On the initiative of Libereco, twenty human rights organisations from ten different countries signed a letter that has been sent to 413 Belarusian judges. In the letter, the organisations call out the judges’ involvement in human rights abuses and unjust imprisonment of innocent people in Belarus.
The judges addressed have been involved in the political trials and sentencing of peaceful protestors, persons opposing Russia’s war in Ukraine and persons who have just demand basic rights, many of whom are now declared as political prisoners.
Belarusian judges play a vital part in the authoritarian regime of dictator Alexander Lukashenko. They regularly deny a defendant’s basic legal rights to a fair trial, rule that courts are closed during trials, they fail in basic standards of impartiality, and regularly pass down punitive sentences. Judges are a group who are instrumental to Lukashenko’s campaign of brutality and oppression, yet they are a group who have been largely ignored by the international community. The joint international campaign draws the judges into the spotlight.
Judges systematically break their pledges
Ken McBain, campaign head and UK representative of Libereco said, “It is important that the regime’s agents of these abuses understand how the world views their actions. We thank all of the organisations who have added their signature to this letter so that we send a strong message directly to the judges themselves. In their pledge to the Belarusian people, these judges swore to ‘honestly and conscientiously fulfil my duties, to administer justice, obeying only the Constitution of the Republic of Belarus, to be impartial and fair, as the duty of a judge commands me.’ It is depressing how systematically these judges have done exactly the opposite of their pledge.”
The closing part of the letter, posted individually to 413 judges to addresses in Belarus, says:
You are in a position of authority and responsibility so we, all of the undersigned, ask that you exercise that authority and responsibility according to the principles of your profession. It is not too late for you, in your coming days and weeks in court, to honour the pledge you made and to uphold the international commitments that Belarus has made to human rights. It is not too late for you to uphold the pledge that you made to the Belarusian people. It is not too late for you to treat your fellow Belarusians in the same way that you would wish to be treated in a court of law: with impartiality, with transparency, with respect for due process and procedure, with honesty and with justice.
The organisations who have signed the letter are:
Libereco Germany; Libereco Switzerland; Ice & Fire Theatre (UK); Index on Censorship (UK); Foundation Max van der Stoel (The Netherlands); Lawyers for Lawyers (The Netherlands); European Exchange (Germany); Italian Federation for Human Rights; Article 19 Europe (UK); ACAT Belgium; Norwegian Helsinki Committee; Campax (Switzerland); MARA – Belarusians in Nederland (The Netherlands); ACAT Switzerland; Gruppe für eine Schweiz ohne Armee (Switzerland); We Remember (The Netherlands); Netherlands Helsinki Committee; Barys Zvozskau Belarusian Human Rights House (Lithuania); Ligue Algérienne pour la Défense des Droits de l’Homme; Östgruppen (Sweden).