RAN 35/10: Neklyaev Petition

RAPID ACTION NETWORK

December 20, 2010
 
RAN 35/10
 
BELARUS: Writer and former Belarusian PEN President, Vladimir Neklyaev, arrested and beaten


PEN Center USA and the Writers in Prison Committee of PEN International (WiPC) is shocked by yesterday’s (December 19, 2010) arrest and beating of Vladimir Neklyaev, writer, former President of the Belarusian PEN Centre, and Belarus presidential elections candidate. His present whereabouts are unknown and there is deep concern for his well being. The Belarusian PEN Centre has issued an appeal, below. PEN calls for the immediate disclosure of Neklyaev’s whereabouts and that he be released. It further calls for him to receive all necessary medical treatment as a matter of urgency.
 
Statement by the Belarusian PEN Centre Council
 
The Belarusian PEN Centre strongly condemns acts of violence against the honorary chairman of the Belarusian PEN Centre and presidential candidate Vladimir Neklyaev.
 
On the evening of December 19, he was brutally beaten by security services (doctors later diagnosed brain injury). Unconscious, Vladimir Neklyaev was taken to hospital from where he was kidnapped a few hours later by unknown persons. The present whereabouts of Neklyaev is unknown.


The Belarusian PEN Centre demands an urgent determination of Neklyaev’s fate and for guarantees that he is receiving full qualified medical care. We demand an investigation of the beatings and abduction against the honorary chairman of Belarusian PEN Centre.

We appeal to Belarusian and international human rights organizations, PEN International and the national PEN centers to join our calls for Vladimir Neklyaev’s release.

-Council of the Belarusian PEN Centre
 

Background

Several hundred people protested the outcome of the presidential elections in which the incumbent, President Alexander Lukashenko, who has been in power since 1994, was announced the winner by a large majority. The elections have been heavily criticized both within the country and outside, with opposition parties saying that the vote was rigged. The Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), described the election as “fail[ing] to give Belarus the new start it needed. The counting process lacked transparency. The people of Belarus deserved better.” It went on to criticize the mass arrests and described the voting process as “flawed." (OSCE on Belarus)
 
On Sunday December 19, around 10,000 people converged on central Minsk to protest the election outcome. When demonstrators reportedly tried to storm the government building, police set upon the demonstrators, arresting hundreds, including journalists, human rights activists and most of the presidential candidates. Video footage depicts demonstrators being beaten and crushed against a wall Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty. Among those arrested is Vladimir Neklyaev, who, as reported by Belarusian PEN and shown in video footage, was severely beaten, hospitalized and then taken to an undisclosed location.
 
Earlier this year, Neklyaev was briefly detained with scores of members of civil society groups arrested in mid May accused of distributing “false information.” See RAN May 2010.
 
Vladimir Neklyaev, age 63, a poet and author, is the leader of the organization ‘Speak the Truth’, set up in February this year. From 2005 to 2009, he was also President of the Belarus PEN Centre, of which he remains a member.


TO TAKE ACTION, PLEASE SIGN THE PETITION BELOW:

Dear Mr President:

As an organization that endeavors to create a world in which freedom of expression is guaranteed for all writers, and where friendship and intellectual cooperation thrive among writers and readers worldwide, PEN USA strongly protests the arrest and ill-treatment of Vladimir Neklyaev and other human rights activists and journalists;

We are alarmed at Neklyaev’s treatment and that he is being held in an undisclosed place of detention. As a matter of urgency, Neklyaev should be provided with all necessary medical attention, his whereabouts should be made known and a full, investigation should be held into his ill-treatment.

We hereby call for the immediate and unconditional release of Vladimir Neklyaev.

Sincerely,

The Undersigned


These Appeals will be sent to:

President of the Republic of Belarus
Alyaksandr G. Lukashenka
Karl Marx Str. 38
220016 g. Minsk
Belarus
Fax: + 375 172 26 06 10 or +375 172 22 38 72
Email: pres@president.gov.by

We also welcome all individual appeals to be sent directly to these offices, as well as your local diplomatic representative.

The period for signing this petition is now over.