“We see the actions undertaken in relation to Leanid Sudalenka as linked to his defence of Olga Grunova and his recent submission of a new complaint to the Human Rights Committee. The link between the submission of this complaint and the death threats is clear. Furthermore, the police investigation began only after he submitted a complaint against the police for the refusal to investigate serious threats against his children. These actions are indeed part of a campaign aimed at intimidating Leanid Sudalenka because of his human rights work.” the organisations write in a letter addressed to the Minister of Internal Affairs of the Republic of Belarus, Mr. Igor Shunevich, the Prosecutor General of the Republic of Belarus, Mr. Aleksandr Koniuk, and the Chairperson of the Investigation Committee of the Republic of Belarus, Mr. Valentin Shaev.
Download the letter from the link on the right side of this page.
In the letter the organisations present the facts in the case and direct a cleare call to the authorities:
On 8 April 2015, police searched the home and the office of Leanid Sudalenka, Belarusian human rights defender, and confiscated 8 computers on suspicion of dissemination of pornographic material via Leanid Sudalenka’s email address. On 14 April 2015, a criminal case was opened by the Investigation Committee of the Republic of Belarus on charges of dissemination of pornographic material via the Internet. The investigation claims that pornographic material was disseminated from the email address of Mr Sudalenka at mail.ru and from the IP address of the computers in the office where Mr Sudalenka works. However, the e-mail account of Mr. Sudalenka at mail.ru was hacked, and Mr. Sudalenka did not have any control over that account at the time of dissemination of pornographic material.
Leanid Sudalenka is a prominent human rights defender, who actively works on protecting victims of human rights violations, including by helping them to submit individual complaints to the United Nations Human Rights Committee. He has gained a great number of complaints he submitted to the Committee.
Leanid Sudalenka is also an active participant in the campaign “Human Rights Defenders against Death Penalty.”
His most recent complaint submitted to the Human Rights Committee was the one of Olga Grunova asking the Belarusian authorities to disclose the location of the grave of her son, who was sentenced to death and executed on 22 October 2014 to her knowledge.
Following the submission of this particular complaint, Leanid Sudalenka received death threats directed at his children. He requested the police to investigate the threats against his family, but his request was turned down. After his complaint to the Office of the Prosecutor of Gomel, the police re-examined his request and yet turned it down again. Leanid Sudalenka’s complaint against this decision is currently pending at the Prosecutor’s Office.
We see the actions undertaken in relation to Leanid Sudalenka as linked to his defence of Olga Grunova and his recent submission of a new complaint to the Human Rights Committee. The link between the submission of this complaint and the death threats is clear. Furthermore, the police investigation began only after he submitted a complaint against the police for the refusal to investigate serious threats against his children. These actions are indeed part of a campaign aimed at intimidating Leanid Sudalenka because of his human rights work.
This prosecution of Leanid Sudalenka follows the expulsion from Belarus of the human rights defender Elena Tonkacheva, leader of the Legal Transformation Centre.
Belarusian human rights defenders are one of the driving forces that is constantly working on reforming the country. However, they continue to face systemic and systematic violations of their core rights to freedom of expression, association and peaceful assembly. There is no space in Belarus for human rights defenders to assess public policies independently from the State and defend the rights of victims of human rights violations. Human rights defenders face criminalisation by the country’s legislation and face threats and harassment, arbitrary detention, including short-term detentions and long-term imprisonments, torture and ill treatment, and restrictions on movement.
In the upcoming electoral period, ahead of the presidential election to take part before 15 November 2015, authorities have an obligation to even more protect those participating in the public debate, as reported to the United Nations General Assembly in October 2013 by the Special Rapporteur, Maina Kiai. Unfortunately, the Belarusian authorities have ignored therecommendations made by the Special Rapporteur on Belarus Miklós Harastzi on the protection and promotion of all human rights during electoral periods, and we see the renewed harassment, persecution and prosecution of human rights defenders as an act of intimidation against independent voices ahead of the November 2015 presidential election.
As Miklós Harastzi recently put it, the case of Elena Tonkacheva further “[demonstrate] the immense challenges that continue to exist for human rights defenders to fulfil their work in Belarus.” The case of Leanid Sudalenka is of the same nature.
We hereby call upon you to stop the prosecution of the human rights defender Leanid Sudalenka, and to investigate the threats made against Leanid Sudalenka and his family andfacts of dissemination of pornographic material via the Internet.
