Since less than two months following the presidential elections where Leanid Markhotka had worked as a long-term BHC observer within the “Human Rights Defenders for Free Elections” campaign, he would serve 30 days of administrative arrest.
On 26 August, Mr. Markhotka was detained in Salihorsk by men in civilian clothes and taken to the Salihorsk District Internal Affairs Office, where a protocol was drawn up on Article 23.34. of the Administrative Code (participation in an unauthorized mass event). On the same day, the Salihorsk District Court brought Mr. Markhotka to administrative responsibility in the form of a fine of 25 basic units.
The very next day, in the evening of 27 August, Mr. Markhotka was detained again and brought to the District Internal Affairs Office, where another protocol was drawn up against him on Article 23.34. of the Administrative Code. On 28 August, Leanid Markhotka was sentenced to 10 days of administrative arrest despite his age of 67 and his poor health (chronic diseases).
On 6 October, Mr. Markhotka was detained again. According to relatives, he was summoned and invited to the Salihorsk City Executive Committee to get a letter. Mr. Markhotka was detained when leaving the Committee building and taken to the MIA District Office for administrative proceedings. It was only on the night of 7 October that the family learned of the whereabouts of Mr. Markhotka after his daughter applied to the MIA District Office. In violation of the law, the family was not informed about his detention in the first three hours following the arrest. The case hearing took place only on 9 October, although the police had no reasonable grounds to hold him in custody until trial. As it later became known, Mr. Markhotka had spent all this time in solitary confinement. The court session was held in the building of the MIA District Office. The public and relatives were not let in. Leanid Markhotka was again sentenced to 10 days of administrative arrest.
When Mr. Markhotka was serving his sentence, one more administrative case was brought against him on Article 23.34. of the Administrative Code. The court session was as before held in the building of the MIA District Office and ended in another sentence of 10 days of administrative arrest.
Leonid Markhotka is a member of the BHC Rada, represents the Belarusian Helsinki Committee in Salihorsk and the Salihorsk region. Mr. Markhotka is one of the founders of Belarusian Independent Trade Union, engaged in the miners' strike movement and in organizing the first miners’ march Salihorsk-Minsk. He also took part in negotiations with the government in the 1990s.
We consider administrative persecution of Leanid Markhotka to be a punishment for carrying out peaceful human rights advocacy. We believe that the real motive behind the persecution of Leonid Markhotka is his legal assistance work for independent trade unions and strike committees in the Salihorsk region.
In that context, we stress that in accordance with the Declaration on the Right and Responsibility of Individuals, Groups and Organs of Society to Promote and Protect Universally Recognized Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms (Declaration on Human Rights Defenders) in accordance with the Declaration adopted by General Assembly resolution 53/144 of 9 December 1998, everyone has the right, individually and in association with others, at the national and international levels, to hold peaceful meetings or assemblies; create non-governmental organizations, associations or groups, join them and participate in their activities; liaise with non-governmental or intergovernmental organizations; study, discuss, compose and have opinions on the observance of all human rights and fundamental freedoms, both in law and in practice, and draw public attention to these issues using these and other appropriate means.
In the exercise of human rights and fundamental freedoms, including promotion and protection of human rights, human rights defenders have the right, in cases of violations of human rights and fundamental freedoms resulting from policies and actions of individual officials and state bodies, to submit complaints or other relevant appeals to competent national judicial, administrative or legislative bodies, as well as any other competent authority provided by the state’s legal system; offer and provide professional qualified legal assistance or other appropriate advice and assistance in defending human rights and fundamental freedoms.
According to article 10 of the Declaration on Human Rights Defenders, the state takes all necessary measures to ensure the protection of human rights defenders from any violence, threats, retaliation, negative discrimination de facto or de jure, pressure or any other arbitrary action in connection with their lawful activities.
In accordance with what has been stated above, the Belarusian Helsinki Committee demands to:
end persecution of the BHC Rada member Leanid Markhotka in connection with his legitimate human rights activities;
free Leanid Markhotka from serving his sentence imposed in order to force him to abandon his legitimate human rights activities;
ensure that Leanid Markhotka and other human rights defenders can exercise their right to to promote and protect human rights without threats, intimidation and reprisals.
The following organizations aligned themselves with the statement:
“Lawtrend” Center for Legal Transformation
"Viasna" Human Rights Center
Office for the Rights of Persons with Disabilities
Belarusian PEN Center
Barys Zvozskau Belarusian Human Rights House
“Human Constanta” advisory center on contemporary international practices and their legal implementation
Belarusian Documentation Center