European Rights Watch

Sentence and Conviction of Nobel Peace Prize Laureate Signals Bealrus’ Efforts to Deter Human Rights Activists

By: Nathanael Linton

Journal of Global Rights and Organizations, Associate Articles Editor

            On March 3, 2023, Ales Bialiatski, among other human rights activists, was sentenced by the Lieninski District Court of Minsk, under presiding Judge Maryna Zapasnik, to serve long-term prison terms. Mr. Bialiatski won the Nobel Peace Prize in 2022 for his “courageous work and dedication to promoting human rights and democracy in Belarus.” He founded the organization Viasna to “provide support to incarcerated demonstrators and their families” who opposed Belarus’ constitutional amendments made in 2016 to keep then-and-current President Alexander Lukashenko in power.

Ales Bialiatski in cage enclosure during trial. Photo courtesy of Viasna

Mr. Bialiatski is currently serving ten years for being found guilty of “smuggling by an organized group” under Part 4 Article 228 of the Criminal Code, and for “financing of group actions grossly violating the public order” under Part 2 of Article 342 of the Criminal Code. However, this is not his first time being sentenced by the Belarusian government. In 2011, he was sentenced to three years for alleged tax invasion, and again in 2021 for protesting current President Lukashenko’s administration for human rights violations committed by the Belarus government. To date, Mr. Bialiatski has been in Belarusian custody since July 14, 2021.

Human rights activists and opponents of the current Belarusian government have stated that the imprisonment of human rights activists is “politically motivated.” In his defense, Mr. Bialiatski argues that “the activities of Viasna has been completely legal and comply with all international obligations of the Republic of Belarus.” However, Judge Zapasnik has found the allegations against Bailiatski, as well as the other high-level leaders of Viasna organization, to be “fully proven.” During their detainment, Mr. Staradubets, a spokesperson for Viasna, states that the conditions in which Mr. Bialiatski and others are being kept should be considered “torture.” According to Staradubets, ‘We call [it] torture because

they’re being held for several months in a 19th-century building, poorly lit cells with no fresh air, no sunlight, poor food, [and] little to no healthcare.” However, when confronted with allegedly imprisoning activists as a form of oppression, Mr. Lukashenko simply argues that all government opponents, including Mr. Bialiatski, were incarcerated for breaking the law. The recent decision now sends him to a medium-security penal colony.

            The incarceration of Mr. Bialiatski though is not the first time Belarus makes headlines for its troubling human rights issues. According to the Commissioner for Human Rights in the Council of Europe, Belarus made headlines after their 2020 presidential elections in which “various peaceful protestors were arrested, and other individuals reported missing.” The right to life is being troubled by Belarus’ numerous deprivations of liberty. These individuals’ sacrifices should not be in vain, especially those of a Nobel Peace Prize laureate. In a country such as Belarus, whose actions have been condemned by various international bodies, work should be done to prosecute Belarus for its egregious and hostile actions toward workers of human rights. Our thoughts and prayers are with Mr. Bialiatski, his family, and all other human rights activists who still fight for justice despite their current conditions.


For further information, please see:

BBC News – Ales Bialiatski: Nobel Prize-winning activist sentenced to 10 years in jail – 3 Mar. 2023

Council of Europe, Commissioner of Human Rights – Press Statement: Belarus: today’s conviction of Nobel Laureate Bialiatski and other human rights defenders is a blatant attack against justice – 3 Mar. 2023

Council of Europe, Commissioner of Human Rights – Press Statement: Human rights violations in Belarus must stop immediately – 21 Sept. 2020

PBS News – Belarusian court sentences Nobel laureate Bialiatski to 10 years in prison – 3 Mar. 2023.

U.N. Office of High Commissioner for Human Rights – Press Statement: Sentencing of Human Rights defenders in Belarus – 3 Mar. 2023

Viasna – Viasna leadership receives from 7 to 10 years in jail – 3 Mar. 2023

Wall Street Journal – Nobel Laureate and Activist Ales Bialiatski Sentenced to 10 Years in Belarusian Prison – 3 Mar. 2023

ECHR Finds Plaintiff’s Husband’s Right to Life Violated While he was Held in an Armenian Detention Facility

By: Marie LeRoy 

Impunity Watch News Staff Writer

STRASBOURG, France – The European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) reverses a District Court judgment and finds that Armenia failed to protect Slavik Voskanyan’s right to life through its negligent provision of medical services.

