Free Aleh Vouchak!
Urgent call for immediate and unconditional release and for lifting the ungrounded travel ban of Belarusian human rights defender Aleh Volchak
We, the undersigned members and partners of the Human Rights House Network, are deeply concerned about the recent arrest of the Belarusian human rights defender Aleh Volchak and the ongoing pressure against him and other human rights defenders in Belarus. We strongly believe that Aleh Volchak's detention is linked to his legitimate human rights work, including his latest publication about the deteriorating political situation in Belarus on the Internet on the eve of his arrest. We call upon the Belarusian authorities to immediately and unconditionally release Aleh Volchak, ensure his full rehabilitation and stop persecution of human rights defenders in connection with their professional activities.
On 24 May 2012, Aleh Volchak, a Belarusian human rights defender and the leader of the human rights organization Legal Aid to Population, was arrested by police in Minsk. On the same evening, the Central District Court in Minsk sentenced him to nine days of administrative arrest for petty hooliganism (Article 17.1 of the Belarusian Administrative Code).
On the eve of the detention, Aleh Volchak gave an interview expressing his opinion on the changes of the political situation in the country and calling for bringing all those involved in torture and cruel and inhuman treatment to justice.
The recent arrest of Aleh Volchak is a clear continuation of the ongoing pressure against him in Belarus. On 27 January 2012, he was arrested and accused of petty hooliganism and sentenced to four days of administrative arrest. On 12 March 2012, Aleh Volchak was informed that there was a temporary travel ban imposed on him. He was notified by the Ministry of Internal Affairs that the temporary travel ban was the result of information provided by the Ministry of Justice on the basis of a civil case taken against him. He was not given any details of the alleged civil case, and was advised to apply to the Ministry of Justice for further information. No information, however, was so far provided despite the requests made by Aleh Volchak.
As in January 2012, Aleh Volchak now serves his sentence in the Centre for the Isolation of Delinquents (CID) at the City Department of Internal Affairs of the Minsk City Executive Council located at Okrestina per. 36 in Minsk. Belarusian human rights defenders have repeatedly stated that detention conditions at CID are inhuman.
We consider the recent detention of Aleh Volchak as yet another example of the ongoing systematic pressure on human rights defenders, opposition and other civil society activists in Belarus. His case clearly illustrates the persistent pattern in Belarus to silence critical voices and to perpetrate an environment of intimidation. Arbitrary detention is widely used to suppress persons who merely exercise their fundamental freedoms opinion and expression in Belarus.
We therefore remind the Belarusian authorities of their international obligation to promote and protect the right to freedom of expression and call upon them:
To immediately and unconditionally release Aleh Volchak and fully rehabilitate him;
To immediately lift the ungrounded travel ban imposed on Aleh Volchak and fully ensure his right to freedom of movement, as well as travel bans on other human rights defenders, journalists and civil society and political leaders and activists;
To take effective measures to protect human rights defenders and allow them to conduct their human rights work without hindrance, as provided in the UN Declaration on Human Rights Defenders of 9 December 1998.
Azerbaijan Human Rights House
Belarusian Human Rights House in exile (Vilnius)
Human Rights House Sarajevo
The Human Rights Centre Georgia (HRIDC)
The Georgian Center for Psychosocial and Medical Rehabilitation of Torture Victims – GCRT
Human Rights House Oslo
Health and Human Rights Info
Norwegian Burma Committee
Human Rights House Foundation
Rafto Foundation, Norway
Helsinki Foundation for Human Rights, Poland
Armenian Helsinki Association
Helsinki Citizens' Assembly – Vanadzor, Armenia
Journalists’ Club “Asparez” NGO, Armenia
Public Information and Need of Knowledge NGO, Armenia
Shahkhatun Women’s Democracy Promotion NGO, Armenia
Institute for Peace and Democracy, Azerbaijan
Human Rights Club, Azerbaijan
Public Association for Assistance to Free Economy, Azerbaijan
Belgrade Centre for Human Rights
Helsinki Committee for Human Rights in Serbia
Lawyers’ Committee for Human Rights YUCOM, Serbia
Civic Initiatives, Serbia
Policy Center, Serbia
Article 19, UK
Index on Censorship, UK