Right to Defence Joins Human Constanta Statement on Nasta Loika’s Imprisonment

Our project "Right to Defence" joins the statement regarding the persecution of Nasta Lojka published on the Human Constanta website and signed by ARTICLE 19, World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT), Netherlands Helsinki Committee, Front Line Defenders, Legal Initiative, Belarusian Association of Journalists, Belarusian PEN, Office for the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, Human Rights Center “Viasna”, Belarusian Helsinki Committee, Barys Zvozskau Belarusian Human Rights House, and Lawtrend.

Nasta Lojka is a prominent human rights defender, one of the founders of Human Constanta, and a political prisoner. She was named Human Rights Defender of the Year 2022 by the Belarusian human rights community. Yet, in the eyes of the repressive Belarusian authorities she is a criminal and, most recently, a “terrorist,” – earlier in October, the government put her on a “terrorist” list. On 20 June she was sentenced to 7 years in prison.

Her lawyers were repeatedly arrested, disbarred, forced out of the country, and intimidated. Disbarment of human rights lawyers is one of the tools the authorities consistently employed to intimidate and persecute lawyers who represent human rights defenders, activists, democratic politicians, and survivors of torture and state-perpetrated human rights violations.

Nasta also continues her human rights work from behind bars: she helped dozens of other women cellmates to file complaints related to their cases. She also drafted a concept of prison reform in Belarus. This is a powerful reminder that persecution and imprisonment cannot force human rights defenders into ceasing their work.

We call on the Belarusian authorities for Nasta Lojka’s immediate and unconditional release and condemn the physical and psychological torture Nasta was subjected to by state agents. Nasta Lojka’s arrest, torture and imprisonment is a retaliation by the Belarus government for her peaceful and legitimate human rights work.

We continue to call upon the international community to take measures to urge the Belarusian authorities to respect their obligations towards human rights defenders, and to keep the situation of defenders in Belarus high on the political agenda.

We also call to utilize and explore available mechanisms for holding the Belarusian authorities account for human rights abuses against human rights defenders, inter alia, by means of extraterritorial and universal jurisdiction and inter-state complaints under relevant treaties, and through strengthening existing accountability mechanisms.
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