For Immediate Release
December 19, 2011

Contact: Joshua Newcomer
+1 713.897.1943; [email protected]

Washington, D.C.: Today, Zmister Bandarenka’s pro bono international legal team, which includes Freedom Now and lawyers with the international law firm Hogan Lovells, filed a petition to the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention on behalf of the imprisoned Belarusian opposition leader. The team hopes to obtain an opinion from the UN Working Group that the Government of Belarus’ detention of Mr. Bandarenka is in violation of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

“One year ago today, the Belarusian government arrested and detained Mr. Bandarenka as punishment for his campaign support for opposition leader Andrei Sannikov.  The government’s continued detention of Mr. Bandarenka violates his fundamental human right against arbitrary detention,” said Freedom Now Executive Director Maran Turner. “Freedom Now calls on the Belarusian government to immediately and unconditionally release Zmister Bandarenka; we are confident that the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention will come to the same conclusion.”

Authorities in Belarus arrested Mr. Bandarenka following the country’s 2010 presidential election. On the evening of December 19, 2010, after the polls closed in yet another election that failed to meet international standards, Mr. Bandarenka joined thousands of Belarusians peacefully demonstrating in downtown Minsk.  Although Mr. Bandarenka did not speak at the rally and was not present when the police violently cracked down on the demonstrators, authorities showed up at his house hours later, in the early hours of December 20, 2010, and arrested him without warrant.

While Mr. Bandarenka awaited trial, authorities prohibited him from meeting with his attorney for months, and subjected him to pervasive physical and psychological abuse.  On April 26, 2011, after a trial that failed to meet international standards for due process, the court sentenced Mr. Bandarenka to two years in prison on the charge of participating in a breach of public order.

While in prison, Mr. Bandarenka’s health has deteriorated dramatically.  Prison officials ignored Mr. Bandarenka’s repeated request for medical treatment until the situation became so severe that he lost the ability to walk and required emergency neurosurgery.  He was immediately transferred back to the penal colony, and the government’s subsequent failures to provide even basic medical needs have resulted in his worsening health.

Freedom Now represents Mr. Sannikov with a team of lawyers from the Washington, D.C. and Houston offices of the global legal practice Hogan Lovells.