29 June 2017, Thursday, 7:00

Zmitser Bandarenka: White Feather of Some Human Rights Activist Provokes New Repressions

Zmitser Bandarenka

There are 25 political prisoners in Belarus.

The coordinator of the European Belarus campaign Zmitser Bandarenka commented Charter97.org on refusal of HRC Viasna to recognize political prisoners any defendant in the White Legion case.

-What could you say about the refusal of the HRC Viasna to recognize political prisoners defendants in the White Legion case who are now in the KGB prison under false charges?

-I totally disagree with the approach of Viasna and specifically its member Valyantsin Stefanovich. I think this is not only the white feather, but their activities may cause the situation deterioration with political prisoners and provoke new political prisoners under grave articles of the Criminal Code and new wave of repressions in Belarus.

What is the reason? Before March 25 the Sejm of Poland had the meeting on the situation in Belarus. A large Belarusian delegation and Belarusian working in Warsaw took part in it. All participants stated unanimously that the repressions on the part of authorities reminded of those in 1937. Almost all opposition parties and organizations of Belarus are subject to mass repressions. And the information shown on the Belarusian television about alleged explosions and other provocations on the part of the opposition on Freedom Day proves that the so-called patriot case is politically motivated and framed.

- After 10 December 2010 you spent five months in prison on charges of "organization of mass protests". Did the recognition of you as a political prisoner anyhow affect confinement conditions?

- In early March of 2011 the pressure on us lowered and it was linked to a clear international position, international denunciation of the lawlessness of the authority. Now Viasna does not provide a real state of the situation in the country and de-emphasizes repressions. To be consistent, Viasna must make it clear that Belarus now has about 25 political prisoners. If it is ignored now, the international community is not able to deliver an assessment. This is a very serious incitement to new arrests in the country.

I'd like to note that the current situation concerns me personally and my colleagues in the European Belarus, because the Belarusian television presented me as organizer of explosions on March 25, as well as people who "took trainings" in Polish camps and who are now defendants in the White Legion case. According to Belarusian law, I am a criminal who falls under the article punishable by death.

We do not know what is going on in prisons. In theory, I should be a defendant in these criminal cases, however, Poland has not received any requests for my extradition to Belarus. It is clear that this is an information war and a stupidity. Viasna civil rights activists have not addressed me as well, although, if they concede the verity of accusations of the Belarusian KGB, then I already relate to this case. If Viasna human rights activists really wanted to get into the case, they would contact me, because, according to the Belarusian authorities, I am one of defendants in the Patriot case.

The Belarusian Foreign Ministry has not required closing down training camps of Belarusian "militants" in Poland.

- Well, it is not clear what is meant by Stephanovich by "transparency", lack of "arguments of political motivation", when evidence is fabricated, gasoline bombs and weapons are planted. Can the court be unbiased then? Especially when it is a fake as well.

- The behavior of Stephanovich who acts like a pristine human rights activist only makes fun. We know that a gun was planted to the house of former minister during the case of Mikhail Marynich. Later it was forgotten. But it is done not to recognize people political prisoners. I am convinced that as soon as Stefanovich's colleague Revyaka was planted a gun, he would immediately announced her political prisoner. But since it's about other people, these people are treated as some kind of afterthought.

I think some leaders of Viasna have fear, because the article "the activity on behalf of an unregistered organization" is still valid, and the human rights organization locates in a building which was allegedly taken away by authorities, and later somehow returned to Viasna.

It is impossible to do a few things at the same time, therefore, many people have serious claims against the activity of the organization. By the way, this structure is also observe so-called "elections", and here "local elections" will take place and the cooperation with the authorities is inevitable.

Of course, people live under a constant pressure and the fact of a raid to the office with a brutal detention of Viasna employees and civil rights activists from other countries is some kind of pressure. But it is necessary to find courage and to admit that you work under pressure, rather than portray yourselves as figures of authority on the basis of contrived criteria.

-It is clear that torture has traditionally been used against any defendant of the White Legion case in the KGB remand prison. Can their situation deteriorate after this statement?

- Yes, it can. And I do not rule out that people are being tortured. The construction of the KGB prison is that every day there is a torture. 70 % of cells there have no toilet now. Every cell has a plug that blocks air circulation. Prisoners are under constant pressure and we do not know what they face there, given the way political prisoners were treated in 2010-11 years. Viasna says that it is needed to wait until the trial. What will happen if these people say that Ales Byalyatski or Stefanovich were main organizers? No one can tell what methods will be applied to these guys in prison and who will be found guilty under their evidence. It is too naive to think that Viasna will be out of the criminal case.

I express my respect to Freedom to Political Prisoners forum. The Belarusian civil society should hold that defendants in the Patriot case are political prisoners and they need protection in the country and abroad. Only Belarusian and international solidarity can stop the scandalous situation against the civil society and the patriots of Belarus.