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Human rights defenders arrested

Status: 
Called to trial
About the Situation

On 8 May 2018, the trial of Tatyana Mastykina was held in the Court of Pervomaisky District in Minsk, Belarus. Due to insufficient evidence, her case was sent for revision to the Sovetsky District Police Station.

On 25 March 2018, six human rights defenders Maxim Kovalev, Tatyana Mastykina, Andrei Krechko, Anna Sakhankova, Anastasia Vasilchuk and Nasta Lojka, all members of The Human Rights Centre “Viasna” and the Belarusian Helsinki Committee, were arrested in Minsk near Yakub Kolas Square for observing a public event. The arrests occurred during a banned opposition march in commemoration of the 100th anniversary of the Belarusian People’s Republic of 1918.

About VIASNA

human_rights_cetre_viasna.jpgThe Human Rights Centre 'Viasna’ works to promote human rights and provides practical assistance to civic initiatives for the legal defense of citizens. It also conducts research into the state of civil society and legal defense in Belarus.

14 May 2018
“Viasna” human rights defender Tatyana Mastykina called to trial

On 8 May 2018, the trial of Tatyana Mastykina was held in the Court of Pervomaisky District in Minsk, Belarus. Due to insufficient evidence, her case was sent for revision to the Sovetsky District Police Station.    

Tatyana Mastykina is a volunteer of the The Human Rights Centre “Viasna”, which works to promote human rights and provides practical assistance to civic initiatives for the legal defence of citizens. It also conducts research into the state of civil society and legal defence in Belarus. Tatyana Mastykina was one of seven human rights defenders arrested near Yakub Kolas Square in Minsk on 25 March 2018 for observing a banned opposition march. All seven observers were carrying out the human rights monitoring on behalf of the  Belarusian Helsinki Committee.

Six of the seven defenders, Tatyana Mastykina, Andrei Krechko, Maxim Kovalev, Anastasia Vasilchuk, Igor Bogachek, and Nasta Lojka were arrested, charged and released on 25 March 2018. They were charged with "participation in an unauthorized mass event" under Article 23.34 of the Code of Administrative Offenses and were supposed to appear before the Soviet District Court on 26 March 2018. However, the hearings were postponed indefinitely and all case files were sent back to the police station for further revision. The seventh human rights defender, Anna Sakhankova, was arrested but not charged and an eighth, Nastya Vasilchuk, was arrested later the same day but released without charge.

On 2 May Tatyana Mastykina, who had been additionally charged with “resisting demands of a public official” under Article 23.4 of the Code of Administrative Offenses, was  summoned by text message to the Court of Pervomaisky District. Despite having requested them, the human rights defender’s legal counsel did not receive Tatyana Mastykina’s case files before the hearing. The judge questioned Tatyana Mastykina and deferred the hearing, ordering that the case be sent back to Sovetsky District Police Station for revision.    

Andrei Krechko’s case has been sent to Sovetsky District Court, where his documents are being processed but he has yet to be called for a hearing.

The seven Viasna human rights defenders were among 110 people to have been arrested at the demonstration on 25 March. Of those, at least 12 people were charged with "participation in an unauthorized mass event" under Article 23.34 of the Administrative Code. Last year over 700 people were arrested in relation to the annual 25 March opposition march, prompting warnings from the European Union, which had lifted sanctions on Belarus following the release of opposition politicians in 2016.

Front Line Defenders strongly condemns the charges that are being brought against  Tatyana Mastykina, Andrei Krechko, Maxim Kovalev, Anna Sakhankova, Anastasia Vasilchuk and Nasta Lojka and calls on the authorities to immediately drop all charges against them.

29 March 2018
Human rights defenders arrested

On 25 March 2018, six human rights defenders Maxim Kovalev, Tatyana Mastykina, Andrei Krechko, Anna Sakhankova, Anastasia Vasilchuk and Nasta Lojka, all members of The Human Rights Centre “Viasna” and the Belarusian Helsinki Committee, were arrested in Minsk near Yakub Kolas Square for observing a public event. The arrests occurred during a banned opposition march in commemoration of the 100th anniversary of the Belarusian People’s Republic of 1918.

Download Urgent Appeal

On 25 March 2018, Maxim Kovalev, Anastasia Vasilchuk, Tatyana Mastykina, Andrei Krechko, Anna Sakhankova and Nasta Loiko were arrested, along with 60 others, for observing a banned opposition march. The observers were mandated by the Belarusian Helsinki Committee as observers and were wearing badges and wristbands clearly identifying them as such.

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The march was due to take place at 12.00 am and the observers arrived at 11.47 am via the exit from the metro on the corner of no. 49 Nezavisimosti street (opposite Yakub Kolas Square). A law enforcement officer in plainclothes demanded that the observers go to the minibus to have their documents checked. The defenders presented their passports and certificates declaring them to be public observers but they were arrested.

The public observer, Anastasia Vasilchuk, was brought to Pervomaisky police department and Maxim Kovalev, Tatyana Mastykina, Andrei Krechko, Anna Sakhankova, Nasta Loiko were detained at the Department of Internal Affairs at Sovetskyi police station.

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All six human rights defenders were later released, but charged under Art. 23.34 of the Administrative Code for "Participation in an unauthorised mass event".

Anna Sakhankova was released without explanation and without drafting the protocol.

Tatiana Mastykina was the last released from Sovetskyi police station and received an additional charge of “disobedience to police officers”, along with “participation in an unsanctioned rally.”

The trial was announced for the next day, 26 March 2018 at the Soviet District Court but the hearings was cancelled without setting an alternative date for the hearing.

On 25 March, police officers detained at least 110 people in relation to the demonstration. At least 12 people in Minsk were charged under Art. 23.34 of the Administrative Code (violation of the  procedure for organising and holding mass events), which would allow for them to be placed in administrative detention.

Last year over 700 people were arrested in relation to the annual 25 March opposition march, prompting warnings from the European Union, which had lifted sanctions on Belarus after Lukashenko freed imprisoned opposition politicians in 2016. The offices of Viasna were raided while a training on human rights was taking place for human rights defenders. Fifty-eight observers, including Front Line Defenders Protection Coordinator, Masha Chichtchenkova, human rights defenders and Viasna staff were detained, put onto a bus and brought to Pervomaiski district police station.

Front Line Defenders strongly condemns the mass detentions of civil society and human rights defenders in Belarus. We call on the authorities to immediately drop all charges for peacefully exercising the right to freedom of assembly in Yakub Kolas Square in Minsk, and reiterate our ongoing support for and solidarity with human rights defenders in Belarus.

Front Line Defenders urges the authorities in Belarus to:

1. Immediately and unconditionally drop all charges against Maxim Kovalev, Tatyana Mastykina, Andrei Krechko, Anastasia Vasilchuk, Anna Sakhankova and Nasta Loiko, as it is believed that they are solely motivated by their legitimate and peaceful work in defence  of human rights;

2. Guarantee in all circumstances that all human rights defenders in Belarus are able to carry out their legitimate human rights activities without fear of reprisals and free of all restrictions.