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Serbia: Stop the Extradition of Andrej Hniot to Belarus

Last update: 18 June 2024
Serbia: Stop the Extradition of Andrej Hniot to Belarus

On 31 May 2024, the Belgrade High Court ordered the extradition of Belarusian filmmaker and co-founder of the “Free Association of Athletes SOS-BY”, Andrej Hniot, from Serbia to Belarus, where he faces serious risks of torture and other forms of ill-treatment. FIDH, its Belarusian member organization Viasna and the undersigned organizations express their grave concern about this decision and urgently call on the Serbian authorities to halt Hniot’s extradition to Belarus, which would violate Serbia’s human rights obligations. 

Paris, Vilnius, 14 June 2024. On 31 May, the Belgrade High Court ruled that Andrej Hniot, a Belarusian filmmaker, activist and co-founder of the “Free Association of Athletes SOS-BY”, an organization founded in 2020 by Belarusian athletes to protest against the rigged presidential elections in the country and labeled as an “extremist formation” by the Belarusian authorities in 2022, could be extradited from Serbia to Belarus.

Andrej Hniot was arrested upon his arrival in Belgrade, Serbia, in October 2023, based on an Interpol arrest warrant issued at the request of the Belarusian authorities, allegedly for tax evasion (Article 243(2) of the Belarusian Criminal Code). Hniot and his lawyers argue that these charges are fabricated and politically motivated, and were introduced by the Belarusian authorities in retaliation for his activist activities. On 21 February 2024, the Secretariat of the Commission for the Control of Interpol’s Files notified Hniot’s lawyers as a precautionary measure that access to his profile data has been provisionally blocked.

After spending about seven months in a Serbian detention facility, Hniot was placed under house arrest on 6 June 2024. On 31 May 2024, the Belgrade High Court ruled in favor of his extradition to Belarus. Hniot’s defense team has three days to appeal this decision​.

The extradition to Belarus poses significant threats to Andrej Hniot’s life and health. In addition to grave and consistent violations of fair trial rights in Belarus, leading to politically motivated trials, almost no access to independent lawyers and disproportionate sentences, political prisoners face torture and ill-treatment in Belarusian detention facilities, which are notorious for their brutal conditions. As documented by numerous human rights organizations, as well as the OHCHR examination of the human rights situation in Belarus and the UN Special Rapporteur for Belarus, detainees imprisoned on politically motivated charges are subjected to systematic harassment and ill-treatment, including the unjustified, prolonged and repeated placement in punishment cells, including “punitive isolation cells” (SHIZO), where they face isolation and incommunicado detention. They are regularly denied access to medical care, lawyers, and family visits. In correctional colonies, inmates have also been subjected to forced labor.

In Belarus, Andrej Hniot could face up to seven years of imprisonment for tax evasion. Additionally, the Belarusian authorities could potentially charge Hniot with the creation of or participation in an “extremist formation”, punishable with up to ten years of imprisonment under the Belarusian Criminal Code.

As a State party to the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR), the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) and the UN Convention against Torture (UNCAT), Serbia is obliged to adhere to principles prohibiting the extradition of individuals to countries where they face the torture or cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment​ or punishment. In particular, under Article 3 of the ECHR, States may not extradite an individual to a country where “substantial grounds have been shown for believing that the person in question, if removed, would face a real risk of being subjected to treatment contrary to Article 3 in the receiving country.” This involves a “rigorous” assessment of whether the general situation in the destination country and the personal circumstances of the applicant might expose them to torture or other forms of ill-treatment.

As of 13 June 2024, 1,397 people in Belarus have been recognized as political prisoners by Viasna, and hundreds of thousands have been forced to flee the country due to political persecution. Currently, the extradition of almost every Belarusian national who fled the country as a result of the brutal crackdown of the Belarusian authorities following the peaceful protests against the falsified 2020 presidential elections puts them at an immediate risk of politically motivated persecution.

In light of the grave human rights violations in Belarus, many of which might amount to crimes against humanity, the undersigned organizations urgently call on the Serbian higher instance court to thoroughly assess the circumstances of Andrej Hniot’s case and not to extradite him to Belarus, where he faces substantial risks of torture and other ill-treatment.

They also call on the international community to uphold their human rights obligations under the ICCPR, UNCAT and other international or regional human rights treaties, which prohibit the extradition of individuals if they face risks of torture or other ill-treatment in the destination country, including in Belarus.

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PEN Belarus

Viasna Human Rights Centre

The Barys Zvozskau Belarusian Human Rights House

European Exchange 

The International Bar Association’s Human Rights Institute (IBAHRI)

Italian Federation for Human Rights (FIDU)

Human Rights House Foundation (HRHF)

Libereco Germany

Libereco Switzerland

Norwegian Helsinki Committee


People in Need


Chabor Association (Таварыства “Чабор”)


PEN Armãn

Telegram channel Holy Belawood (Тэлеграм-канал “Свяшчэнны Белавуд”)

Tutaka Foundation (Fundacja Tutaka)

Talaka – Friends of Belarus in Denmark

PEN Netherlands

PEN International

Artists at Risk Connection (ARC)