International campaign to release MARIA KOLESNIKOVA, a human rights defender and Board Member of Disability Council International
24 January 2022 

MARIA KOLESNIKOVA, a human rights defender and Board member of Disability Council International was abducted in September 2020, placed in a car in an attempt to force an exile upon her, but at the border with Ukraine, she resisted the forced deportation from her own country, ripped up her passport and returned to Belarus. Maria KOLESNIKOVA was then jailed without formal accusation, and held incommunicado for a year. 

But following continued massive protests and wide international outcry, in August 2021 the authorities were compelled to bring MARIA KOLESNIKOVA to a fake kangaroo justice trial that lasted less than a month and in which she was handed a sentence of 11 years in prison! 
Needless to say, the whole process was a mockery and perversion of justice, based on false accusations, only typical of despotic regimes, where the sentences are already imposed, even before the start of the criminal proceedings (not surprisingly, the trials were held in secret, out of the sight of the public).

MARIA KOLESNIKOVA has committed no crime. Never used force or appealed to use force against the authorities. Her only weapons were: her flute; second, her moral dissenting voice on behalf of the people of Belarus, on behalf of persons with disabilities in Belarus; and third, her act of ripping up her passport to resist a forced exile that the authorities wanted to impose upon her (as the authorities did already with other leaders) (however, none of these is a criminal offense in any democratic nation of the world).

Release MARIA KOLSNIKOVA immediately and now!

MARIA KOLESNIKOVA should be released immediately and unconditionally (no more requirement to accept forced exile and no more requirement to silence human rights abuse, including against persons with disabilities, some of whom, were also jailed, and their ONGs closed by the Belarusian regime for participating in the democratic rallies that MARIA KOLESNIKOVA has led).

MARIA KOLESNIKOVA is turning 40 years old in the coming 24 April 2022, she should be released before that important milestone in her life to celebrate her 40th birthday together with her family members, friends and colleagues (after spending one and half year in illegal incarceration under inhuman conditions threatening her health).

Mr. Lukashenko release MARIA KOLESNIKOVA immediately and now and let Belarus join the Community of democratic nations, to which Belarus authorities claim incessantly to belong.
We are appealing to the government of Belarus, but also to international institutions, such as the UN, EU, Council of Europe to pressure Mr. Lukashenko to release MARIA KOLESNIKOVA immediately!

 Release MARIA KOLESNIKOVA immediately and now!

Please participate in this campaign by appealing to governments and international institutions for the release of MARIA KOLESNIKOVA a human rights defender jailed in Belarus after a fake kangaroo justice trial and false accusations, by 24 April 2022, the latest, the day MARIA KOLESNIKOVA turns 40 years old!

Please find an extended flyer below and circulate it widely:

The 1948 UN Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) - Easy reading illustrated text available here: (English) (Russian). (It binds Belarus as all countries of the world as an embodiment and expression of universally recognized customary international human rights law, which means, the UDHR is the minimum common denominator for all countries in terms of protection and granting human rights for citizens, below which no country is allowed to fall. Its provisions, therefore, override any contrary national legislation (because, in this case, that contrary legislation would be below that minimum accepted by all country-members of the Community of nations as binding), in any country of the world, including Belarus). (Relevant articles: 5, 8, 9,10, 11 (1), 19, 20 (1), 21 (3), 29 (2), 30).

a) The question sometimes arises therefore as to what to do if a country persists in its human rights violations? i.e. in violating that minimum that binds and brings all members of the Community of nations together in a sound system of international relations based on the rule of law? 
In this case, other members of the community of nations are entitled to apply lawful coercive measures of self-help (not involving the use of armed force (see below end section in italics on when this can be used))* intended to bring the breakaway country back into the system of international relations based on rule of law. 
What are these coercive measures, not involving the use of armed force, that can be used legally against rogue breakaway countries? These measures include: economic sanctions (that can increase in intensity if violations persist); expelling diplomats; cessation of diplomatic relations completely; cessation of economic relations completely. These coercive measures will continue and increase in intensity until the breakaway country ceases its human rights violations and returns to the system of international relations based on mutually agreed minimum common denominator binding rule of law.

