Statement of the Belarusian human rights community on the death of political prisoner Ihar Lednik


As it became known on February 20, 2024, 63-year-old political prisoner Ihar Lednik died in the Minsk regional hospital. He was brought there from the Babrujsk colony, where he was serving his sentence. Doctors tried to resuscitate him, but to no avail. Ihar Lednik had group II disability due to heart disease, as well as other chronic diseases. In the colony, his health deteriorated significantly, and he underwent a gastrointestinal surgery.

Ihar Lednik, a member of the Belarusian Social Democratic Party (Hramada) and a public activist, was detained on April 18, 2022. On July 18, 2022, the Barysaŭ District Court recognized the information on Ihar Lednik's Facebook page as "extremist materials". According to the case file, Lednik submitted an article for publication in one of the magazines with the headline Internationally Recognized Neutrality of Belarus is a Guarantee of Security in the OSCE Region. It contained "deliberately false information discrediting and degrading the honor and dignity of Lukashenka, combined with accusations of particularly serious crimes, against the security of mankind among others."

Despite Igor Lednik's serious illness and the presence of an alternative type of punishment in the form of restriction of freedom in Part 2 of Article 367 of the Criminal Code of Belarus, on September 2, 2022, judge of the Leninski district of Minsk Tatsiana Shotsik sentenced him to three years in a penal colony (Part 2 of Article 367 of the Criminal Code). At the end of November 2022, Ihar's appeal was considered: the verdict was left unchanged. The political prisoner was transferred from the Žodzina pre-trial prison No. 8 to the Mahileŭ colony No. 15, and then to the Babrujsk colony No. 2.

On May 25, 2022, Ihar Lednik was recognized as a political prisoner by Belarusian human rights organizations.

At the moment, the official cause of death of Ihar Lednik and other circumstances are not known with certainty. The penitentiary system has once again shown how completely opaque and closed it is for society, even in matters of life and death. Every day, thousands of prisoners in Belarusian prisons suffer from violations of the right to life and the right to health, guaranteed both by Belarus' international obligations and the Constitution. Human rights defenders constantly report correctional institutions lacking proper medical examination, appropriate conditions and equipment, qualified medical personnel, as well as regular failure to provide medical care. Moreover, keeping some political prisoners in incommunicado conditions (without contact with relatives and lawyers) raises doubts about their satisfactory health status. It constitutes an unacceptable practice that violates human rights.

Ihar Lednik's death is the fifth recent death of a political prisoner in Belarusian correctional institutions. For instance:

  • In May 2021, political prisoner Vitold Ashurak died in correctional colony No. 17 in Škloŭ, Mahilioŭ region;

  • In May 2023, political prisoner Mikalai Klimovich died in the Vitsba colony;

  • In July 2023, artist Ales Pushkin died in the Hrodna emergency hospital. He was brought to the hospital from prison No. 1 in Hrodna;

  • In January 2024, political prisoner Vadzim Khrasko died in the Vitsba correctional colony.

In connection with the latest death of a political prisoner in Belarus, we remind the Belarusian authorities of their international obligations to observe human rights. Article 6 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights establishes that the right to life is an inherent right of every human being. In its General Comment No. 36 (Article 6: the right to life), the Human Rights Committee emphasized the crucial importance of the right to life for both individuals and society as a whole. This right, which is not subject to narrow interpretation, includes the right not to be subjected to actions or inaction that have the purpose or are expected to cause unnatural or premature death. Article 6 of the Covenant guarantees this right to all people, without distinction, including persons suspected or convicted of even the most serious crimes. The right to life cannot be properly realized while the prisoners' right to health is ignored."

