Human Rights House Network Calls to Stop Persecution of Belarusian Human Rights lawyer Leanid Sudalenka
The undersigned members and partners of the Human Rights House Network call upon Belarusian authorities to stop the prosecution of the human rights defender Leanid Sudalenka, to immediately and unconditionally drop all charges brought against him, and to instead investigate the threats made against Leanid Sudalenka and his family.
On 8 April 2015, police searched the home and the office of Leanid Sudalenka, Belarusian human rights defender, and confiscated 8 computers on suspicion of dissemination of pornographic material via Leanid Sudalenka’s email address. On 14 April 2015, a criminal case was opened by the Investigation Committee of the Republic of Belarus on charges of dissemination of pornographic material via the Internet. The investigation claims that pornographic material was disseminated from the email address of Leanid Sudalenka at mail.ru and from the IP address of the computers in the office where Leanid Sudalenka works.
Leanid Sudalenka is a prominent human rights defender, who actively works on protecting victims of human rights violations, including by helping them to submit individual complaints to the United Nations Human Rights Committee. He has gained a great number of complaints he submitted to the Committee.
Leanid Sudalenka is also an active participant in the campaign “Human Rights Defenders against Death Penalty.” His most recent complaint submitted to the Human Rights Committee was the one of Olga Grunova asking the Belarusian authorities to disclose the location of the grave of her son, who was sentenced to death and executed on 22 October 2014 to her knowledge.
Following the submission of this particular complaint, Leanid Sudalenka received death threats directed at his children. He requested the police to investigate the threats against his family, but his request was turned down. After his complaint to the Office of the Prosecutor of Gomel, the police re-examined his request and yet turned it down again. Leanid Sudalenka’s complaint against this decision is currently pending at the Prosecutor’s Office.
The members and partners of the Human Rights House Network see the accusations against Leanid Sudalenka as linked to his defence of Olga Grunova and his recent submission of a new complaint to the Human Rights Committee. The link between the submission of this complaint and the death threats is clear. Furthermore, the police investigation against him began only after he submitted a complaint against the police for the refusal to investigate serious threats against his children. The accusations are indeed part of a campaign aimed at intimidating Leanid Sudalenka because of his human rights work.
This prosecution of Leanid Sudalenka follows the expulsion from Belarus of the human rights defender Elena Tonkacheva, leader of the Legal Transformation Centre.
Belarusian human rights defenders are one of the driving forces that is constantly working on reforming the country. However, they continue to face systemic and systematic violations of their core rights to freedom of expression, association and peaceful assembly. There is no space in Belarus for human rights defenders to assess public policies independently from the State and defend the rights of victims of human rights violations. Human rights defenders face criminalisation by the country’s legislation and face threats and harassment, arbitrary detention, including short-term detentions and long-term imprisonments, torture and ill treatment, and restrictions on movement.
In the upcoming electoral period, ahead of the presidential election to take part before 20 November 2015, authorities have an obligation to even more protect those participating in the public debate, as reported to the United Nations General Assembly in October 2013 by the Special Rapporteur, Maina Kiai. Unfortunately, the Belarusian authorities have ignored the recommendations made by the Special Rapporteur on Belarus Miklós Harastzi on the protection and promotion of all human rights during electoral periods, and we see the renewed harassment, persecution and prosecution of human rights defenders as an act of intimidation against independent voices ahead of the November 2015 presidential election.
As Miklós Harastzi recently put it, the case of Elena Tonkacheva further “[demonstrate] the immense challenges that continue to exist for human rights defenders to fulfil their work in Belarus.” The case of Leanid Sudalenka is of the same nature.
The members and partners of the Human Rights House Network hereby call to stop the prosecution of the human rights lawyer Leanid Sudalenka, to immediately and unconditionally drop all charges brought against him, and to investigate the threats made against Leanid Sudalenka and his family.
Put an end to any acts of intimidation and reprisal against victims of human rights violations, human rights defenders and lawyers submitting cases to the United Nations Human Rights Committee, or other international bodies, including the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Belarus, and fully cooperate with and implement recommendations by such bodies and views issued by the Committee.
Create a safe and enabling environment, in which human rights defenders can operate free from hindrance and insecurity, in the whole country and in all sectors of society, including by extending support to local human rights defenders as stipulated in the United Nations Human Rights Council resolution 22/6 of 21 March 2013.