The actions and statements of some Belarusian human rights defenders with regard to the so-called “combatants case”, carried out by the KGB, cause bewilderment.
It’s been a while since the moment of the arrests of former and current political activists in Belarus by the domestic force structures, including the raids of the special police at the offices of the journalists and the human rights center “Viasna”. Our brave KGB agents found some arms caches somewhere in the woods, with reinforcing rods, other moldings, tried to plant something there etc. On the basis of the above, they packed over twenty innocent citizens in the KGB remand prison (besides, some of them were released without withdrawal of charges).
I have to admit I expected some harsh consolidated reaction from the side of all Belarusian human rights defenders and journalists to the mayhem, committed by the Belarusian authorities. I had no doubts there would be very harsh statements and appeals in this regard to the international community, to the governments of the European countries and the USA, to the human rights organizations all over the world with the description of the situation and the demand to release everyone immediately, as well as to recognize the arrested citizens as political prisoners! However, it just wasn’t the case.
Human rights defender Valiantsin Stefanovich (HR center “Viasna”), whom I truly respect, has clarified in an interview to Radio Liberty, that “…if we want to claim that this is a politically motivated persecution, we need to have arguments that it is truly so. To have such arguments, we need to observe the court proceeding directly, what they are accused of, what weapons they had, whether there were any weapons or not, and whether there was preparation for mass riots… It will be known and become possible to assess.”
Given this explanation, one makes a conclusion that, since today, the KGB and the secret services can arrest any citizen of the Republic of Belarus, impose any charges they like, including the preparation (!) to the commitment of a severe or extremely severe crime – and put them in the remand prison for at least several months, which is until the trial, solely on this ground.
I will not go too deep into the controversial attempts of Mr. Stefanovich to justify such an “ostrich” position by the allegedly existing international criteria for recognition of an arrested citizen under investigation as a political prisoner, which is, a person persecuted under criminal law due to political motives. I would only quote my reply to Valiantsin Stefanovich at the forum of the Belarusian service of the Radio Liberty, in which the criterion for the international recognition is marked bold:
P.Znavets: “This one, "deprivation of freedom, committed under obviously political motives: without the connection with a certain violation of the law, when there are grounds to believe that charges could be totally fabricated, applying unreasonably harsh measures of detention and confinement” - that is the proof of the politically motivated persecution. Valiantsin, they were deprived of freedom before the trial, they are in the KGB prison, not under the house arrest, they might be tortured, the KGB could use moral and psychical means (psychotropic substances) to make them confess in something the KGB needs, etc.
Mr. Valiantsin, the argumentation that it is necessary to wait till the court trial to reassure in the politically motivated charges doesn't stand up to scrutiny. This way, everyone can be arrested, me, and you (for example, having said that we knew about the “cache” with reinforcing rods for the preparation of the mass riots) and put Mr. Stefanovich and Mr. Znavets to the KGB prison until the trial. This is not funny, Mr. Valiantsin. You, together with your colleagues at “Viasna”, are acting cowardly, and, to put it mildly, are making a dangerous mistake.”
Given all the above, I, the same as many other citizens of Belarus out of the number of the vociferous opponents of Lukashenka’s regime, have grounds to believe that some Belarusian human rights defenders, sadly, are no longer free in their actions. There are two versions of how to explain the, putting it mildly, over-precautious actions (or, rather, inactions) of our HR defenders:
1) They are either under the overt or unspoken control of the KGB, having made the peculiar “pact on non-attacking”, the essence of which is as follows: you keep silence about our actions before the court, and we guarantee that the arrested “organizers of future riots” or “might-have-been terrorists” will get minimum terms.
2) Our human rights defenders suffer from the so-called “Stockholm syndrome”.
Let me remind you that the Stockholm syndrome is a psychological condition that occurs during the taking of hostages, when the hostages begin to sympathize with their captors, or even to empathize or identify themselves with them.
It is known, that on March 25, 2017 a riot police squad raided the office of the HRC "Viasna". All the people who were there, including human rights defenders, were put faces to the floor and kicked by the armed riot policemen, who also searched them and everything around. After such preliminary "tough treatment", the emergence of the Stockholm syndrome in some people is a common phenomenon.
If a person under the influence of strong stress gets affected by the Stockholm syndrome, their will breaks, and with it the ability to resist violence. The whole psyche of a person, affected by the Stockholm syndrome, together with their thoughts and actions are intended to survive and save themselves at all costs.
In conclusion, I want to say the following: I do not mean to offend any of the Belarusian human rights defenders in any way.
Today, it remains important for all of us to stop the mayhem, committed by the authorities together with their KGB and police institutions, immediately. It should be stopped by both inner mass civil antagonism and despise, and the toughest possible international reaction to the fabricated “combatants case”.
Here are some effective measures, capable of stopping this lawlessness and the further schizophrenization of the Belarusian authorities and their secret services:
1) the recommendation for the European structures to include all individuals engaged into the fabrication of the “combatants case”, as well as their family members, into the lists of persons banned from entering the European countries, the United States and Canada for the term of 25 years or the lifetime;
2) the publication of information about them in the media and including them into the corresponding purging list.
This purging list should be attached to the corresponding Law, which will undoubtedly be adopted in the post-Lukashenka Belarus.
Thus, according to the Law on Purging, all individuals involved in repressions against the citizens and the organizations in the period of Lukashenka’s governing will be deprived of an opportunity to occupy any positions in the state apparatus in the future.
Pavel Znavets, member of the Supreme Council, “Belarusian Partisan”