Belarus but not prosecutors shocked by HR defender’s suicide (updated)

The activist from Salihorsk Yana Paliakova committed suicide after an unexpectedly tough court sentence and a humiliating libel in official press. The prosecutor’s office found no reason to initiate poroceedings.

Prosecutor’s office in Salihorsk, Minsk region, refused to initiate criminal proceedings related to the suicide of a human rights activist Yana Paliakova. “Inquiry is finished. No signs found that Yana Paliakova had been incited to commit suicide,” Radio Liberty/Svaboda was told at the prosecutor’s office.

Yana Paliakova hung herself on 7 March, the night after an anonymous lampoon in the official daily Sovetskaya Belorussiya “We have many oddities, and every oddball here is Beethoven!” The author mocked her and all the Belarusian human rights defenders for their seemingly easy and senseless job, calling them “human lefts defenders”.

Yana Paliakova, based in Salihorsk, Minsk region, had been sentenced to two and a half years of personal restraint. Her ‘guilt’ was lodging a complaint against a local policeman Viktar Puhachou who allegedly had repeatedly beaten her up. The human rights defender argued she could not feel safe herself due to permanent intimidation. But the court considered the complaint a slander against the official. Ms Paliakova herself was found guilty.

‘The verdict to Yana Paliakova was issued unlawfully, with a gross violation of the criminal process law,’ – tells Harry Pahaniaila, a well-known human rights defender from the Belarusian Helsinki Committee.  

The judge Aliaksandr Burautsou who issued the verdict to Yana Paliakova refused any comments. The winner of the trial Mr Puhachou and the editor-in-chief of Sovetskaya Belorussiya Pavel Yakubovich followed suit. Mr Yakubovich is also the Chairperson of the state-initiated Public Media Council presumably for the ‘dialogue’ with the independent media community.

After the death of Ms Paliakova, Sovetskaya Belorussiya removed the libel from the official website. Still it can be found on the Internet (in Russian). The head of the Belarusian Association of Journalists Zhanna Litvina stated the article is ‘a shame for the whole journalist community’.

The independent community of Belarus considers the self-murderer a ‘victim of the system’ and calls for an investigation under the Article 145 of the Criminal Code “Incitement to Suicide”.

‘I was shocked by the death of Yana Paliakova. The cases when people are eliminated are becoming more frequent in Belarus,’ commented to the press-center of Charter’97 the human rights defender Valiantsin Stefanovich.

Ms Paliakova was buried on 9 March in her home town.

In November 2008 the harassment of the human rights activist by the law machinery received a great publicity. Yana Paliakova told she had been repeatedly detained and once beaten at the police department; policemen almost fractured her hand.

Ms Paliakova, who was a professional lawyer, belonged to the unregistered organisation Legal Assistance to Population closed down by the authorities, cooperated with other human rights associations.



July 6, 2018

No justice for Mehman Huseynov

Since anti-corruption blogger Mehman Huseynov was sentenced for defamation in March 2017, HRHF has been asking, “when will he find justice?”. With his appeals inside the country now exhausted, we see once again that little justice can be found for human rights defenders in Azerbaijan.

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HRHF statement on Ukraine at HRC38

Human Rights House Foundation delivered the following statement on Ukraine to the UN Human Rights Council (HRC38). This statement enjoys the support of four Ukrainian human rights organisations.

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Assembly and association “enable rights”

UN Special Rapporteur Clément Voule introduces his aims and priorities for freedom of assembly and association mandate, and discusses cooperation with civil society, in an interview with HRHF on the sidelines of HRC38.