The harsh reaction by the Belarusian authorities appears to be a direct act of retaliation following the extension by the European Union of the list of Belarusian officials falling under visa restrictions.
The Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders expresses regret over the series of travel bans imposed on a number of human rights defenders by the Belarusian authorities, amid the worsening of EU-Belarus diplomatic relations.
From March 11 till March 15, 2012 several persons were banned from leaving Belarus: Valyantsin Stefanovich, Vice Chairman of the Human Rights Centre “Viasna”, Aleh Hulak, a member of the Belarusian Helsinki Committee (BHC), Andrey Dynko, Editor-in-chief of the independent newspaper “Nasha Niva”, Zhanna Litvina, Chairperson of the Belarusian Association of Journalists (BAJ), Harry Pahanyayla, Chairman of the Legal Commission of the BHC, “Viasna” human rights centre informs.
Several other opposition activists could not leave the country.
According to reports, in early March 2012 the Belarusian authorities considered making a list of 108 persons – human rights activists and oppositionists – with the aim to ban them from travelling abroad.
This harsh reaction by the Belarusian authorities appears to be a direct act of retaliation following the extension by the EU of the list of Belarusian officials falling under visa restrictions and freezing of assets in the EU. In February 2012, the EU foreign ministers indeed blacklisted an additional number of 21 Belarusian officials, bringing the blacklist total to more than 200 individuals.
The Observatory denounces this series of travel bans against human rights defenders and recalls that Article 12.2 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), to which Belarus is a party since November 12, 1973, provides that "everyone shall be free to leave any country, including his own". The Observatory deplores that by banning human rights defenders from travelling, the Belarusian authorities are preventing them from carrying their human rights activities, and are therefore violating further the 1998 United Nations Declaration on Human Rights Defenders.
The Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders is a joint programme of the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH) and the World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT).