Belarusian ecological activists jailed, “Let them go!” demands Arnika

24.3.2017 - MINSK

Although the meeting took place quietly and with the correct permit, approximately fifty people were arrested without justification, and brutally attacked, on 15 March in Minsk in Belarus, by members of police units, many of whom were in plain clothes. Among those held are three members of the EcoHome organization: Marina Dubina, Xenia Maljuková and Alena Dubovik. We at Arnika have worked with EcoHome and are convinced that the incident shows that civil society in Belarus is, after several years of relative liberalization, now once more under threat from the harsh injustice of the authorities. The protest event in Minsk had nothing to do with environmental issues and the women now in custody only insisted on their civil rights. If freedom is endangered, environmental protection is usually also threatened. That is why Arnika decided to join in the declaration demanding the immediate release of all three women.

Arnika wishes to add its voice to this statement: "Environmental organizations in Belarus associated through the Green Network hereby protest against the arrest of the environmental activists Marina Dubina, Xenie Maljukova and Alena Dubovik as well as other citizens who were brutally arested on 15th March, 2017 before the Parade of Non-Parasites and also after it."

Nearly 50 organizations from 24 countries have signed the open letter against the present wave of repression, which is addressed to President Lukashenko.

On Wednesday, 15 March, several protest parades of Non-Parasites took place in Minsk, Moglev and Hroden. Demonstrators called for the repeal of a presidential decree that requires unemployed people to pay taxes and also attacks socially marginalized groups in other ways. These acts are reminiscent of the battle against "parasites" which took place in totalitarian Czechoslovakia. The organizers expressed the opinion that the state should rather invest into the creation of jobs. The events were permitted by the authorities and in Minsk the number of participants was between 1500 to 2500 people.

Marina Dubina, the director of the NGO EcoHome as well as Xenia Maljukova, a member of the same organization, were detained by police in plain clothes using brute force, who neither identified themselves properly nor explained the reason for the arrest. Alena Dubovik, another member of EcoHome, was arrested after the event in public transport on her way home. Trials were held the day after the arrests, and Marina Dubina was sentenced to 14 days in jail, Xenia Maljukova received 13 days and Alena Dubovik 12 days. The declaration of the Green Network emphasizes the fact that all court cases were accompanied by false testimonies of witnesses who were members of OMON units. Not only did they give incorrect information about the time and place of and the reason for the arrests, but neither did they explain why they were in plain clothes at the time when they were supposedly carrying out their duties and why they found it necessary to use brute force.

The members of EcoHome thus joined the ranks of environmental activists that are being persecuted in authoritarian regimes across the World.

The Declaration of the Green Network and Arnika demands the following:

● The immediate release of EcoHome activists and other arrested citizens;

● An independent inquiry into the procedures used by members of repressive units, including those directly connected with use of force against activists;

● And end to illegal and arbitrary arrests in Belarus;

● The right to freedom of speech as well as the right to assemble;

● An end to members of the security forces acting in such a manner in plain clothes, without the appropriate symbols and uniforms.

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