Belarus: Whereabouts of prisoner of conscience Mariya Kalesnikava must be disclosed amid reports of hospitalization

Responding to reports that imprisoned opposition figure Mariya Kalesnikava has been rushed to intensive care from her ‘punishment cell’ to undergo surgery, Amnesty International’s Director for Eastern Europe and Central Asia, Marie Struthers, said:

“The Belarusian authorities must immediately disclose all information regarding Maryia Kalesnikava’s condition, whether her life is in danger, and her whereabouts. The secrecy that surrounds prisoners in Belarus is unacceptable. This situation once again demonstrates what a cruel and impenetrable system Aliaksandr Lukashenka has built in his efforts to punish those who dare to dissent or challenge his rule.”

“Lukashenka’s government will not achieve its aim to silence a powerful voice of peaceful protest by throwing Maryia Kalesnikava into a punishment cell in inhumane conditions, by denying her contact with her lawyer, and denying the rest of us any information about her well-being.”

Lukashenka’s government will not achieve its aim to silence a powerful voice of peaceful protest by throwing Maryia Kalesnikava into a punishment cell in inhumane conditions, by denying her contact with her lawyer, and denying the rest of us any information about her well-being

Marie Struthers, Amnesty International’s Director for Eastern Europe and Central Asia

Background

The news of the hospitalization of Mariya Kalesnikava came from the team of imprisoned Belarusian politician Viktar Babaryka – an associate of Maryia Kalesnikava – on 29 November. On the same day Mariya Kalesnikava’s lawyer was denied a visit for the third time in a row. According to Viktar Babaryka’s team, earlier in November, Maryia Kalesnikava was placed in a punishment cell, a harsher type of confinement, usually solitary. The team received no information about the reasons for and duration of this reprimand measure.

According to further information, later confirmed by the lawyer, Maryia Kalesnikava was transported to the Homel city hospital on 28 November, underwent urgent surgery and was then transferred to intensive care.

On 6 September 2021, the Minsk Regional Court sentenced Maryia Kalesnikava and her associate Maksim Znak, members of the opposition Coordinating Council and associates of the jailed presidential contender Viktar Babaryka, to 11 and 10 years respectively, on trumped-up charges including “conspiracy to seize power by unconstitutional means”.

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