The Observatory has been informed about the sentencing of Nasta Loika, 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 December 14, 2022, on the day she was scheduled to be released, a district court in Minsk sentenced Nasta Loika to 15 days of administrative arrest on the charge of “petty hooliganism” (Article 19.1 of the Administrative Code of Belarus) for the fourth consecutive time. She had previously been sentenced to 15 days of administrative arrest for the same charge on November 29, November 14, and October 31, 2022.
The continued extension of Nasta Loika's administrative arrest under the same article of the Administrative Code of Belarus seems to be a pretext to keep her in detention as a punishment for her legitimate human rights work.
At the time of publication of this Urgent Appeal, Nasta Loika remains detained in Akrestsina street temporary detention centre, where she is at high risk of torture and ill-treatment.
The Observatory recalls that during the hearing on November 14, 2022, Ms Loika reported to have been tortured and ill-treated in detention. Her allegations were dismissed, and to date, no investigation has been launched into them.
The Observatory further recalls that Ms Loika had been arbitrarily detained in September 2022 for 30 days on the same fabricated charges of “petty hooliganism” and then released. She was detained following her attendance on September 6, 2022 to the trial against ‘Viasna’ members Marfa Rabkova and Andrei Chapyuk in the Minsk City Court, where they were sentenced to 15 and six years in prison, respectively.
Earlier in August 2021, Ms Loika had been arbitrarily detained 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 December 15, 2022, 1434 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 the new sentencing of Nasta Loika as well as the above-mentioned acts of torture and ill-treatment against her, and urges the Belarussian authorities to immediately release her and protect and respect her right to be free from torture and other ill-treatment.
The Observatory further calls on the authorities in Belarus to release Nasta Loika 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, asking them to:
- 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;
- 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;
- 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;
- 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: email@example.com;
- Mr Andrei Shved, General Prosecutor of Belarus, Email: firstname.lastname@example.org;
- Mr Dmitry Gora, Chairman of the Investigative Committee of the Republic of Belarus, Email: email@example.com;
- Mr Oleg Slizhevsky, Minister of Justice of Belarus, Email: firstname.lastname@example.org;
- Mr Vasily Gerasimov, Acting Chairman of the State Control Committee of Belarus, Email: email@example.com;
- Mr Ivan Kubrakov, minister of Internal Affairs of Belarus, Email: firstname.lastname@example.org;
- Mr Yury Ambrazevich, Permanent Mission of Belarus to the United Nations in Geneva, Switzerland, Email: email@example.com;
- Embassy of Belarus in Brussels, Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Please also write to the diplomatic missions or embassies of Belarus in your respective country.