Therefore, the measures that the European Union nations and other countries have taken and are taking against the Belarus regime are lawful and can and should be increased in intensity until the Belarusian authorities release MARIA KOLESNIKOVA from this unlawful incarceration, where she is held incommunicado one and a half year, and under other inhuman conditions threatening her health, following a kangaroo justice fake and unlawful secret trial.
Note that criminal trials in order to be legal, cannot completely be held secret, out of the public sight (the so-called 'state security' is never a valid excuse to hide criminal trials from the public, conduct secret trials), only some parts of it can be out of the public sight, yes, when this is needed to protect the identity of sensitive witnesses (but even in these cases, the public should be able to read the testimony itself, and only the face or the voice of the witness should be blurred to avoid recognition of the witness); or sensitive exhibits (yet the public should also still be able to see the exhibit itself, only the relevant sensitive parts should be redacted or removed).  

Consequently, the whole criminal proceedings cannot be declared secret, out of public sight. 
This is awfully illegal as a blatant denial of elementary justice, and the accused should be released immediately, even if alone on the ground of this fundamental principle of criminal justice that was violated. (Secrecy of criminal proceedings invalidates the whole process ab initio!) So fundamental and universal, the principle and norm of publicity of criminal trials (not to be confounded with physical presence in the courtroom, that can be denied to press and public to avoid potential disturbances (see below clarification)!) is, that it admits of no exception, in particular, there is no such exception as 'state security' to this principle (article 29 (2) read in combination with article 30 UDHR). In these public order/security related cases, only sensitive information can be withheld from the public sight, but the whole process cannot be hidden (kept secret), in order to be legal, otherwise, everything is invalidated and the accused released immediately!) (Note that the principle of publicity of criminal trials was introduced exactly to make it clear, among others, that excuses such as 'state security' are not acceptable as a ground to hide abusive criminal fake trials based on fake evidence of misconduct, from public scrutiny). 
 In this connection a distinction should be made between secret trials (out of the public sight) (which was MARIA KOLESNIKOVA's case) and trials without the physical presence of the press or public (done in order to avoid potential disorder or interruption of the actual court proceedings, something that the court may decided in a democratic society). In the latter case (denial of physical presence of the press and public in a courtroom), the public still has access to the trial material itself (they can follow/read the trial transcripts and records) (from which only sensitive information should be removed or redacted (thus only physical sitting in the actual courtroom is prevented, for public order/security related reasons, but not in order to hide kangaroo justice fake trials (because the judges know it is a fake trial), when the sentence is already decided in consultation with the government and the President (even before the start of the court proceedings), in blatant denial of the presumption of innocence of an accused, until guilt is proved in court with sufficient evidence of intent) (articles 5, 8,9, 10,11 (1), 29 (2), 30 UDHR). 

The criminal trial of MARIA KOLESNIKOVA was held in secret, out of the public sight (which means, without the public having access to the actual trial material (not a question of being blocked physical access into the courtroom, which courts can decide for public order/security reasons to avoid potential disturbance of court proceedings). But access to trial records/transcripts is important for fair trials (the principle of publicity of trial proceedings is there to ensure this), so that people in general are given to understand the reasoning (with which evidence), the court came to its conclusion to sentence MARIA KOLESNIKOVA to 11 years in prisons!), therefore, for its secrecy (lack of access to trial transcripts/records, but not for lack of physical access to courtrooms), it is roundly illegal (even if alone for that reason). She should be released immediately and now! And the whole fake proceedings that led to her unlawful sentencing to 11 years in prison, in such a secret way, declared null and void ab initio! (articles 5, 8, 9, 10, 11 (1), 29 (2), 30 UDHR).

b) A second important question arises about what are these coercive measures of self-help (how are they legitimate) taken by members of the Community of nations against breakaway countries violators.
 To explain this, an analogy is invited here. Imagine the Community of nations as a sport competition (soccer or handball etc.), where two teams are disputing a game. There are rules that need to be respected. For those who violate those rules for example, a referee exists that may show them a yellow card (warning) or a red card (expulsion from the pitch).
In the Community of nations, the rules exist, but the referee is missing to punish violators. So the States themselves adopt those rules and should also collectively or individually enforce those rules towards those its members violating them.

