The Observatory has been informed about the ongoing arbitrary detention and judicial harassment of Mr. Ales Kaputski, prominent human rights defender who notably participated in election observation campaigns organised by civil society between 2010 and 2020 and provided legal assistance to victims of human rights violations.
On December 17, 2021, Ales Kaputski was detained by law enforcement officials in Maladziečna, Minsk region. Mr. Kaputski was charged under Part 2 of Art. 19.11 of the Administrative Code of Belarus (“distribution of extremist materials”), and arrested for 15 days of administrative imprisonment, for publications on social networks, which the authorities recognised as extremist. Mr. Kaputski was supposed to be released on January 1, 2022, but another administrative offence report on the same grounds was filed against him by Maladziečna police, on the basis of which he was tried on December 31, 2021. He was sentenced to another 15 days of administrative imprisonment. On January 16, 2022, Ales Kaputski was expected to be released but he stayed in prison for the third time on another 15 days of arrest for the same charges. 15 days is the maximum term of arrest under Article 19.11 of the Administrative Code, while Ales Kaputsky has been under arrest for over 30 days. At the time of publication of this Urgent Appeal, Ales Kaputski is being detained in the pre-trial detention cell of the Maladziečna District Police Department.
The Observatory recalls that this is not the first time that Ales Kaputski is targeted for his legitimate human rights activities. In July 2021, as part of the widespread crackdown against civil society in Belarus, Mr. Kaputski was detained for a 72-hour period and interrogated, reportedly in connection to an investigation into public order violations and tax evasion. Earlier, in April 2011, his house in Maladziečna was searched by the State Security Committee (KGB) and several books and papers were seized.
The Observatory notes with concern that Belarusian authorities are increasingly using the domestic legislation on countering extremism to arbitrarily silence any form of dissent and thus hinder freedom of expression in the country, in violation of international human rights instruments, such as the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. In the past months, several websites, including that of Belsat, TUT.by, Tribuna, reform.by, Deutsche Welle, Novy Chas and Current Time, were recognised as “extremists”. In addition, the practice of imposing several consecutive administrative arrests is increasingly used by the Belarusian authorities to silence and inhibit the work of human rights defenders.
The Observatory expresses its utmost concern over the arbitrary detention and administrative harassment of Ales Kaputski, which seem to be merely aimed at punishing him for his legitimate human rights activities, and calls for his immediate and unconditional release.
The Observatory further calls on the Belarusian authorities to refrain from using the country’s legislation on countering extremism in order to silence human rights defenders and all dissenting voices and to criminalise the legitimate expression of opinion. The Observatory finally calls on the Belarusian authorities to put an end to the systematic persecution of human rights defenders and organisations in the country.
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 Ales Kaputski and all other human rights defenders in Belarus;
ii. Immediately and unconditionally release Ales Kaputski and all other detained human rights defenders, as their detention is arbitrary and seem to be merely aimed at punishing them for their legitimate human rights activities;
iii. Put an end to all acts of harassment – including at the judicial and administrative levels – against Ales Kaputski and all other human rights defenders and organisations in the country, and ensure in all circumstances that they are able to carry out their legitimate activities without any hindrance and fear of reprisals;
iv. Guarantee in all circumstances the right to freedom of expression in the country, as enshrined in international human rights law, and particularly in Article 19 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.
- 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;
- H.E. Mr. Aliaksandr Mikhnevich, Embassy of Belarus in Brussels, Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Please also write to the diplomatic representations of Belarus in your respective countries.