Persecution: Mass harassment and criminal investigation of the director of the children’s hospice in Hrodna, attempts to close the hospice and leave terminally ill children without medical support and palliative care.
Participants: Our Home, Marta, Belarusian communities in different countries.
- Timeline of events and why we consider this case to be politically motivated.
Volha Vialichka has been working as the director of children’s hospice (a public charitable organization) in Hrodna for 13 years. There are currently 70 terminally ill children at the hospice.
January 2020 – March 2020 – the children’s hospice successfully passed all financial inspections by the Anti-Financial Crime Division of the Oktyabrsky District Police Department in Hrodna as requested by the prosecutor based on an anonymous tip. Inspection was passed successfully, the case was closed, and there were no comments issued about the documents.
March-summer 2020 – Volha Vialichka is helping doctors during the coronavirus epidemic, sewing masks and delivering them to doctors.
On August 9th, 2020, Volha Vialichka serves as an independent observer during the 2020 presidential elections recording falsifications.
Early September 2020 – Volha Vialichka starts receiving threats from her son’s school teacher threatening to “inform all school services and the administration” about having doubts that Volha’s son Mikhail’s “was well cared for by his family.” Volha’s lawyer sent a letter to the school with a request to provide justification for declaring the “doubts”. As a result, Volha had one meeting and several telephone conversations with the head of the school’s social service.
On September 9, 2020, Volha Vialichka is detained during a charity meeting in Hrodna, where she is collecting money for the hospice’s needs (initially, the reason given for the detention was for organizing a mass gathering, then for participating in the September 9th protest, which was not even taking place at that point).
Since September 29, 2020. The school food service, which is subordinate to the Hrodna city executive committee, changed locks. Since then we have had no access to the premises where our valuables and documents are stored. The school food service has banned hospice employees from the premises they are renting and then had the Lenin District school food service change locks (the lease agreement with the hospice expires December 31st).
On October 22, 2020, the hospice received a letter informing it of terminating the lease for the second location at the Children’s Clinic No. 2. Hospice has been renting these premises since 2015, when the building was in a poor state – the floors were just sand. Since then more than 10 000 euros have been collected for repairs, replacing windows and doors, repairing ceilings, floors, walls and electric wiring.
Throughout September 2020 and to the present day, there is an ongoing harassment and defamation and slander campaign against the hospice director. This information is from the regional police executive committee, from border guard body camera recordings. The lawyer made a request to identify the person who disseminates this information. A pro forma response was received, after the legally required deadline, that it was impossible to identify this person. The police refuses to stop the harassment of the hospice director.
On October 15, 2020, Volha Vialichka is placed in a temporary detention facility, without any official justification documents, for participating in a charity event on September 9. A trial is held on October 16, 2020 and a fine of 15 penalty units is issued.
On October 22, 2020, the hospice’s premises are searched, documents, computers and director’s notes are seized. The Financial Investigations Department starts reviewing the hospice’s tax records and seizes its documents. The lawyers now aren’t even able to read the lease agreement that the other side wants to terminate with the hospice; they will have to ask the property owner for it. Inspections concern timeframes and issues that have already been subject to previous inspections where no violations were found.
In November 2020, the Hrodna Region Financial Investigations Department opens a criminal investigation of Volha Vialichka for embezzlement, but so far produces no evidence of objects and amounts of embezzlement.
On November 9, 2020, the Economic Disputes Court sends a notice of lease termination for the premises in Pyshki, and the Lenin District School Food Service requests a payment for the use of the premises (a fine of 1 671.50 BYR) that they themselves changed the locks to.
- What kind of help, support and solidarity do we expect from you?
2.1. From the UN structures (Committee on the Rights of the Child, Special Rapporteurs and the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights): We are requesting allegation letters and inquiries addressed to Alexander Lukashenko, the Belarusian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Chairman of the Hrodna Regional Executive Committee Uladzimir Karanik, the management of the Financial Investigations Department with a request to clarify the situation around the children’s hospice in Hrodna and the criminal case of its director Volha Vyalichka.
