Belarus authorities trying to put screws on Office for Rights of Persons with Disabilities

Syarhei Drazdouski. Photo: HRC Viasna.

On February 2, Syarhei Drazdouski, director of the Office for the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, and Aleh Hrableuski, the office’s legal counsellor, spent seven hours in the Financial Investigations Department of the State Control Committee, human rights centre Viasna reports.

The two men had to hold out a long and unpleasant interrogation.

Earlier, the Office found defense lawyers for several people who had to appear before court as part of the case on ‘participating in mass riots’, for which its team is now being faulted by the authorities. According to Syarhei, the officers threatened him with imprisonment, openly calling him ‘criminal’ and ‘swindler’.

When Drazdouski and Hrableuski were being questrioned, their lawyers were not allowed to be present. Notably, as Syarhei Drazdouski is a wheelchair user, spending seven hours in one and the same room without any opportunity to move was sort of torture for him.

There were many attempts to exert pressure on them, Aleh Hrableuski said on Facebook:

They stripped me naked, conducted a body search, checked everything they could. They ordered me to remain undressed, sit on a chair and look only at the corner of the table.”

Марш людзей з інваліднасцю і «бчб-поглядамі»

On January 21, law enforcers made an unexpected visit to the Office for the Rights of Persons with Disabilities in Minsk. The Department of Financial Investigations said they were carrying out a check on the office staff over allegedly illegal receiving funds in the form of charitable donations and foreign aid.

It should be recalled that a number of protest actions named March of People with Disabilities took place in Minsk and other Belarusian cities In the autumn of 2020. In mid October, the first rally of such kind was held in the country: people with special needs, their families and friends joined protesting against police abuse, rigging elections, persecuting dissidents.

In late December, Belarusian Foreign Minister Uladzimir Makey announced limiting the activities of a number of NGOs in Belarus and reviewing their humanitarian, educational and cultural programs in the wake of the third package of sanctions imposed on Belarusian officials by the European Union.