President Alyaksandr Lukashenka
Administratsia Presidenta Respubliki Belarus
ul Karla Marksa 38, 220016 Minsk, Belarus
October 30, 2012
Dear Mr. President:
The Union of Councils for Jews in the Former Soviet Union (UCSJ), an American independent grassroots human rights NGO founded in 1970, strongly protests the continuing persecution of journalists and other activists in Belarus. This policy shows that Belarus authorities openly ignore international treaties, especially the Helsinki Final Act, the European Charter on Human Rights and Articles (including # 19) of the International Covenant of Civil and Political Rights.
We firmly object to charges against journalist Andrzej Poczobut, a correspondent of Gazeta Wyborcza, a Polish daily newspaper, and a prominent Polish-Belarusian minority activist. Now he cannot leave Grodno and must register with the police three times a month. He is officially charged with “libeling the President” under Article 367(2) of the Belarus Criminal Code, for 12 written articles that were published in Belarusian independent media. He has written about prisoners of conscience and criticized the authorities’ response to a wave of “silent protests” in Belarus in the summer of 2011. He also protested against the execution of two people in connection with a series of bomb attacks in Belarus. He wrote that the process violated the laws and that their guilt was not proven.
Charges against Mr. Poczobut have not been dropped, and he still faces a prison sentence in Belarus of more than seven years. Mr. Poczobut believes that his arrest in the summer of 2011 is an attempt to intimidate him and prevent him from carrying out his journalistic activity. Mr. Poczobut also received a 3- year suspended prison sentence on July 5, 2011 on the same charges for other newspaper articles.
The UCSJ asks you personally to stop the violence against and persecution of journalists and human rights activists in your country, and that you fulfill all of your official obligations regarding these issues. Immediately retracting all charges against Andrzej Poczobut, Ales Belyatsky and the other political prisoners can be the first step in this direction. We know that the Council of Europe’s policy toward Belarus is dictated by a sincere attitude toward its people and by a desire to support a legal state where the Rule of Law is a priority.