The Human Rights House Foundation is concerned about the harassment of the human rights defender Leanid Svetsik.  

On Friday, 23 May 2008 three KGB officers burst into Svetsik’s apartment in Vitebsk. The following search lasted for nine hours and was directed by the senior lieutenant of the KGB. During the search, the KGB confiscated Svetsik’s computer, human rights related printed 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. The interrogation was videotaped.  

According to a ruling of the prosecutor’s office for initiation of criminal proceedings under Article 130.1 of the Criminal Case of the Republic of Belarus (fomentation of national and religious enmity), Svetsik is considered a witness in the case concerning threats of the neo-Nazi organization Russian National Unity (RNE) to certain citizens. As a human rights defender, Svetsik was approached by activists threatened by the pro-Nazi RNE movement. Svetsik gave the threatened activists consultations and helped them apply to the appropriate state organs for protection. 

On 30 May, Svetsik and the editor-in-chief of the Vitebski Kurier newsletter, Uladzimer Bazan, were interrogated by representatives from the Vitebsk regional office of the KGB. Svetsik and Bazan were warned and banned by the KGB from giving or commenting on details of the ongoing investigation, all for ‘security reasons’.

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 is concerned that the confiscation of Svetsik’s equipment and documents undermines his right as a human rights defender to assist victims of human rights violations. In this respect, Belarusian authorities acts in breach with the 1998 UN Declaration on the Rights and Responsibility of Individuals, Groups and Organs of Society to Promote and Protect Universally Recognized Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms. This declaration clearly establishes that “[t]he State shall take 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” of being a human rights defender, as stated in the Declaration’s Article 12.2.

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 about the search of Svetsik’s apartment and the following interrogation.