Iryna Khalip: I was threatened, beaten and detained for my reporting

On 2 April 1997, while covering a protest against the proposed reunification of Belarus with Russia, a Belarusian journalist Iryna Khalip witnessed her father, a documentary filmmaker, get beaten unconscious. She herself was clubbed by riot police. That incident only galvanized her to continue to expose corruption in Belarus, especially as a journalist for the Minsk bureau of the investigative paper Novaya Gazeta (the paper of slain reporter Anna Politkovskaya).

In early 2011, Khalip spent a month and a half in jail and was given a two-year suspended sentence for her role in protests against President Alexandr Lukashenko’s December 2010 controversial re-election, largely viewed as rigged. Today, she lives under house arrest: she must tell the police her travel plans, and is banned from moving or leaving Minsk for longer than a month. Police visit her home sporadically, often in the middle of the night. She is basically raising her child singlehandedly: her husband Andrei Sannikov, who was the strongest opposition candidate in the 2010 election, was given five years in jail for his role in the protests. During his trial, he said the chief of Belarus’s security services personally threatened harsh reprisals against his wife and their child. Authorities also threatened to put their son in an orphanage. Khalip says she won’t stop reporting on rights abuses because “[it would] betray my friends. [It would] betray the memory of their husbands. There is only one way to go ahead”.

This is the first of 23 cases that will be highlighted during the IFEX impunity-campaign in November, suggested by Norwegian PEN and the Norwegian Helsinki Committee.  See all the cases on this link.

International Freedom of Expression Exchange network (IFEX) urges everyone concerned to stand with Iryna Khalip and defend free expression by sending appeals to:

President Alexander Lukashenko

38, Karl Marx Street
Minsk, 220016
Republic of Belarus
contact@president.gov.by
cc. 
Alexander Barsukov, Department of Internal Affairs of the Minsk City Executive Committee 
oios@guvd.gov.by
Miklós Haraszti, UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Belarus 
sr-belarus@ohchr.org

Your Excellency,

As we begin marking the International Day to End Impunity on 23 November, we would like to respectfully draw your attention to the case of independent journalist Irina Khalip, living under house arrest for her reporting in Belarus, whom we believe to be subject to undue psychological pressure.

Khalip, the Minsk-based correspondent for the Russian paper “Novaya Gazeta”, spent a month and a half in jail in early 2011. She was given a two-year suspended sentence for her role in protests surrounding the elections in December 2010.

Her husband Andrei Sannikov, an opposition candidate in the 2010 election, was given five years in jail for his role in the protests. During his trial, he said the chief of Belarus’s security services personally threatened harsh reprisals against his wife and their child. Authorities also threatened to put their son in an orphanage.

Today, those threats have come true. While Khalip lives under house arrest, she must tell police her travel plans, and is banned from moving or leaving Minsk for longer than a month. We are extremely alarmed by reports that police visit her home sporadically, often in the middle of the night – traumatising her and her five-year-old son. This is not acceptable under legal standards, and unfairly persecutes her young child, who has the right to special protection under the UN Declaration of the Rights of the Child.

Article 2 of the Declaration states:  “The child shall enjoy special protection, and shall be given opportunities and facilities, by law and by other means, to enable him to develop physically, mentally, morally, spiritually and socially in a healthy and normal manner and in conditions of freedom and dignity. In the enactment of laws for this purpose, the best interests of the child shall be the paramount consideration.”

We ask that steps are taken to stop the police visits to Khalip’s home, particularly in the middle of the night, and that the conditions of her house arrest comply with international standards, so that her child may live free from intimidation and psychological abuse.

We also ask that the fundamental human right to freedom of expression and assembly be upheld in Belarus, that the charges against Iryna Khalip be dropped, and those responsible for threatening Khalip and her child be brought to justice.

Yours sincerely,

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