Picture of hallway of an Armenian prison. Photo curtesy of: AZERNEWS

On October 7, 2010, Plaintiff’s husband, Slavik Voskanyan, was arrested under suspicion of murder and armed assault. Voskanyan was placed in an Armenian detention facility while he awaited trial. Eleven days later, Voskanyan began complaining of pain in his left shin. One of the detention facilities’ doctors immediately began treating Voskanyan for his injury. On October 19, the doctor noted that “crepitation was observed upon palpation” of Voskanyan’s shin and that “brown pus with an unpleasant smell” was found within the injury.

On October 21, a different detention doctor went to check Voskanyan’s injury and reported to the chief detention facility doctor that Voskanyan’s injury was getting worse. The doctor noted that they believed that the “infected area may possibly spread” and that Voskanyan was experiencing severe pain. Three days later, Voskanyan was finally transferred to the local hospital with the intention that he undergo surgery on his shin. Voskanyan, however, succumbed to the infection and died the same day in the hospital.

A forensic investigation was immediately commenced, and a panel of experts were consulted. The experts concluded that the detention facility doctor did not diagnosis Voskanyan correctly. The experts indicated that the October 19 examination should have alerted the doctor to the seriousness of the injury and the presence of an infection diagnosis like “gangrene.” They noted that the doctor should have recognized Voskanyan’s injury deterioration and reacted accordingly by changing the treatment method. The panel further concluded that the doctor, when noting the “crepitation” and “unpleasant smell,” was “obliged” to send Voskanyan to the hospital for treatment. The panel of experts finally concluded that it might have been possible, if the doctor employed the correct treatment and response, to prevent Voskanyan’s death.

Despite these findings, multiple Courts have dismissed Voskanyan’s wife’s claims for medical negligence because it is unclear whether Voskanyan’s shin injury originated and was made worse through methods of self-harm.

However, the ECHR found for Voskanyan’s wife, deciding that the domestic authorities did not do everything that was “reasonably possible, in good faith and in a timely manner” to save Voskanyan’s life. The ECHR stated that the dentition facility had a duty, because Voskanyan was “under their control”, to protect his life and that Voskanyan’s own actions were irrelevant to that duty. Therefore, the ECHR reversed the prior decisions finding for the Armenian government and held that the Armenian government must pay Voskanyan’s wife twenty thousand euros worth of damages.


For further information, please see:

Voskanyan v. Armenia – ECHR—24 Jan. 2023

Voskanyan v. Armenia –ECHR Communicated Case — 1 Sept. 2015

ECHR to Hear Case Regarding Allegations Against Russia of Human Rights Violations Pertaining to MH-17 Aircraft Crash

By: Kaylee Searcy

Journal of Global Rights and Organizations, Associate Articles Editor

 AMSTERDAM, Netherlands – On January 25, 2023, the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) announced that a complaint filed by the Netherlands and Ukraine regarding the downing of a Malaysian Airlines flight in 2014 would be “partially admissible.” The complaint met sufficient criteria and presented enough evidence to support many of the allegations and claims against Russia. Proceedings over the next two years will determine the case merits. Only then will the court issue a final ruling.

The verdict session for the case against Russia regarding the downing of flight MH-17. Photo courtesy of The New York Times.

On July 17, 2014, a Malaysian Airlines flight (MH17) was shot down by a surface-to-air missile. With 283 passengers and 15 crew members, the passenger jet was transiting from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur. All 298 individuals perished in eastern Ukraine when the plane was hit. At the time, it was the largest loss of civilian life in the intensifying Russia/Ukraine conflict. 196 people on the plane were Dutch, the remaining 102 were from various countries including Malaysia, Australia, New Zealand, and the United Kingdom.

