Head of the International Observation Mission is detained in Minsk

Mr. Andrey Yurov, a prominent human rights activist and citizen of the Russian Federation, is detained in Minsk. According to the police, he is officially banned from entering the territory of the Republic of Belarus. Currently, Mr. Yurov is held at the police department of the Soviet District of Minsk. His local and international colleagues fear that the authorities of the Republic of Belarus may deport the human rights defender.

On March 16th, 21:10 [Minsk time], police officers arrived at the apartment in Minsk where Andrey Yurov was residing. Mr. Yurov was conducting professional activities in Minsk as the head of the International Observation Mission of the Committee on International Control over the Situation with Human Rights in Belarus. The police officers introduced themselves as "the police of the Soviet District of Minsk.”

The dialogue between Andrey Yurov and the law enforcement officials was held on the staircase, as no warrants were issued to enter premises. The officials reported that Mr. Yurov was allegedly in the list of people who are to be denied entry to Belarus. Following this, they took him to the police department of the Soviet District of Minsk, where the officials drafted the protocol.

One of the officials of the police department reported that criminal proceedings may be instituted under Part 2 of Art. 371 of the Criminal Code (“Illegal crossing of state borders by a person who previously was denied entry into the country”) in relation to him.
There is no border between Russia and Belarus. Whereas immigration and passport control still exists at the airport, Mr. Yurov was not informed of any undesirable status by the enforcement authorities while undertaking his flight to Minsk.
Currently, it is known that the Russian human rights activist will spend the night in a cell of the Soviet police department of Minsk. His personal belongings and mobile phone were seized.

In response to the situation, Victoria Gromova, a member of the Coordinating Council of the International Youth Human Rights Movement (an organization participating in the work of the Committee on International Control over the Situation with Human Rights in Belarus), stated:
"We hope that the authorities of the Republic of Belarus have enough good sense not to commit actions that directly violate their international obligations. Andrey Yurov, Head of the International Observation Mission, was located in the Republic of Belarus as a human rights defender, performing advocacy functions on behalf of the Committee on International Control over the Situation with Human Rights in Belarus. The fact that a Russian citizen, a prominent international human rights activist who has not committed any illegal activities, appears on the list of individuals banned entry into the country, is a sign of pressure on human rights defenders, and a direct evidence of the disregard by Belarus towards its commitments under the OSCE."
On March 9th, the assistant to the representative of the International Observation Mission, Mr. Maxim Kitsyuk, was also denied entry to Belarus (see http://hrwatch-by.org/en/international-human-rights-observers-are-being-deported-belarus).

Police contacts:
On duty telephone of the police department of the Soviet District of Minsk: +375172929554, +37517262-19-99 (fax)
Fax of the police department of the Soviet District of Minsk: +375172322187 

Contact for comments and additional information: 
Belarus: +375 33 636 05 00 
Russian Federation: +7 915 582 27 45 // +7 916 537 13 67 
Ukraine: +380 67 404 26 46 
mission@hrwatch-by.org // byc@hrgroups.org
twitter: @IOMission

Biography of Andrey Yurov:
Andrey Yurov is the Head of the International Observation Mission, member of the Supervisory Board of the Committee on International Control over the Situation with Human Rights in Belarus, Director of Development of the Moscow Helsinki Group, expert of the Council of Europe, member of the Expert Council under the Federal Ombudsman of the Russian Federation, member of the International Civil Initiative for the OSCE, member of the Steering Committee of the International Eurasia IDEA Network.

The International Observation Mission, set up by the Committee on International Control over the Situation with Human Rights in Belarus, unites representatives of human rights organizations from the OSCE region and international civil society networks and organizations, to monitor the overall situation with the observance of fundamental human rights in Belarus, as well as the protection of human rights defenders and ensuring their professional activities.

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