Andrei SannikovBelarus

Mr. Sannikov, 58, is a former diplomat and the most prominent member of the opposition in Belarus. Authorities beat and arrested Mr. Sannikov, along with his wife Iryna Khalip, after they attended a demonstration on December 19, 2010. On March 12, 2011, he was sentenced to five years in prison on charges of organizing or participating in a mass riot. The government pardoned Mr. Sannikov on April 14, 2012, after nearly 16 months in detention.

Before joining the opposition, Mr. Sannikov worked as a diplomat and served as the Deputy Foreign Minister of Belarus. He resigned from his government post in 1996 to protest a controversial referendum that expanded the powers and extended the term of President Lukashenko. He then co-founded Charter ‘97, an organization that promotes democracy in Belarus and maintains an independent news website. In 2010, he ran as an opposition presidential candidate.

After the presidential polls closed on December 19, 2010, Mr. Sannikov joined thousands of protesters peacefully demonstrating in downtown Minsk. After a small group of individuals at the back of the crowd broke the windows and doors of a government building, riot police responded with indiscriminate and disproportionate force. Just before midnight, police moved in and violently dispersed the crowd, and although they encountered virtually no resistance, authorities arrested over 700 people, severely beating many of them.

During the crackdown, police seriously injured Mr. Sannikov’s legs by pinning him to the ground with a riot shield and repeatedly jumping on the shield. On the way to the hospital, police stopped Mr. Sannikov, dragged him out of the car, and arrested him. They punched Mr. Sannikov’s wife, Iryna Khalip, in the face and arrested her.

After his arrest, Mr. Sannikov was imprisoned at the KGB pretrial detention center in Minsk. Describing his client’s condition as “horrendous” and voicing concern about further mistreatment during pretrial detention, Mr. Sannikov’s lawyer was disbarred. Mr. Sannikov has since retained new counsel.

On April 27, 2011, the proceedings against Mr. Sannikov began in the Partyzanski District Court in Minsk on charges of organizing or participating in a mass riot. During the trial, described by the US State Department as “clearly politically motivated”, prosecutors produced no evidence that Mr. Sannikov engaged in violence. On May 12, 2011, Mr. Sannikov a received five year sentence; his domestic lawyers will appeal the decision.

On November 15, 2011, authorities prevented Mr. Sannikov’s attorney from seeing him at the Mahilou prison and indicated that he was to be transferred, his third transfer since December 2010. The government did not inform either his lawyer or his family where Mr. Sannikov was to be taken. It appears that he had been taken to a Babruisk prison colony some time before Novermber 15th and then transferred him again–apparently back to the Prison in Mahilou. During the transfer, Andrei was placed in a cold rail car for 24 hours and denied food. On November 23, Andrei’s lawyer again attempted to visit him at Mahilou prison and was told that Andrei had been transferred to a detention center in Vitsebsk two days earlier. Authorities finally allowed Mr. Sannikov’s lawyer to meet with him on January 20, 2010.

Mr. Sannikov was pardoned on April 14, 2012, after nearly 16 months in detention.

Selected documents from Andrei Sannikov's case
Free the prisoners of Europe’s last dictatorDecember 19, 2012

Times of London op-ed by former Freedom Now client Andrei Sannikov calling for the release of all political prisoners in Belarus.

Freedom Now Press ReleaseApril 16, 2012

Announcing the release of Mr. Sannikov from detention in Belarus.

Imprisoned in BelarusDecember 22, 2011

The Washington Post op-ed by Irina Bogdanova commenting on the plight of her brother, Andrei Sannikov, who is a political prisoner in Belarus.

Letter from 28 Members of the U.S. House of RepresentativesMay 14, 2012

Urging the International Ice Hockey Federation to move its 2014 World Ice Hockey Championship from Minsk, Belarus.

Opinion of the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention May 4, 2012

Finding the detention of Mr. Sannikov in violation of international law.

Petition to the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention September 15, 2011

Submitted by Hogan Lovells US LLP.