Over eight years after the incident, in November 2022, a Netherlands court convicted three men for the crime and sentenced them to life in prison. All three individuals were found to have significant connections to Russian security forces and had obtained the Russian-made missile from the military. With a desire to hold the orchestrators of the attack accountable, the Netherlands filed a complaint in 2020 with the ECHR arguing Russia’s responsibility for the catastrophic loss of life on MH17. The complaint alleged Russia was involved in the downing of MH17 and failed to investigate or even cooperate with an ongoing investigation resulting in breaching numerous articles of the European Convention on Human Rights. The specific articles include violating Article 2, providing a right to life; violating Article 3, prohibiting torture and inhumane treatment; and violating Article 13, providing the right to an effective remedy. The court acknowledged the amount of time that had passed since the plane crashed and noted that it was in the interest of justice to allow time for “clarity” and “sufficiently credible and specific evidence” to be obtained by the Netherlands before filing.

The ECHR’s willingness to hear the case and imply that Russia may be held accountable has been well received. Anticipated ramifications of the case are largely figurative and political. As of September 2022, Russia is no longer a party to the European Convention on Human Rights. However, since the incident in question occurred prior to the date Russia removed itself as a signatory, the court retains the right to investigate claims against the state. Russia continues to deny any involvement in the incident.

Further confirming the significance of this case are the 7,000 individual cases of Russian aggression in Ukraine pending before the court, hoping to be heard. In an effort to demonstrate that Russia cannot “escape the long arm of international law,” this is one monumental step in the direction of justice and culpability for the MH17.


For further information, please see:

ECHR – Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms  

ECHR- Press Release: Eastern Ukraine and flight MH17 case declared partly admissible – 25 Jan. 2023

ECHR – Press Release: New inter-State application brought by Netherlands against Russia concerning downing of Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 – 15 July 2020  

Government of the Netherlands – Flight MH17: European Court to hand down decision on admissibility of the Netherlands’ inter-state application against Russia – 23 Jan. 2023

NYT – Dutch Court Convicts 3 of Murder for 2014 Downing of Airliner in Ukraine – November 17, 2022

NYT – The Netherlands Brings Russia to Court Over the Downing of MH17 – 23 Sept. 2020

NZ Herald – Russia-Ukraine war, Flight MH17: European court rules cases admissible, downed Malaysia Airlines plane included – 25 Jan. 2023

Reuters – European rights court rules Ukraine, MH-17 cases against Russia are admissible – 25 Jan. 2023

Simple Flying – Simple Flying, European Court of Human Rights Says Yes to Dutch Case Against Russia over MH17 – 25 Jan. 2023

Anti-Gay Rhetoric Fueling Ukraine Invasion, or is the Ukraine Invasion Fueling Anti-Gay Rhetoric

By: Alessa Rodriguez

Impunity Watch Staff Writer

RUSSIA – The European Court for Human Rights recently found that those who wanted to sue in their court for a discriminatory ban on holding LGBT public assemblies against Russia would have no redress for the alleged violation and ultimately their applications are denied. Article 11 of the Convention finds that everyone has the right to freedom of peaceful assembly and that no restrictions shall be placed on the exercise of these rights. The only restrictions would be under the realm of national security, public safety, prevention of disorder or crime, protection of health and morals, or for the protection of the rights and freedoms for others.

LGBTQ march May 2013. Picture Courtesy of Foreign Policy/Getty Images

Even more recently, Russian lawmakers have approved a bill that expands restrictions on activities seen as promoting gay rights. There was previously a ban of “gay propaganda” against minors, this now expands it to those that reach the age of majority. The bill outlaws ads, media and online resources, films, and theater productions that contain the “propaganda”. Violations are punishable by fines and can lead to expulsion from Russia. This bill will move into the upper chamber, expected to approve it, and then to Putin who is also expected to approve this.

The previous restrictions from 2013 were seen as a way to redeem Putin’s image as a conservative and to distract from his persona. This time Putin is using the debate towards on LGBT issues to distract from his attacks on Ukraine. Deflecting the world issues at hand with Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, he is fearmongering and weaponizing religion as why the “gay propaganda” should be restricted. This political strategy is effectively ruining his public image globally as he is pushing to invade another country and take away queer people’s rights and freedoms. However, Putin’s accomplishments are being celebrated by citizens as 50% of the nation expresses support for “mobilization”, another term for his invasion of Ukraine.