The fundamental human rights norms embodied in the UDHR, that minimum common denominator that binds the Community of nations together, can also be seen as the blood in the human body. If one part bleeds, all the other parts of the human body have an interest in stopping that bleeding (that open wound), otherwise the whole human body will run out of blood.

In international law the right that all countries have to enforce the UDHR stems from the so-called obligation erga omnes that each country including Belarus has towards the rest of the Community of nations. That obligation of Belarus to respect the minimum common denominator rule of law enshrined in the UDHR, creates the corresponding right for other members of the Community of nations to take collectively or individually coercive measures of self-help against Belarus (for violating that minimum), because they all have an interest in the rule's preservation in the Community of nations, by each and all its members. 

In this case, Belarus is the bleeding part, the open wound, in the Community's body of nations, (and the other members of the Community of nations - the other parts of this Community's body of nations). So no one should be indifferent regarding what is happening in Belarus, because as in the human body, the bleeding, the open wound (the violations of human rights), if allowed to continue like this, it will end up draining all the blood out of the human body (out of the Community of nations). So it should be stopped (the open wound should be closed) and cured. Coercive measures of self-help are therefore invited to be taken by all nations individually or collectively to stop those human rights abuses and violations in Belarus (that open wound in the Community's body of nations) that threatens the interests of each individual member and the community of nations as a whole.

The sanctions being implemented against Belarus by European Union nations, USA and other countries are then the remedies necessary to cure the bleeding (the open wound) which is Belarus in the Community of nations, to force its return as a healthy full member back into the Community of nations, from which it has fallen off (red card) by its acts of violations of the fundamental norms of customary human rights law (which are of an erga omnes nature, embodied in the UDHR). 
How did Belarus violate these norms?
i) by attempting an unlawful forced exile on MARIA KOLESNIKOVA (Article 9 UDHR);
ii) by unlawfully arresting and detaining MARIA KOLESNIKOVA incommunicado in inhuman and degrading conditions for a year without a formal indictment (articles 5, 9 UDHR);
iii) by unlawfully attempting, in this way, to silence her people's voice (in demand of new fair elections under UN supervision, following the rigged elections in which Mr. Lukashenko is attempting to extend his 27-year grid on power (longest in the world right now!), against people's will (articles 19, 20 (1), 21 (3) UDHR);
iv) and by staging an unlawful kangaroo justice fake and secret trial against MARIA KOLESNIKOVA (articles 5, 8,9,10, 11 (1), 19, 20 (1), 21 (3), 29 (2), 30 UDHR).

*[When can the use of armed force be allowed as a lawful coercive measure of self-help against human rights violations? When these human rights violations are of such a magnitude as to amount to the crime of genocide or crimes against humanity (when for example arms of mass destruction such as chemical, biological or nuclear weapons are used). In these cases, other country-members of the Community of nations are entitled to use including armed force to bring the breakaway country back into the Community of nations that is based on mutually agreed minimum common denominator binding rule of law, from which that country has fallen off by its unspeakable human rights violations amounting to genocide or crimes against humanity or both 

Human rights violations amounting to isolated war crimes certainly give a right to the so-called actio popularis, (the right that any other member of the Community of nations has to demand that these crimes are stopped and justice is done, irrespective of where the crimes are committed and who the victims or perpetrators are) (to have jus standi). Because any member of the Community of nations has an interest to see that the erga omens minimum human rights rules of conduct binding and keeping all members together in a smoothly functioning system of international relations are respected everywhere by everyone, and with regard to everyone). However, coercive measures of self-help to involve armed force may be used generally (unless the UN Security Council decides otherwise) only, if these crimes also amount to genocide or crimes against humanity on account of their magnitude, because they are part and parcel of the execution of those heinous crimes of genocide and crimes against humanity, shocking the general conscience of humanity in totto (otherwise, other coercive measures of self-help (such as providing help with military equipment and sanctions (economic, diplomatic), suspension of membership in international organizations are more appropriate in these cases of isolated war crimes)].  

More information on this dramatic case of MARIA KOLESNIKOVA in the links below on our website and Facebook:

Some video sources on the events: 

A short bio information on MARIA KOLESNIKOVA, find here:

Let's say it loudly together:


Anna Lachowska
Disability Council International
Tel: +41774032345