The Observatory has been informed about the acts of torture and ill-treatment perpetrated against Nasta Loika, as well as about her ongoing arbitrary detention and judicial harassment. Ms. Loika is a human rights defender formerly working with Belarusian human rights groups, liquidated by the authorities between July and October 2021 as part of the vast offensive against civil society organisations and independent media in the country.
On November 14, 2022, the Pershamaiski district court of Minsk sentenced Ms Loika to 15 days of administrative detention on the charge of “petty hooliganism” (Article 19.1 of the Administrative Code of Belarus) after she served her previous 15-day sentence handed down on October 31, 2022. This latest charge is related to alleged aggressive behaviour of Ms Loika while in detention, she was notably accused of "shouting and waving her arms, acting aggressively and defiantly”. The court hearing took place online, and none of Ms Loika’s or her lawyer’s motions were granted.
During the hearing on November 14, Ms Loika reported that she was tortured and ill-treated in detention. Her allegations were dismissed, and no investigation has been launched into them. Specifically, on November 11, 2022, an officer from the detention facility took Ms Loika to the courtyard and left her outdoors without outerwear for eight hours with a temperature of approximately 8 degrees Celsius. As a result of this inhuman treatment, Ms Loika became very sick. She has been denied access to the medication delivered for her at the detention centre. Ms Loika has also been denied access to warm clothes and personal hygiene products, and in early November 2022, officers of the Department for Fighting Organised Crime used an electric taser against her during interrogation.
At the time of publication of this Urgent Appeal, Nasta Loika remained detained in Akrestsina street temporary detention centre, where she was at risk of further acts of torture and ill-treatment.
The Observatory recalls that Nasta Loika was abducted on October 28, 2022 by members of the Department on Fight with Organised Crime and Extremism. On that day, the Belarusian security services published on Telegram a video of Ms Loika handcuffed, where she allegedly confessed receiving funds from foreign organisations. On October 31, 2022 she appeared before the Pershamaiski district court in Minsk through an online connection from Akrestsina street temporary detention centre, and was sentenced to 15 days of administrative detention on the charge of “petty hooliganism”.
The Observatory further recalls that Ms Loika had been arbitrarily detained in September 2022 for 30 days on fabricated charges of “petty hooliganism” and then released. Ms Loika had also been arbitrarily detained in August 2021 and charged with “assisting tax evasion”.
The reprisals against Ms Loika are part of a broader crackdown on civil society in Belarus. According to Viasna, as of November 18, 2022, 1427 individuals remained detained in the country for political reasons, including 2022 Nobel Peace Prize laureate Ales Bialiatski. In 2021 alone, the authorities shut down more than 275 human rights and other independent organisations, leaving not one legally operating human rights NGO in the country. In addition, legislative amendments to the Criminal Code adopted in December 2021 re-introduced criminal liability for "acting on behalf of unregistered or liquidated organisations". The liquidation of all independent human rights organisations by the authorities has therefore led to a de facto criminalisation of human rights work.
The rights to freedom of expression, association and peaceful assembly, enshrined in international human rights instruments, including in the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, ratified by Belarus, have been severely and continuously violated by the authorities in recent years, which destroys civil society in the country.
The Observatory condemns in the strongest terms the above-mentioned acts of torture and ill-treatment against Ms Loika, and urges the Belarussian authorities to protect and respect her right to be free from torture and other ill-treatment, and to carry out an immediate, thorough and impartial investigation into the above-mentioned allegations and hold those responsible accountable.
The Observatory further condemns the ongoing arbitrary detention of Nasta Loika, which is only aimed at punishing her for her legitimate human rights activities, and calls on the authorities in Belarus to release her and to put an end to any kind of harassment, including at the judicial and administrative levels, against her and all other human rights defenders in the country.
The Observatory further urges the authorities to immediately release all human rights defenders arbitrarily detained in Belarus and to guarantee their physical integrity and psychological well-being.
How You Can Help
Please write to the authorities of Belarus to urge them to:
i. Guarantee in all circumstances the physical integrity and psychological well-being of Nasta Loika and all human rights defenders in Belarus, and respect and protect their right to be free from torture and other ill-treatment;
ii. Carry out an immediate, thorough, transparent, and impartial investigation into the alleged acts of torture and ill-treatment against Nasta Loika, in order to hold those responsible accountable;
iii. Immediately and unconditionally release Nasta Loika and all other arbitrarily detained human rights defenders, as their detention is arbitrary and seems to be merely aimed at punishing them for the legitimate human rights activities;
iv. Put an end to all acts of harassment – including at the judicial and administrative levels – against Nasta Loika, and ensure in all circumstances that human rights defenders are able to carry out their legitimate activities without any hindrance and fear of reprisals
• Mr. Aliaksandr Lukashenka, President of Belarus, Email: firstname.lastname@example.org;
• Mr. Andrei Shved, General Prosecutor of Belarus, Email: email@example.com;
• Mr Dmitry Gora, Chairman of the Investigative Committee of the Republic of Belarus, Email: firstname.lastname@example.org;
• Mr. Oleg Slizhevsky, Minister of Justice of Belarus, Email: email@example.com;
• Mr. Vasily Gerasimov, Acting Chairman of the State Control Committee of Belarus, Email: firstname.lastname@example.org;
• Mr. Ivan Kubrakov, minister of Internal Affairs of Belarus, Email: email@example.com;
• Mr. Yury Ambrazevich, Permanent Mission of Belarus to the United Nations in Geneva, Switzerland, Email: firstname.lastname@example.org;
• Embassy of Belarus in Brussels, Email: email@example.com
Please also write to the diplomatic representations of Belarus in your respective countries.