Andrei Sannikov: In prison I met hundreds people arrested for political reasons
18:48, — Politics
The leader of the European Belarus civic campaign spoke at the PA OSCE session in Vienna.
Andrei Sannikov told about the situation with human rights violations in Belarus, political prisoner and the OSCE’s role in promoting freedom and democracy in Eastern Europe. His speech the leader of the European Belarus civic campaign started with expressing gratitude for solidarity and support.
“I would like to use this opportunity to express my gratitude to the Parliamentary Assembly and the former president of the Parliamentary Assembly Mr. Ricardo Migliori and Matteo Mecacci, who showed support for me and for other political prisoners and they visited my family, when I was in prison, this was a great support. I am saying this to show that these human gestures are very needed in the situation of political prisoner, a difficult situation. I would also like to thank and congratulate Mr. Christian Holm, who chairs the working group on the relations with Belarus, for paying attention to our situation. Madam Chair mentioned that there were other speakers invited, but they could not attend. I guess one of them was Dzmitry Dashkievich, who was also a political prisoner. He was released from prison, but he is under severe restrictions and he cannot leave the country for now”, - European Belarus’ leader said.
Andrei Sannikov reminded of the situation in which he ended up as well as other candidates for president and members of their teams after the 2010 elections and the manifestation’s dispersal.
“Two years ago my sister Iryna Bahdanava spoke here, when I was in prison, telling about my situation, telling about the pressure and tortures that I was going through. It was later disclaimed by the official representative of Belarus, so now I am here today in person, luckily, to confirm that everything that was said two years ago was true. I was arrested when I still was a presidential candidate and even still holding my ID as a presidential candidate. I was badly beaten, then arrested on my way to a hospital, put in KGB prison under torturous conditions. I was denied legal assistance, I was denied medical assistance. I saw my lawyer for the first time in person in a confidential, sort of confidential, situation only in a month. I was held incommunicado for several periods both in KGB prison and penal colonies. They used every illness to make me suffer physically, they used everything to put pressure on me and my family. My wife was arrested together with me and beaten during the peaceful demonstration in the Square on 19 December 2010. I will not go into details of my situation in prison, I can only give the statistics. In the period of 16 month I went through 4 prisons, 3 of them - for two times, three penal colonies, eight transfers. So this shows that there was a special plan designed by the dictator to put pressure, to torture political prisoners”, - Andrei Sannikov said.
The leader of the European Belarus civic campaign emphasized that in our country many people are behind bars for standing up for their rights. He urged the delegates to do all possible for their release.
“We have eleven political prisoners in Belarus today. But what I am telling you is only the visible tip of the iceberg, because in prison I met hundreds of people, who are also there for political reasons, because they were fighting for their rights at the local level, they are not as visible as human rights defenders or as civil society activist, but there are hundreds of them in prison.
It was mentioned here that there is a debate over the definition of a political prisoner. I want to give my own opinion on that. In a dictatorial situation like in Belarus you have to be very cautious with all kind of definitions and criteria. I can give the example of Mikalaj Authukhovich, a political prisoner from Belarus, who is in prison for the second time. He was first charged with terrorism. Of course, no definition will include a person, charged with terrorism, as a political prisoner, and that prevented Amnesty International, for example, from recognizing him as a political prisoner. Moreover the OSCE played a negative role in that, because with the help of some embassies in Minsk there was an OSCE expert, who came to Minsk to examine the case of Authukhovich. And the expert never even looked into the case, he looked only into the papers that were presented to him by the authorities and pronounced his verdict – the investigation was perfect, the charges were justified the person charged was really a suspect of terrorism. It was a German expert, his name is Martin Finke, he is a university professor. Then the trial was held on Autukhovich. Those evidences all collapsed because they were falsified, the case was fabricated. Eventually Authukhovich was put in prison, but the terrorism charges were dropped. There was another case of OSCE’s negative role on the eve of the campaign. As the presidential campaign already started my friend and a key member of my team Aleh Biabienin died under suspicious circumstances – he was found hanged. OSCE’s taskforce came and also saw just the papers and only the official version of the tragic death of Aleh Biabienin. Unfortunately they also said that they did not see any other causes of his death. We do question whether he hanged himself, we do question whether he did it on his own will and I do think that he was murdered”, - Andrei Sannikov said.
The politician pointed out that the rule of law is a very dangerous definition under dictatorship, because it invents its own laws, claims that it follows them, instead of being guided by the international law.
“Let us start with the report of the special rapporteur of the UN on the independence of judiciary, which was produced in 2001 and which claimed that there was no independent judiciary in Belarus. Since then the situation has worsened. There were cases of disappeared persons in Belarus, and a very thorough legal investigative report was produced by the Council of Europe in 2004. There is also a very thorough report in accordance with the Moscow mechanism that was produced by OSCE in 2011, which also enumerates all these cases of the disappeared, of the harassment, of the absence of the rule of law, on the impunity in Belarus. I think today it is time not only to have these expert opinions gathered, but also to think about a follow-up, because the situation in Belarus, where we have had unlawful rule of one person for 20 years, who was not elected is the example of how dangerous a dictatorship is in our region. Probably, if that situation was addressed earlier, we could have seen a different situation in Ukraine, because dictators and autocrats learn from each other much faster than democrats.
The OSCE area is not the area of freedom and democracy, unfortunately. Not yet. But it is an area of the fight for freedom and democracy. Unfortunately, we see the regress here, it is apparent and it is mentioned in many statements. Today, I think, we have all possibilities, and especially I mean Belarus and the case of Belarus, to apply the mechanisms, to think about the follow-up on the mechanisms, to try and solve the situation. I urge you and hope that those of you who are committed to the democratic principles will help to first stop this regress, then achieve progress in the OSCE area and to help my country to be free”, - Andrei Sannikov concluded.
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