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  • Belarusian human rights defenders call to immediately release Viktar Babaryka and members of his nomination group

    Victar Babaryka

    Min­sk — June 19, 2020

    On June 18, pres­i­den­tial nom­i­nee Vik­tar Babary­ka and his son Eduard Babary­ka, who heads his nom­i­na­tion group, were detained by the Depart­ment for Finan­cial Inves­ti­ga­tions of the State Con­trol Com­mit­tee. Accord­ing to the head of the Depart­ment, Vik­tar Babary­ka was detained on sus­pi­cion of being the direct orga­niz­er of ille­gal activ­i­ties, attempt­ing to influ­ence wit­ness­es, and hid­ing traces of ear­li­er crimes. Lat­er it was report­ed that the Pros­e­cu­tor General’s Office opened a crim­i­nal case under Parts 2 and 3 of Art. 285 of the Crim­i­nal Code (cre­ation of a crim­i­nal orga­ni­za­tion or par­tic­i­pa­tion in it).

    The grounds for detain­ing Eduard Babary­ka were not offi­cial­ly announced. At the moment, it is known that Vik­tar Babary­ka and his son Eduard are held in the KGB pre-tri­al prison. Ear­li­er, mem­bers of Vik­tar Babaryka’s nom­i­na­tion group Svi­at­lana Kupreye­va and Uladz­imir Duda­rau were detained and tak­en into cus­tody.

    Their deten­tion was a con­tin­u­a­tion of the wave of repres­sion launched after the announce­ment of the pres­i­den­tial elec­tion. Over the peri­od, hun­dreds of cit­i­zens have been sub­ject­ed to var­i­ous types of repres­sion and per­se­cu­tion: dis­missals, admin­is­tra­tive deten­tions and fines. Mem­bers of Vik­tar Babaryka’s and Svi­at­lana Tsikhanouskaya’s nom­i­na­tion groups were sub­ject­ed to par­tic­u­lar­ly severe repres­sions. In par­tic­u­lar, the head of Tsikhanouskaya’s nom­i­na­tion group and pop­u­lar blog­ger Siarhei Tsikhanous­ki and sev­en oth­er activists were tak­en into cus­tody as part of a crim­i­nal case under Art. 342 of the Crim­i­nal Code (orga­ni­za­tion of group actions that gross­ly vio­late pub­lic order or active par­tic­i­pa­tion in them). Tak­ing into account all the cir­cum­stances of this crim­i­nal case, the human rights com­mu­ni­ty of Belarus called the eight per­sons, includ­ing Siarhei Tsikhanous­ki, polit­i­cal pris­on­ers. Svi­at­lana Tsikhanouskaya her­self report­ed threats of pos­si­ble crim­i­nal pros­e­cu­tion and the removal of her minor chil­dren.

    The pres­i­den­tial elec­tion is tak­ing place in con­di­tions of intim­i­da­tion, threats and pres­sure. The cur­rent head of state has repeat­ed­ly pub­licly threat­ened his polit­i­cal oppo­nents, includ­ing Vik­tar Babary­ka.

    Giv­en these cir­cum­stances, we con­clude that the real grounds for the crim­i­nal pros­e­cu­tion of Vik­tar Babary­ka and mem­bers of his nom­i­na­tion group are polit­i­cal motives aimed at stop­ping his pres­i­den­tial nom­i­na­tion activ­i­ties and forc­ing his even­tu­al with­draw­al from the elec­tion.

    Par­tic­i­pa­tion in gov­ern­ing the coun­try through peri­od­ic, free and demo­c­ra­t­ic elec­tions is one of the free­doms guar­an­teed to the cit­i­zens of Belarus, both by the Con­sti­tu­tion and by inter­na­tion­al human rights stan­dards, in par­tic­u­lar by the Inter­na­tion­al Covenant on Civ­il and Polit­i­cal Rights.

    The activ­i­ties of law enforce­ment, judi­cia­ry and oth­er state bod­ies aimed at obstruct­ing the exer­cise of this free­dom, as well as per­se­cu­tion of peo­ple exer­cis­ing these rights, are unac­cept­able in a demo­c­ra­t­ic soci­ety.

    The approach­es demon­strat­ed by the inves­tiga­tive bod­ies in the crim­i­nal case against the poten­tial pres­i­den­tial can­di­date Vik­tar Babary­ka and mem­bers of his nom­i­na­tion group con­sti­tute a vio­la­tion of the pre­sump­tion of inno­cence, a gross vio­la­tion of the right to defense and oth­er rights, which empha­sizes the ille­gal nature of these actions.

    Based on the above, guid­ed by para­graphs 2.1 and 3.1a of the Guide­lines on the Def­i­n­i­tion of a Polit­i­cal Pris­on­er, adopt­ed at the 3rd Belaru­sian Human Rights Forum, we, rep­re­sen­ta­tives of Belaru­sian human rights orga­ni­za­tions, declare Vik­tar Babary­ka, Eduard Babary­ka, Svi­at­lana Kupreye­va, and Uladz­imir Duda­rau politi­cians pris­on­ers and

    call to:

    • imme­di­ate­ly release Vik­tar Babary­ka, Eduard Babary­ka, Svi­at­lana Kupreye­va, and Uladz­imir Duda­rau from cus­tody;

    • pro­vide Vik­tar Babary­ka with the oppor­tu­ni­ty to freely par­tic­i­pate in free and demo­c­ra­t­ic elec­tions based on the prin­ci­ples of equal and com­pet­i­tive polit­i­cal strug­gle;

    • abstain from using the meth­ods of crim­i­nal pros­e­cu­tion as a tool of pres­sure on elec­tion cam­paign par­tic­i­pants;

    • imme­di­ate­ly stop all repres­sion against cit­i­zens and direct par­tic­i­pants in the elec­toral process, and release all polit­i­cal pris­on­ers.

    Human Rights Cen­ter “Vias­na”

    Belaru­sian Asso­ci­a­tion of Jour­nal­ists (BAJ)

    Belaru­sian Helsin­ki Com­mit­tee

    Cen­ter for Legal Trans­for­ma­tion “Lawtrend”

    Legal Ini­tia­tive

    Forb Ini­tia­tive

    Ini­tia­tive Group “Iden­ti­ty and Law”

    Advi­so­ry cen­ter on con­tem­po­rary inter­na­tion­al prac­tices and their legal imple­men­ta­tion ”Human Con­stan­ta”

    Assem­bly of Non-Gov­ern­men­tal Demo­c­ra­t­ic Orga­ni­za­tions

    Barys Zvozskau Belaru­sian Human Rights House

    The state­ment is not intend­ed to sup­port the polit­i­cal posi­tion of the above per­sons or of any of the per­sons nom­i­nat­ed for Pres­i­dent of the Repub­lic of Belarus.

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