IBAHRI issued a statement to the Belarusian authorities, reminding them of their positive obligations to prevent torture

On February 22, The International Bar Association’s Human Rights Institute (IBAHRI) made a public statement to the Belarusian authorities that torture, particularly the incommunicado detention of Maksim Znak, must be stopped. This statement is unique; there have never been similar statements regarding detained Belarusian attorneys. It explains why incommunicado detention constitutes torture and why the authorities are obliged to cease it. The statement is available in an abridged version on the website, but there is also a link to download the original letter addressed to the Belarusian authorities.

“The IBAHRI recalls that Belarus has ratified and is therefore bound by, inter alia, the UN Convention against Torture and Other Cruel Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (CAT)v and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR).

We respectfully remind you that, in line with the above legal framework, Belarus must respect and fulfil international human rights law, standards and norms, including, but not limited to:

I. Prohibition of torture: Incommunicado detention as a form of torture and ill-treatment per se

The prohibition of torture and ill-treatment, which is a peremptory norm of international law,ix is codified in Article 7, ICCPR. It is an absolute prohibition, from which no derogation is permitted, as per Article 4(2), ICCPR, and Article 2(2), CAT. Article 10(1), ICCPR, complements this prohibition and imposes a positive obligation on State parties to treat all persons deprived of their liberty with humanity and respect for their dignity.

II. Prevention of torture: Heightened risk of torture and ill-treatment during incommunicado detention

Prolonged incommunicado detention is conducive to and facilitates the perpetration of torture and ill-treatment, creating a heightened risk of such treatment.

…States must take effective legislative, administrative, judicial, or other measures to prevent acts of torture and ill-treatment in any territory under its jurisdiction. Furthermore, the UN Human Rights Committee has held that States must make provisions against incommunicado detention to guarantee the effective protection of detained persons.

Prompt and regular access to lawyers of one’s choice, independent medical personnel and family members of detainees at all stages of detention are, inter alia, essential and necessary safeguards against torture and ill-treatment that States must ensure in order to comply with the above obligations.

We therefore call on the Belarusian authorities to cease the incommunicado detention of Mr Znak and to respect and fulfil his right of access to his lawyer(s), independent medical personnel and contact with his family to, inter alia, respect the prohibition and ensure the prevention of torture and ill-treatment.

We would be grateful to receive your assurances that you have received this letter and that these concerns will be addressed as a matter of urgency.

In 2021, Maksim Znak was awarded a prize by the International Bar Association for his outstanding contribution to human rights defence, for his commitment to defending democratic principles and human rights in Belarus.
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