Libereco condemns the upheld prison sentence of the Swiss-Belarusian dual citizen Natallia and calls for release of all political prisoners in Belarus.

Natallia Herrsche in the court in Minsk. (Photo: Viasna)

After exactly 150 days in Belarusian prison, the prison sentence imposed on Natallia Hersche was upheld at today’s hearing in the court of appeal. After the Swiss-Belarusian dual citizen took part in a women’s rally in Minsk on 19 September, she was sentenced to a draconian prison term of 2 years and 6 months in an unfair trial on 7 December 2020.

Member of parliament for the Social Democratic Party, Barbara Gysi, took over the godparenthood for Natallia Hersche as part of the Libereco campaign #WeStandBYyou. Currently, more than 160 members of European parliaments are calling for the release of political prisoners by taking over a godparenthood.

Prior to today’s hearing in the court of appeal, 88 Swiss members of parliament from all parliamentary groups wrote an open letter to the Belarusian Foreign Minister Makei calling for the release of Natallia Hersche and all other political prisoners in Belarus.

“We are appalled by the renewed and clearly politically motivated condemnation of Natallia Hersche. It is completely unacceptable and unthinkable in a constitutional state like Switzerland that participation in peaceful protests is punished with years in prison. It shows the whole contempt for human beings of the Belarusian dictatorship. Natallia Hersche and all the other 255 political prisoners must be released immediately and unconditionally. We expect Switzerland and the international community to continue to exert strong pressure on the Belarusian regime. The imprisonment of political dissidents in the midst of the 21st century in Europe cannot be accepted. There is no place in Europe for a state of injustice like Belarus,” said Lars Bünger, President of Libereco Switzerland.

At the same time as Natallia Hersche’s hearing in the court of appeal, nationwide arrests and house searches took place this morning in Belarus. Affected by it were the independent Belarusian Association of Journalists BAJ, the Viasna Human Rights Centre and other NGO activists and journalists. For months, the Belarusian regime has been using a wave of repression against any kind of resistance. Belarusian civil society is now also coming under increasing pressure.

Under the title “#Facts of Repression”, Libereco today published a graphic report on political repression in Belarus. According to the report, 76 of the political prisoners have been sentenced to prison terms in total of 235 years and 9 months so far. The average prison sentence amounts to 3 years and 1 month. 

In 2020, there were more than 33,000 politically motivated arrests, the vast majority of arrested people were peaceful demonstrators. More than 600 people were injured during the arrests, while 100 people were victims of state violence in jail. Belarusian human rights organisations have documented more than 1000 cases of torture. So far, not a single criminal case has been initiated in Belarus against the state security forces responsible for the tortures.