The United States condemns the January 18 arrest of Leanid Sudalenka, Chairperson of the Homyel branch of Human Rights Organization Viasna, and his assistant Maryya Tarasenka. We call for their immediate release. Rights activists, such as those working with Viasna, are a critical part of civil society in any country, as they observe a country’s human rights record and shed light on and document human rights violations in the hope abusers will one day be brought to justice. The detention of one of Viasna’s leaders and a staff member is another deplorable example of Belarusian authorities’ attempts to extinguish this light and prevent the people of Belarus and the rest of the world knowing the full extent of the abuses committed by Belarusian authorities.
We urge Belarusian authorities to cease their crackdown and their brutal human rights abuses against peaceful demonstrators, and immediately release all those unjustly detained. These actions contravene commitments the Belarusian government has made as an OSCE participating State. We call on the authorities to release the hundreds of human rights activists, peaceful protesters, political prisoners, and journalists. This is a crucial, necessary initial step towards respecting the Belarusian people’s demands for their fundamental freedoms, and striving to heal the country.