Thursday, 09 April 2009, by HRHF and NHC
Prospekt Nesavisimosti 17
Tel +375 17-2199299
Copy to: Prosecutor’s Office of Vitebsk
210601, ul Zestkova, 14а, Vitebsk,
+375 212 47-73-27
+375 212 47-64-44
The General Prosecutor’s Office of the Republic of Belarus
Mr Vasilevich G.A.
220050 Internacionalnaja 22, Minsk
Tel. +375 17 2264360
+375 17 2264358
The Ministry of Internal Affairs
Mr Naumov V.V.
220050 Ul. Gorodskoj Val, 2
Oslo 9 April 2009
The Human Rights House Foundation and the Norwegian Helsinki Committee are concerned about the charges brought against the human rights defender Leanid Svetsik from the Vitebsk region and urge the Belarusian authorities to carry out a transparent and impartial investigation. On 31 March the KGB office in Vitebsk region charged Leonid Svetsik with violating Article 131 (fomentation of national and religious enmity), and Article 367 of the Criminal Code (insulting the honour of the President).
In May 2008, KGB carried out a nine-hour search of Svetsik’s apartment in Vitebsk. During the search, the KGB confiscated Svetsik’s computer, printed human rights related material and a certificate from the Council of Europe. After the search, Svetsik was brought to the KGB office of Vitebsk region where he was interrogated for more than two hours. Later, Svetsik and Uladzimer Bazan, the former editor-in-chief of the Vitebski Kurier newsletter, were warned and banned by the regional KGB office from commenting on details of the ongoing investigation on the case concerning the threats by the neo-Nazi organization Russian National Unity (RNE) to certain citizens, all for ‘security reasons’. Svetsik had assisted the threatened activists with the application to the appropriate state organs for protection. On 18 September 2008, the case was pending an experts analysis. In the meantime, travel restrictions were imposed on Leonid Svetsik.
Svetsik is internationally recognized as a leading human rights defender in the Vitebsk region. He has participated in the preparation of five complaints concerning Belarusian authorities’ violations of citizens’ rights. All five were accepted for consideration by the UN Committee on Human Rights in Geneva.
The Human Rights House Foundation and the Norwegian Helsinki Committee regret that the ongoing investigation of Leonid Svetsik restricts his right to act as a human rights defender in assisting victims of human rights violations. In this respect, Belarusian authorities must conform with the paragraph 8 of the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly Resolution on Strengthening OSCE Engagement with Human Rights Defenders and National Rights Institutions, which states that the OSCE Participating states recognise “the need for particular attention, support and protection for human rights defenders.”
We further urge the Belarusian authorities to respect the 1998 General Assembly Resolution 53/144 entitled Declaration on the Rights and Responsibility of Individuals, Groups and Organs of Society to Promote and Protect Universally Recognized Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms. According to Article 12.2 of the Declaration, “[t]he State shall take all necessary measures to ensure the protection by the competent authorities of everyone, individually and in association with others, […] de facto or de jure adverse discrimination, pressure or any other arbitrary action as a consequence of his or her legitimate exercise of the rights.”
Svetsik was invited to the Council of Europe and participated in a study visit to the Council in Strasbourg 3-6 March 2008. The Human Rights House Foundation will inform the Directorate General of Human Rights and Legal Affairs of the Council of Europe and the Office of the Special Rapport our on Human Rights defenders about the ongoing investigation and interrogation of Svetsik.
Ane Tusvik Bonde
Head of Information
The Norwegian Helsinki Committee
Copies have been sent to:
Directorate General of Human Rights and Legal Affairs of the Council of Europe, Strasbourg
UN Special Rapporteur on the Situation of Human Rights Defenders
The OSCE/ODIHR, Warsaw
The Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs
The Standing Committee for Foreign Affairs of the Norwegian Parliament
The Human Rights House Network
HRHF and NHC