Human rights lawyers condemn Belarusian plane hijacking as ‘state terrorism’

the International Bar Association Human Rights Institute (IBAHRI) condemned the forced hijacking by Belarusian authorities of a flight carrying a dissident journalist Raman Pratasevich as an “irresponsible and heinous act of state terrorism”.

Mr. Pratasevich was arrested after his Ryanair The flight from Greece to Lithuania was forced to land in Belarus after its authorities claimed they received a bomb threat and sent a MiG-29 fighter jet to escort the civilian flight to Minsk.

The plane was closer to Vilnius than Minsk at the time of the hijacking and Belarus has so far failed to provide evidence of the alleged bomb threat.

Mr. Pratasevich is considered a terrorist by the Belarusian authorities because of his former role as editor of FOLLOWING, a prominent online platform of the Belarusian democracy movement that has been outlawed as an extremist organization following the eruption of protests against President Alexander Lukashenko.

He is accused of “flagrant violation of public order” and “inciting mass riots” and “social hatred” against law enforcement, for which he could face a long prison sentence or potentially the death penalty.

Anne Ramberg, co-president of IBAHRI and former secretary general of the Swedish Bar Association, said: “The forced diversion for political reasons of a passenger plane to Minsk, under the cover of a bomb threat, was an irresponsible and heinous act of state terrorism aimed at detaining Raman Pratasevich by all necessary means. The IBAHRI calls for the immediate release of Mr. Pratasevich and his partner Mrs. Sapega.

She added: “Mr. Pratasevich’s forced repatriation reveals the boundless efforts the Lukashenko administration will go to to silence opposition voices and subvert fundamental freedoms of media and expression.

“The deterioration of the Belarusian media landscape is condemnable. The baseless accusations of extremism against Mr. Pratasevich and the threat of the death penalty if convicted are extremely worrying.

“The IBAHRI unequivocally condemns the actions of the Belarusian authorities and welcomes the swift and unanimous measures taken so far by the European Union. Nations that engage in such behavior must not believe that they can do so with impunity and in complete disregard of the international laws to which they are bound.

Thelma J. Longworth