Belarusian regime has groundlessly jailed three ecological activists, “Let them go!” Arnika demands

24. 3. 2017 - BELARUS

Although their meeting took place quietly and with the correct permit, around fifty people were brutally attacked and arrested without any justification by members of police units on March 15 in Minsk, Belarus. Among the detained are three members of the EcoHome organization: Marina Dubina, Xenia Maljukova and Alena Dubovik. We form Arnika have worked with EcoHome and are convinced that the incident shows that civil society in Belarus is after several years of relative liberalization now once more under threat from the harsh injustice of authorities. The protest event in Minsk had nothing to do with environmental issues and the women now in custody only insisted on defending of their civil rights. If freedom is endangered, an environmental protection is usually also unsure. That is why Arnika decided to join the declaration demanding an immediate release of all three women.

Arnika wishes to add its voice to this statement: "Environmental organizations in Belarus associated through the Green Network hereby protest against the arrest of the environmental activists Marina Dubina, Xenie Maljukova and Alena Dubovik as well as the other citizens who were brutally arrested on 15th March, 2017 before the Parade of Non-Parasites and also after it finished."

Nearly 50 organizations from 24 countries have signed the open letter against the present wave of repression, which is addressed to President Lukashenko.

On that Wednesday, several protest parades of Non-Parasites took place in Minsk, Moglev and Hroden. Demonstrators called for the repeal of a presidential decree that requires unemployed people to pay taxes and also attacks socially marginalized groups in other ways. These acts are reminiscent of the battle against "parasites" which took place in totalitarian Czechoslovakia. The organizers expressed the opinion that the state should rather invest into the creation of jobs. The events were permitted by the authorities and in Minsk the number of participants was between 1500 to 2500 people.

Marina Dubina, the director of the NGO EcoHome as well as Xenia Maljukova, a member of the same organization, were detained by civily clothed police using brute force, who neither identified themselves properly nor provided an explanation of the arrest. Alena Dubovik, another member of EcoHome, was arrested after the event in public transport on her way home. The trials were held the day after the arrests, and Marina Dubina was sentenced to 14 days in jail, Xenia Maljukova received 13 days and Alena Dubovik 12 days punishment of imrisonment. The declaration of the Green Network emphasizes the fact that all court cases were accompanied by false testimonies of the witnesses, who were actually members of OMON units. Not only did they give the incorrect information about the time, place and the reason for the arrests, but neither did they explain why they were in plain clothes at the time when they were supposedly carrying out their duties and why they found it necessary to use brute force.

The members of EcoHome thus joined the ranks of environmental activists that are being persecuted in authoritarian regimes across the world.

The Declaration of the Green Network and Arnika demands the following:

  • The immediate release of EcoHome activists and other arrested citizens;
  • An independent inquiry into the procedures used by members of repressive units, including those directly connected with use of force against activists;
  • And end to illegal and arbitrary arrests in Belarus;
  • The right to freedom of speech as well as the right to assemble;
  • An end to members of the security forces acting in such a manner in plain clothes, without the appropriate symbols and uniforms.