The Observatory has been informed about the arbitrary detention and judicial harassment against Ms Nasta Loika, a human rights defender formerly working with Belarusian human rights groups, most of which have been liquidated by the authorities on August 3, 2021 as part of the vast offensive against civil society organisations and independent media in the country.
On October 28, 2022, Ms Loika was abducted by members of the Department on Fight with Organised Crime and Extremism at her home in Minsk and taken to an unknown detention facility. Later that day, an unofficial Telegram channel of the Belarusian security services published a video of Ms Loika handcuffed, where she allegedly confessed receiving funds from foreign organisations, which is illegal in Belarus under Article 21 of the Law on Public Associations.
On October 31, 2022, Ms Loika appeared before the Minsk Pershamaiski district court in Minsk through an online connection from the Akrestsina street temporary detention centre in Minsk, and was sentenced to 15 days of administrative detention under the charge of “petty hooliganism” (Article 19.1 of the Administrative Code of Belarus). At the time of publication of this Urgent Appeal, she remained the detained at Akrestsina street temporary detention centre, and it is unknown whether she faces criminal charges.
Ms Loika is at high risk of torture and ill-treatment while in detention, and the Observatory fears that she might have been subjected to physical or psychological pressure, or torture, to force her confession.
The Observatory 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” within a criminal case against Human Rights Center ‘Viasna’ leadership.
The reprisals against Ms Loika are part of a broader crackdown on civil society in Belarus. According to Viasna, as of November 2, 2022, 1355 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 strongly condemns the arbitrary detention and judicial harassment of Nasta Loika, which are only aimed at punishing her for her legitimate human rights activities, and calls on the authorities in Belarus to put an end to any kind of harassment, including at the judicial level, against her and all other human rights defenders in the country.
The Observatory further urges the authorities to immediately release all human rights defenders, journalists and activists 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 and journalists 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 her detention is arbitrary and seems to be merely aimed at punishing her for the legitimate human rights activities;
- Put an end to all acts of harassment – including at the judicial level – 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.