Belarusian authorities should immediately end all harassment and intimidation of the political prisoners Ales Bialiatski and Zmitser Dashkevich, Human Rights Watch said today. Belarus should order an immediate investigation of all instances of mistreatment of detainees held on politically motivated charges, which activists say has increased recently, Human Rights Watch said.
Platform, a Belarusian human rights group that provides legal assistance to prisoners, filed a complaint on September 28, 2012 to the UN special rapporteur on torture alleging that Dashkevich has been severely mistreated in the penal colony where he is being held. Andrei Bandarenka, the head of Platform, told Human Rights Watch that Dashkevich has been subjected to repeated threats of physical violence, including rape and murder, by the administration of the penal colony as well as verbal abuse, and arbitrary punishments, including undue restrictions on meetings with his family. Ales Bialiatski’s colleagues and others have expressed concern that he is frequently subjected to psychological pressure and unfair punishments.
Human Rights Watch and other human rights groups are also concerned about the alleged mistreatment in detention of Ales Bialiatski, head of Viasna, the Belarusian human rights center, who was arrested on politically motivated charges of tax evasion in August 2011. A Viasna staff member told Human Rights Watch that Bialiatski has been prohibited from meetings with relatives since May and has been held in almost complete isolation from the outside world for the last few months. In June, Bialiatski was labeled a “repeated violator” of the conditions of his detention by the prison authorities, which made him ineligible for amnesty under an amnesty law signed by the president in June.
Valentin Stefanovich, vice-president of Viasna, told Human Right Watch that the intensified harassment of political prisoners appeared to be part of the Belarusian authorities’ most recent crackdown ahead of a European Union Foreign Affairs Council session in October, where member states will be considering extending targeted sanctions against Belarus. The crackdown could be aimed at pressuring outspoken critics to ask for presidential pardon and to sign statements acknowledging their guilt.