Stop The Harassment of Human Rights Defenders In Belarus

Civil Rights Defenders is deeply concerned by the recent actions of the Belarusian authorities to harass and detain journalists, human rights defenders and members of the political opposition for their participation in peaceful protests. The government of Belarus must immediately stop these actions and respect the rights to freedom of assembly and freedom of expression of its citizens.

Today, swift trials are taking place in the Belarusian courts the day after the arrests of 18 journalists and several members of the opposition and civil society were made, in connection to peaceful protests. One of the first verdicts arrived at lunch time today Monday, March 13 – where a Journalist from Radio Liberty was fined the equivalent of 280 Euros. In a subsequent trial a human rights defender was sentenced to 14 days in prison.

Throughout early March, protests have taken place in several cities across Belarus against the government’s economic policy and Presidential Decree on the “Prevention of Social Dependence”. On March 15 and March 25, several large demonstrations are planned in the country’s capital Minsk. Civil Society leaders expressed their worries that these protests will lead to mass reprisals as occurred in December 2010, when more than 600 people were arrested in connection to peaceful assembly. Many were later convicted, spending up to 15 days in prison.

Civil Rights Defenders urgently calls on the Belarusian Government to stop the arbitrary intimidation, detention and searches of journalists, human rights defenders and opposition leaders’ offices and seizure of their property, and honour their right to peaceful assembly as per Articles 19 and 21 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights are respected