2.2. From the European Parliament:
2.2.1. Letters to the structures of the European Union, including Josep Borrell, as well as resolutions demanding an immediate end to the pressure put on the children’s hospice in Hrodna, on the children and their parents, as well as on the director of the hospice Volha Vialichka including the closing of all criminal cases and the persecution of Volha’s family.
2.2.2. Include on the individual sanctions lists the officials, investigators and employees of law enforcement agencies personally responsible for persecuting the children’s hospice in Hrodna, children at the hospice, as well as the director of the hospice Volha Vyalichka.
2.2.3. Stop/freeze all the projects funded by the European Union in the Hrodna region unless the pressure on Volha Vyalichka, her family, the children’s hospice in Hrodna, as well as the children at the hospice stops by December 10, 2020.
2.2.4. From Amnesty International: announce an Urgent Action regarding the situation around the children’s hospice in Hrodna and the criminal proceedings against Volha Vyalichka, and use all available mechanisms and diplomatic channels to protect Volha, the children’s hospice in Hrodna and the children at the hospice, to ensure that the criminal case against Olga is closed by December 10, 2020.
2.4 From the Belarusian diasporas:
2.4.1. Draw up petitions and appeals to different institutions and translate them into different languages (indicating the names and contacts of the addressees so other people can join).
2.4.2. Meet with politicians in their respective countries, as well as with ministries of foreign affairs and journalists to discuss the situation around the children’s hospice in Hrodna and to ask to put pressure on Lukashenko’s regime.
2.4.3 Conduct a series of pickets and solidarity rallies with the children’s hospice in Hrodna near Belarusian embassies as well as near ministries of foreign affairs in their respective countries in order to draw attention to the situation around the children’s hospice and the criminal investigation of Volha.
2.4.4. Prepare petition letters demanding to close the criminal investigation of the director of the children’s hospice Volha Vyalichka and of the children’s hospice and send it to the Chairman of the Hrodna Regional Executive Committee Uladzimir Karanik (firstname.lastname@example.org), the Hrodna City Executive Committee (email@example.com; firstname.lastname@example.org), the Head of the Main Department of Justice of the Hrodna Regional Executive Committee Yalena Yurgel (email@example.com), the Head of the Financial Investigations Department of the Hrodna City Executive Committee Siarhei Vyshankou (firstname.lastname@example.org; email@example.com).
2.4.5. If the criminal investigation of the director of the children’s hospice Volha Vialichka is not closed by December 10, 2020, help us start a large-scale anti-corruption campaign against Uladzimir Karanik, the former Minister of Health, the current head of the Hrodna region, personally responsible for falsifying the COVID-19 statistics, and for persecuting the director of the children’s hospice Volha Vyalichka; additionally, help us make all the information about Karanik’s corruption including corruption in which his relatives are involved as public as possible.
2.4.6. Ensure maximum distribution of the petitions and letters, including the website of Our House Hospice and other partner websites so that interested people can sign and send them.
2.4.7. Contact journalists and media in their respective countries and make the situation around the children’s hospice in Hrodna known; help organize interviews and access to media for Volha Vyalichka, the director of the children’s hospice in Hrodna.
Goals and objectives of the campaign to protect the children’s hospice in Hrodna.
- End criminal investigation of and pressure put on the director of the children’s hospice in Hrodna Volha Vialichka and her family by December 10, 2020.
- If the criminal case and pressure do not end by December 10, 2020, start a large anti-corruption campaign against Uladzimir Karanik and his corruption schemes in the Ministry of Health, as well as against his relatives.
- If the criminal case is not closed and pressure does not end by December 10, 2020, start a campaign to include the persons guilty of exerting pressure and harassment of the children’s hospice and its director in Hrodna on the personal sanctions list.