It is crucial to emphasize that serving a sentence in isolation should not deprive prisoners of access to specialized and high-tech medical care. In this regard, we recall the instruction of the Human Rights Committee in note No. 36, "States parties have an increased obligation to take any necessary measures to protect the lives of persons deprived of their liberty by the State, since by subjecting persons to arrest, detention, imprisonment, or otherwise depriving them of their liberty, States parties assume responsibility for taking care of their lives and physical integrity, while they cannot cite lack of financial resources or other logistical problems to reduce such responsibility. The duty to protect the lives of all detainees includes providing them with the necessary medical care and appropriate regular check-ups."

Once again, we have to state that the Republic of Belarus does not fulfill its obligations to observe the right to life in this part. The right to life is not properly protected by law and is not ensured in practice, which regularly leads to tragedies.

The situation is aggravated by the practice of arbitrary detention: in addition to the general disregard for the necessity and proportionality in sentencing, judges often do not take into account the state of health of the accused, impose serious sanctions related to imprisonment for "crimes" that essentially represent the realization of human rights. As a result, people from vulnerable social groups end up in Belarusian prisons, and for them imprisonment is an even greater ordeal than for others. As of the beginning of 2024, there were at least 48 senior citizens among the political prisoners (2 times more than in 2022!), as well as at least 42 people with disabilities and serious illnesses.

We would like to emphasize that often the denial to provide medical care is used by the authorities as a form of pressure on political prisoners, which is unacceptable and can be considered as torture or other types of cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment or punishment.

Moreover, it is quite obvious that the fifth death of a political prisoner in places of detention in such a short time due to failure to provide proper medical care is a consequence of a systemic state policy of inhumane treatment of people based on political motives.

Based on the above, once again emphasizing the importance of ensuring the human right to life and health, we, representatives of the Belarusian human rights community, demand from the Belarusian authorities:

  • from the Prosecutor General's Office of the Republic of Belarus and the Investigative Committee of the Republic of Belarus — to open a criminal case on the death of Ihar Lednik, conduct an objective and comprehensive investigation to establish the causes of this tragedy, and inform the public about its results;

  • to inform the public about the results of the investigation into the deaths of other political prisoners in Belarusian prisons: Vitold Ashurak, Mikalai Klimovich, Ales Pushkin, and Vadzim Khrasko;

  • to check all cases of violations of the right to health care in places of detention and take appropriate measures to bring those responsible to justice in order to prevent such tragic consequences in the future;

  • to ensure proper medical care in places of detention, including qualified medical personnel and appropriate equipment;

  • from employees of penitentiary institutions, other state institutions engaged in forced isolation (temporary detention facilities, centers for isolation of offenders, pre-trial detention centres, etc.), and their management — to implement the Constitution of the Republic of Belarus and international obligations to ensure the protection of life and health of persons deprived of liberty and in isolation, promptly respond to prisoners' complaints related to health, take urgent measures to consider them.

We also urge Belarusian judges to take into account the state of health of the accused during sentencing and not to impose imprisonment if circumstances so require.

These demands do not negate the statement of the Belarusian human rights community regarding the inadmissibility of persecuting citizens for exercising their civil and political rights, the immediate release, and the review of criminal cases of all political prisoners in Belarus.

We call on the democratic forces of Belarus, in communicating with foreign partners, to pay special attention to the immediate resolution of the issue of political prisoners's access to proper medical care in places of deprivation of liberty, as well as other humanitarian issues related to the detention of political prisoners in inhumane conditions.

We also call on international organizations and governments of states to take all possible measures aimed at resolving the issue of ensuring adequate medical care by the Belarusian authorities in places of detention, as well as to look for all possible ways and means to release political prisoners with serious health conditions for humanitarian reasons in order to prevent such irreversible tragedies in the future.


The Belarusian human rights community expresses its deep condolences to the family, relatives, and friends of Ihar Lednik in connection with his death.

Belarusian Helsinki Committee


Office for the Rights of Persons with Disabilities

Legal initiative


Human Rights Center Viasna

PEN Belarus

Human Constanta

Barys Zvozskau Belarusian Human Rights House

Medical Solidarity Fund of Belarus (BYMEDSOL)