDH) - Ecuador
    70. GABRIELA Alliance of Filipino Women - Philippines 
    71. German Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty (GCADP) - Germany
    72. Greek Helsinki Monitor - Greece
    73. Helsinki Citizens’ Assembly – Vanadzor - Armenia
    74. Helsinki Foundation for Human Rights - Poland
    75. Citizens’ Watch - Russia
    76. Human Rights Alert - India
    77. Human Rights Association (İHD) - Turkey
    78. Human Rights Center (HRC) - Georgia
    79. Human Rights Center (HRC) "Memorial" - Russia
    80. Human Rights House Foundation
    81. Human Rights in China (HRIC) - USA
    82. Human Rights Monitoring Institute (HRMI) - Lithuania
    83. Human Rights Mouvement “Bir Duino-Kyrgyzstan” - Kyrgyzstan 
    84. Human Rights Organization of Nepal - Nepal
    85. Humanist Union of Greece (HUG) - Greece
    86. Hungarian Helsinki Committee - Hungary
    87. International Commission of Jurists (ICJ) - Kenyan Section - Kenya
    88. IDP Women Association "Consent" - Georgia
    89. Independent Medico-Legal Unit (IMLU) - Kenya 
    90. Instituto de Estudios Legales y Sociales del Uruguay (IELSUR) - Uruguay
    91. International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH) - France
    92. International Legal Initiative - Kazakhstan
    93. International Partnership for Human Rights (IPHR) - Belgium
    94. International Service for Human Rights (ISHR) - Switzerland 
    95. Jammu Kashmir Coalition of Civil Society - India
    96. JANANEETHI - India
    97. Justice for Iran (JFI) - United Kingdom
    98. Justícia i Pau - Spain
    99. Kazakhstan International Bureau for Human Rights and the Rule of Law - Kazakhstan
    100. Kharkiv Regional Foundation "Public Alternative" - Ukraine
    101. La Strada International - The Netherlands 
    102. La Voix des Sans Voix pour les Droits de l’Homme (VSV) - Democratic Republic of Congo
    103. Latvian Human Rights Committee (LHRC) - Latvia
    104. Lawyer’s Committee for Human Rights YUCOM - Serbia
    105. League for the Defence of Human Rights in Iran (LDDHI) - Iran
    106. Legal Policy Research Centre (LPRC) - Kazakhstan
    107. Libereco Partnership of Human Rights - Germany/ Switzerland
    108. LICADHO - Cambodia
    109. Lifespark - Switzerland
    110. Liga Portuguesa dos Direitos Humanos - Civitas (LPDHC) - Portugal 
    111. Liga voor de Rechten van de Mens (LvRM) (Dutch League for Human Rights) - The Netherlands 
    112. Ligue des droits de l’Homme (LDH) - France
    113. Ligue Tchadienne des droits de l’Homme - Tchad
    114. Maldivian Democracy Network (MDN) - Maldives
    115. Martin Ennals Foundation - Switzerland
    116. Minority Rights Group - Greece
    117. Mouvance des Abolitionnistes du Congo Brazzaville - Congo Brazzaville
    118. Mouvement Ivoirien des Droits Humains (MIDH) - Côte d’Ivoire
    119. Mouvement Lao pour les Droits de l’Homme - Laos
    120. Movimento Nacional de Direitos Humanos (MNDH) - Brazil
    121. Netherlands Helsinki Committee - The Netherlands
    122. Norwegian Helsinki Committee - Norway
    123. Observatoire du système pénal et des droits humains (OSPDH) - Spain
    124. Observatoire Marocain des prisons - Morocco
    125. Odhikar - Bangladesh
    126. OPEN ASIA|Armanshahr - France
    127. Organisation contre la torture en Tunisie (OCTT) - Tunisie
    128. Organisation Guineenne de Defense des Droits de l’Homme et du Citoyen (OGDH) - Guinea
    129. Österreichische Liga für Menschenrechte ÖLFMR - Austria
    130. Palestinian Center for Human Rights (PCHR) - Palestine
    131. Pax Christi Uvira - Democratic Republic of Congo
    132. People’s Watch India 
    133. Programa Venezolano de Educación-Acción en Derechos Humanos (Provea) - Venezuela
    134. Promo LEX Association - Republic of Moldova
    135. Protection International (PI)
    136. Public Association "Dignity" - Kazakhstan
    137. Public Association Spravedlivost Human Rights Organization - Kyrgyzstan
    138. Public Verdict Foundation - Russia 
    139. Rencontre Africaine pour la Défense des Droits de l’Homme RADDHO - Senegal
    140. Repecap Academics - Spain
    141. Réseau des Defenseurs des Droits Humains en Afrique Centrale (REDHAC) - Cameroon
    142. Réseau National de Défense des Droits Humains (RNDDH) - Haïti
    143. Rights Realization Centre - UK
    144. Rural People`s Sangam - India
    145. Salam for Democracy and Human Rights - UK, Lebanon, Bahrain
    146. Social-Strategic Researches and Analytical Investigations Public Union (SSRAIPU) - Azerbaijan
    147. SOHRAM-CASRA - Centre Action Sociale Réhabilitation et Réadaptation pour les Victimes de la Torture, de la guerre et de la violence - Turquie
    148. SOS-Torture/Burundi - Burundi
    149. SUARAM - Malaysia
    150. Syndicat national des agents de la formation et de l’education du Niger (SYNAFEN NIGER) - Niger
    151. Task Force Detainees of the Philippines (TFDP) - Philippines
    152. Thai Action Committee for Democaracy in Burma (TACDB) - Thailand 
    153. The Advocates for Human Rights - United States of America
    154. The Barys Zvozskau Belarusian Human Rights House (BHRH) - Lithuania
    155. The Commission for the Disappeared and Victims of Violence (KontraS) - Indonesia
    156. The International Rehabilitation Council for Torture Victims (IRCT)
    157. Urgent Action Fund for Women’s Human Rights United States of America
    158. Vietnam Committee on Human Rights (VCHR) - France
    159. World Coalition Against the Death Penalty (WCADP) - France
    160. World Organization Against Torture (OMCT) - Switzerland
    161. Xumek asociación para la promoción y protección de los derechos humanos - Argentina

  • Member organisations - Belarus
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