Belarusian human rights defender forbidden to leave the country

Andrei Bondarenko’s work as a human rights defender appears to be behind the Belarusian government’s decision to issue travel restrictions against him

On 15th March 2012, Belarusian human rights defender, Andrei Bondarenko, learned that he is temporarily forbidden to leave the country, when he was taken off a train from Minsk to Warsaw. Bodarenko is the Director of the informational and educational institution “Platforma” in Belarus, which protects the rights and lawful interests of convicts, and of those dealing with the judicial system.

Bodarenko was one of the three human rights defenders who visited Geneva in November 2011, where he participated in the briefing of NGOs of the Committee against Torture. He also attended the review of Belarus at the Committee’s 47th session, and participated in the NGO briefing on Belarus.

The official explanation for the travel restrictions placed upon Bondarenko cited evasion of military service, however, he is not in the age bracket for conscription, nor is it clear which government institution enforced the ban, as the Ministry for Defence and the Ministry for Internal affairs both deny involvement.

The travel ban imposed upon Andrei Bondarenko comes after a publicised visit to Geneva, and although there is no explicit indication that his advocacy work in Geneva was the direct cause for the travel ban being issued, the connection nonetheless implies that his work as a human rights defender, including his participation in the 47th session of the Committee, was a decisive factor. It is important to note that March 2012 was the first time he had tried to leave Belarus since his trip to Geneva in November 2012.

The travel ban imposed upon Bondarenko is a violation of the right to the liberty of movement, which is guaranteed by Article 12 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), and the implied connection between the travel ban and his human rights work in Geneva contradicts the right for civil society to engage with treaties, as outlined by the United Nations Human Rights Treaty Body system.

Bondarenko’s case is one among many others in Belarus, where dozens of journalists, opposition politicians and activists, are denied the right to leave the country.

The Human Rights House Foundation has submitted its case to the Committee against Torture, the reprisal desk of the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner on Human Rights, and the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders.

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