Belarusian Human Rights Defenders under Pressure
Tuesday, December 7, 2004 8:40 AM

Joint Press Release of the International Helsinki Federation for Human Rights (IHF) and the Belarusian Helsinki Committee.

Minsk, Vienna, 7 December 2004

The International Helsinki Federation for Human Rights (IHF) and the Belarusian Helsinki Committee (BHC) express their grave concern over the ongoing harassment of human rights defenders in Belarus.

Hary Pahaniaila, vice-president of the Belarusian Helsinki Committee and legal advisor of the families of several “disappeared” politicians and journalists, has been charged with slandering President Lukashenka. The prosecution is based on an interview that Pahaniaila gave to the Swedish TV4 channel, a videotaped version of which was confiscated at the customs when the TV4 journalist who carried out the interview left the country. In the interview, Pahaniala described the due process violations that have characterized the investigations into the cases of “disappearances” that he is working on. The State Security Committee (KGB) forwarded the videotaped interview to the office of the public prosecutor. If he is found guilty, Pahaniaila could be sentenced to up to five years in prison.

Moreover, the Department of Financial Investigations of the Committee of State Control continues criminal investigations into alleged tax evasion by Tatsyana Pratsko, BHC Chairperson, and Tatsyana Rutkevich, BHC Accountant, despite court ruling, previously cleared both of them from charges based on idem facts. The crime of tax evasion carries a maximum sentence of seven years in prison and confiscation of property.

The IHF and BHC strongly urge the Belarusian authorities to respect the rights of human rights defenders to engage in efforts to promote human rights in accordance with international standards and to refrain from any form of restrictions of their activities. They also call on the Belarusian authorities to duly investigate all cases of “disappearances” that have been brought to their knowledge.

For further information:

Tatsyana Pratsko, BHC Chairperson, +375-17-2224800
Aaron Rhodes, IHF Executive Director, +43-676-6356612