03 November: Belarusian-Polish writer and journalist, Andrzej Poczobut is serving an eight-year sentence in a high-security penal colony on trumped up charges of inciting hatred and encouraging sanctions aimed at harming the national security of Belarus. Poczobut, who has serious health problems, is being held in solidarity confinement and denied access to life-saving heart medication. These acts by the Belarusian authorities amount to torture and other cruel, inhuman, and degrading treatment.
PEN International calls for the immediate and unconditional release of Poczobut, who is being targeted for his views and writings critical of the Belarusian authorities. Pending his release, Poczobut should immediately be removed from solitary confinement and urgently provided with adequate healthcare, and with all the medication he requires.
Please send appeals to the authorities of Belarus, urging them to:
· Release Poczobut immediately and unconditionally;
· Ensure that, pending his release, he is held in conditions that meet international human rights standards for the treatment of prisoners, including by urgently removing him from solitary confinement, and providing him access to adequate health care, medication and regular communication with his family and lawyers.
Send appeals to:
Role: Head of the Department for the Execution of Punishments of the Ministry of Internal Affairs
Email: [email protected]
Send copies to the Embassy of Belarus in your own country. Embassy addresses may be found here: https://mfa.gov.by/en/bilateral/belarus/?asd50 .
Please reach out to your Ministry of Foreign Affairs and diplomatic representatives in Belarus, calling on them to raise the case of Poczobut in bilateral fora.
***Please send appeals immediately. Check with PEN International if sending appeals after 03 January 2024. ***
Please send messages of solidarity to:
Penal colony No. 1, vulica Techničnaya 8
211440, Navapolack, Belarus
Messages can also be sent via this form.
Please send copies to Aurélia Dondo: [email protected].
PEN members are encouraged to:
· Publish articles and opinion pieces in your national or local press highlighting the case of Poczobut and the state of freedom of expression in Belarus;
· Share information about Poczobut and your campaigning activities via social media.
Please keep PEN International informed of your activities.
Born on 16 April 1973, Andrzej Poczobut is an essayist, journalist, columnist, blogger, poet, and musician. He is a correspondent of Gazeta Wyborcza – a Polish daily newspaper – and works for several Belarusian media outlets. His book System Białoruś (System Belarus), published in 2013, explores President Lukashenko’s grip on Belarus. Poczobut is a prominent Polish-Belarusian minority activist and holds dual citizenship. He has has been the target of the authorities for years, notably receiving a three-year suspended prison sentence in July 2011 for ‘libelling the President’.
A board member of the Union of Poles in Belarus, Poczobut was detained on 25 March 2021 in Hrodna, Western Belarus, after the Union’s offices throughout the country were searched. He was taken to a detention centre in Minsk and charged with inciting hatred in connection with his coverage of 2020 anti-government protests in Belarus, statements he made in support of the Polish minority in Belarus, and his labelling of the Soviet invasion of Poland in 1939 as ‘an act of aggression’. Poczobut was subsequently charged with encouraging sanctions aimed at harming the national security of Belarus in August 2022 and added to the ‘list of individuals involved in terrorist activities’ in October 2022. The Polish authorities repeatedly called for his release, to no avail.
Poczobut was transferred to a pre-trial detention centre in Hrodna in September 2022. His trial opened on 16 January 2023 behind closed doors. He was found guilty and sentenced to eight years in a medium-security penal colony on 8 February 2023. Both PEN Belarus and Polish PEN condemned the verdict. His sentence was upheld on appeal on 26 May 2023. Reports that he had been placed in a ‘punishment cell’ after his transfer to a high-security penal colony prison first emerged in August 2023. On 27 October 2023, the Belarusian Association of Journalists (BAJ) reported that Poczobut remained in solidarity confinement and that he was still being denied heart medication, which he needs to take every day. Prolonged solitary confinement for more than 15 days is a violation of the absolute prohibition of torture and other cruel, inhuman, and degrading treatment.
The political crisis in Belarus that broke out in August 2020 continues unabated, as the authorities keep trampling on the rights to freedom of expression, association, and peaceful assembly. PEN Belarus, which was disolved in August 2021 and operates from Poland, has been systematically documenting cultural and human rights violations against cultural figures since October 2019. Their latest report details 925 instances of violations between January and June 2023. According to the Human Rights Centre Viasna, 1463 people were being held on politically motivated grounds at the time of writing, including PEN Belarus members Ales Bialiatski, Uladzimir Mackievič, Aliaksandr Fiaduta, and Tatsiana Vadalazhskaya.
For more information about the work of PEN Belarus – including their latest reports and monitoring findings – please click here.
For more information about PEN International’s work on Belarus, please click here.
For further details contact Aurélia Dondo, Head of Europe and Central Asia Region at PEN International:
PEN International. (2023, November o3). Belarus: Writer and journalist Andrzej Poczobut denied medication.