The European Court of Human Rights should evaluate the expansion of Russia’s previous “anti-gay” laws as it effectively leaves queer Russians or queer people entering Russia with troubling consequences, as there may be proper redress for this issue.

For further information please see: 

AP News – Russian Duma gives LGBTQ “propaganda” bill final approval – 24 Nov. 2022

ECHR – Recent Decisions – Aleksandrov and others v. Russia – 20 Oct. 2022

The Washington Post – Europe – Russia advances bill to criminalize “promoting” LGBTQ relationships – 24 Nov. 2022

Wilson Center – The Russia File – To Avoid Answering Hard Questions at Home, Putin Will Keep Fighting in Ukraine – 14 Nov. 2022

European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) Ruled Italian Authorities Failed to Properly Assess Asylum Seeker’s Age Before Placing Him in Adult Migrant Center

By: D’Andre Gordon

Impunity Watch News Staff Writer

Venice, Italy — On January 18, 2017, Mr. Ousainou Darboe filed a complaint with the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR). His complaint alleged Italy violated his procedural and substantive rights under Article 3 (prohibition of inhuman or degrading treatment), Article 8 (right to respect privacy and family life), and Article 13 (right to an effective remedy) of the European Convention on Human Rights. Darboe recounted overcrowded conditions at an adult migrant facility he was placed in, Italian authorities’ failure to presume he was minor under domestic and international law, and having no effective remedies for his complaints.

A group of young, unaccompanied foreign minors in Italy. Photo curtesy of Open Migration.

Darboe arrived at Italian shores in a makeshift vessel where he declared he was a minor seeking international protection. Since Darboe declared he was a minor, Italian authorities were bound to follow specific procedural safeguards under domestic and international law. Italian authorities did not follow established protocols and placed Darboe in a facility for unaccompanied minors. Three months into his stay, the authorities transferred Darboe to an adult migrant facility, where he remained for over four months. At the adult migrant center, a local doctor performed a medical exam that involved taking X-Rays of Darboe’s left wrist and hand to determine his age. Based on the results, the doctor determined Darboe’s bone structure was consistent with that of an 18-year-old male.

Because Darboe initially declared he was minor, Italian authorities were compelled to treat him as such within the confines of established procedural safeguards. Darboe was entitled to receive information about his rights as an asylum seeker in a language and form he could understand. Italian authorities were also supposed to give Darboe the benefit of the doubt and refrain from conducting an age assessment using bone analysis due to its inaccuracies.

In the adult facility, attorneys met with Darboe and helped him file a Rule 39 request with the local court. His request was based on him being subjected to a medical exam without his consent and not receiving a copy of the findings from his medical exam. Further, no one let him know of any administrative or judicial findings on his age. As an interim measure, his attorneys asked the court to transfer Darboe to a facility for unaccompanied minors. The court granted Darboe’s request, and he was transferred to a facility for unaccompanied minors on February 18, 2017. On November 7, 2018, the court lifted the interim measure, and Darboe’s complaint to the European Court of Human Rights followed.

On July 21, 2022, the ECHR unanimously ruled Italian authorities violated Darboe’s rights under all three articles of the Convention. As such, the ECHR ordered Italy to pay monetary compensation to Darboe under Article 41. In the Court’s decision, the Court emphasized the importance of signatories to the Convention upholding their legal obligations under Article 3. Despite the unprecedented flow of asylum seekers and migrants into European States forming the external borders of the European Union, signatories to the Convention are not relieved of their responsibilities under Article 3. Moreover, states must do what is in the best interests of a child regardless of their immigration status. In Darboe’s case, he was denied the protections he was entitled to because of the amount of time he spent in an adult facility. Moreover, Darboe was not given a trained guardian who could support him through the asylum process. 


For further information, please see:

ECHR – Case of Darboe and Camara v. Italy – Application no. 5797/17 – 21 July 2022

ECHR – Judgment Darboe and Camara v. Italy – Italian authorities breached rights of asylum-seeker to be presumed and treated as a minor – 21 July 2022

ECHR – Rules of Court – 03 Oct. 2022

InfoMigrant – Human rights court: Italy guilty of violating rights of minor – 25 July 2022

Open Migration – The long wait of young unaccompanied migrants in Italy – 08 Feb. 2017