We further call upon you to:
- Conduct prompt, impartial and thorough investigations into facts of dissemination of pornographic material via the Internet and into acts of intimidation and violence against Mr. Sudalenka and his family, and bring those responsible to justice;
- Put an end to any acts of intimidation and reprisal against victims of human rights violations, human rights defenders and lawyers submitting cases to the United Nations Human Rights Committee, or other international bodies, including the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Belarus, and fully cooperate with and implement recommendations by such bodies and views issued by the Committee;
- Create a safe and enabling environment, in which human rights defenders can operate free from hindrance and insecurity, in the whole country and in all sectors of society, including by extending support to local human rights defenders as stipulated in the United Nations Human Rights Council resolution 22/6 of 21 March 2013.
Barys Zvozskau Belarusian Human Rights House, Vilnius (on behalf of the following NGOs):
- Belarus Watch
- Belarusian Association of Journalists
- Belarusian Helsinki Committee
- City Public Association “Centar Supolnasc”
- Human Rights Centre “Viasna”
Human Rights House Tbilisi (on behalf of the following NGOs):
- Article 42 of the Constitution
- Caucasian Centre for Human Rights and Conflict Studies
- Georgian Centre for Psychosocial and Medical Rehabilitation of Torture Victims
- Human Rights Centre
- Media Institute
- Union Sapari – Family without Violence
Human Rights House Azerbaijan:
- Human Rights Center of Azerbaijan
- Due to the risk of retaliation against Azerbaijani human rights defenders, we decided not to indicate the names of other Azerbaijani NGOs who would be signing this letter.
Education Human Rights House Chernihiv (on behalf of the following NGOs):
- Chernihiv Public Committee of Human Rights Protection
- Center of Humnistic Tehnologies “AHALAR”
- Center of Public Education “ALMENDA”
- Human Rights Center “Postup”
- Local Non-governmental Youth organizations М’АRТ
- Transcarpathian Public Center
- Ukrainian Helsinki Human Rights Union
Human Rights House Kiev (on behalf of the following NGOs):
- Association of Ukrainian Human Rights Monitors on Law-Enforcement
- Center for Civil Liberties
- Kharkiv Human Rights Protection Group
- Ukrainian Helsinki Human Rights Union
Human Rights House Oslo:
- Norwegian Helsinki Committee
- Health and Human Rights Info
Human Rights House Belgrade:
- Lawyers Committee for Human Rights
Human Rights House Voronezh (on behalf of the following NGOs):
- Charitable Foundation
- Civic Initiatives Development Centre
- Confederation of Free Labor
- For Ecological and Social Justice
- Free University
- Interregional Trade Union of Literary Men
- Lawyers for labor rights
- Ms. Olga Gnezdilova
- Soldiers Mothers of Russia
- Voronezh Journalist Club
- Youth Human Rights Movement
Human Rights House Yerevan (on behalf of the following NGOs):
- “Shahkhatun” Women’s Democracy Support
- Democracy Today
- Helsinki Association for Human Rights
- Helsinki Citizens’ Assembly Vanadzor
- Insuring Equal Rights
- Journalists’ Club “Asparez”
- Public Information and Need of Knowledge (PINK Armenia)
- Real World, Real People
- Women’s Resource Center
- “Socioscope” Societal Research & Consultancy Centre
- “The Rule of Law” Human Rights NGO
Human Rights House Zagreb (on behalf of the following NGOs):
- APEO/UPIM Association for Promotion of Equal Opportunities for People with Disabilities
- CMS – Centre for Peace Studies
- Documenta – Centre for Dealing with the Past
- GOLJP – Civic Committee for Human Rights
- Svitanje – Association for Protection and Promotion of Mental Health
The Assembly of Pro-Democratic NGOs, Belarus
Vivarta, United Kingdom
- United Nations Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders
- United Nations Special Rapporteur on the rights to freedom of association and peaceful assembly
- United Nations Special Rapporteur on the human rights situation in Belarus
- Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights of the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE ODIHR)
- Cabinet of Commissioner Johannes Hahn for European Neighbourhood Policy and Enlargement Negotiations
- Delegation of the European Union in Belarus
- Subcommittee on Human Rights of the European Parliament
- Diplomatic community in Minsk, Brussels, Geneva, New York and Strasbourg
- Various ministries of foreign affairs and parliamentary committees on foreign affairs