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BRIEFING NOTES – Belarus | Scoop News


Spokesperson for the UN High Commissioner for
Human Rights:
Rupert
Colville

Location:
Geneva

Date: 25 May
2021

Subject:
Belarus

Like so many others, we are shocked by the
unlawful arrest and arbitrary detention of the Belarusian
journalist Roman Protasevich after the Ryanair plane on
which he was travelling was forcibly diverted to the Belarus
capital Minsk, apparently under false pretences and with the
express purpose of capturing Mr Protasevich.

The
manner, through threat of military force, in which
Protasevich was abducted from the jurisdiction of another
State and brought within that of Belarus was tantamount to
an extraordinary rendition. Such abuse of State power
against a journalist for exercising functions that are
protected under international law is receiving, and
deserves, the strongest condemnation.

Penalization of
a journalist solely for being critical of the government can
never be considered to be a necessary restriction of freedom
of expression and is thus a violation of Article 19 of the
International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.
Equally, under human rights law, the mere act of organizing
a peaceful assembly should never be criminalized under
domestic laws, including counterterrorism laws, and the
arrest or detention of someone as punishment for the
legitimate exercise of their rights to freedom of opinion
and expression and freedom of assembly, is considered
arbitrary.

We fear for Roman Protasevich’s safety
and wish to seek assurances that he is treated humanely and
is not subjected to ill treatment or torture. His appearance
on state TV last night was not reassuring, given the
apparent bruising to his face, and the strong likelihood
that his appearance was not voluntary, and his
“confession” to serious crimes was forced. Information
obtained under coercion cannot be used against Mr
Protasevich in any legal proceedings. Such forced
confessions are prohibited under the Convention against
Torture.

We are also concerned about Mr
Protasevich’s girlfriend, Sofia Sapaga, who has also
reportedly been arbitrarily arrested.

In addition to
the issues relating to Mr Protasevich, the forced landing of
the passenger plane in Minsk terrorized passengers on board
and exposed them to unnecessary danger, in violation of
their human rights.

This astonishing episode
constitutes a new phase in the Belarusian authorities
campaign of repression against journalists and civil society
in general. This arbitrary arrest is a sign of an extremely
worrying escalation in the crackdown of dissenting voices,
not just of journalists but also of Belarusian human rights
defenders and other civil society actors, including those
living abroad.

We call for the immediate release of
both Roman Protasevich, and Sofia Sapega, both of whom
should be allowed to continue to their intended destination
in
Lithuania.

© Scoop Media

 



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