Representatives of the Human Rights House Network sent a statement to the Belarusian authorities regarding a number of abductions of opposition activists.
The letter says human rights guaranteed by the Constitution are being violated in Belarus. It also calls to respect norms of international obligations, ratified by the country, BelaPAN reports.
The statement addresses Prosecutor General Ryhor Vasilevich and Interior Minister Anatoly Kulyashou. It is signed by 15 human rights organizations of Europe, including the Belarusian Human Rights House in Vilnius.
The letters says members of the Human Rights House Network are alarmed by recent reports of abductions of youth activists in Belarus. Human rights defenders think the instances seem to be of a similar nature.
Human rights watchdogs remind that on 5 December, unknown persons in mufti seized “Young Front” leader Zmitser Dashkevich when he was opening the doors of his apartment. On that day, Dashkevich was going to take part in the presentation of New Generation coalition. Dashkevich was pushed into a car; the abductors pulled two caps over his face so he could not see where he was taken. They brought him to a forest, where he was taken out of the car, with a wooden pole put through the sleeves of his jacket to immobilize him. The abductors ordered him to stand and count up to a hundred and then disappeared. Dashkevich had to find his way out of the forest. When he reached the road, he found the village of Antonauka 70 kilometres away from Minsk.
On December 6, four men in mufti in Minsk abducted Yauhen Afnahel, one of the leaders of the civil campaign “European Belarus”. Afnahel was reportedly forced into a white car with tinted windows and taken out of town. According to the activist, the kidnappers didn’t say anything, just forced him to sit with his head between his knees. He was let out of the car at a few kilometres distance from Minsk.
“According to our information, a series of similar incidents happened in the course of the year. Six leaders and activists of youth organizations and initiatives have been victims of abductions: Artur Finkevich, Nasta Palazhanka, Dzyanis Karnou, Uladzimir Lemesh, Zmitser Dashkevich, and Yauhen Afnahel. Reports by Belarusian human rights NGOs, media and the abducted persons themselves give us grounds to believe that these abductions may be directly related to the victims' civic and political involvement and aimed at intimidating them. These incidents have not been investigated, although abduction and unlawful deprivation of freedom constitute a crime punishable by Articles 182 and 183 respectively of the Belarusian Criminal Code,” the statement says.
The recent incidents appear to be a new and intimidating tool for harassment of Belarusian activists, who in an organised manner or independently demonstrate their opposition to the rule of the government of Belarus. As such, they represent a violation of the freedom of expression as well as the right to assembly and association, as guaranteed by Articles 19, 21 and 22 respectively of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights ratified by the Republic of Belarus the 12 November 1973. The authors of the statement also remind the government of Belarus of the Article 9 of the Covenant that entitles everyone to the right to liberty and security of person.
“The UN Declaration on the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance stipulates the right to protection from abductions as we have seen unfold in Belarus, and the states’ obligation to investigate the crimes. Although Belarus has not ratified the Convention, the Belarusian government should take notice of the grave nature of such crimes that the Convention underscores,” the statement stresses.