Belarus: sentencing of WHRD Nasta Loika to seven years of imprisonment (joint communication)

The following is based on a communication written by the UN Special Rapporteur on Human Rights Defenders and other UN experts to the Government of Belarus on 6 December 2023. The communication remained confidential for 60 days before being made public, giving the Government time to reply. Regrettably, the Government did not reply within this time frame. If a reply is received it will be posted on the UN Special Procedures communications database.

Nasta Loika is currently serving her seven-year sentence at the Penal Colony No. 4 in Gomel.

This is a shorter version of the original communication.

Read the full communication


Topic: the Supreme Court of Belarus’s decision to sentence woman human rights defender Nasta Loika to seven years of imprisonment.

Ms. Nasta Loika is a woman human rights defender who has been focusing on repressive “anti-extremist” laws, the protection of the rights of migrants and stateless persons and human rights education in Belarus. Ms. Loika previously worked in the human rights organization Human Constanta, which was shut down in 2021. In 2022, the Belarus Human Rights House named Nasta Loika the ‘Woman Human Rights Defender of the Year’.

Ms. Loika was the subject of four previous communications UA BLR (3/2023), AL BLR (7/2022), AL BLR (1/2018), and UA BLR (2/2011).


On 6 September 2022, Ms. Loika was detained for 15 days under “petty hooliganism” charges, a violation under article 19.1 of the Code of Administrative Offences. On 22 September, the Frunzenski District Court of Minsk sentenced her to another 15-day term in detention under the same charges. On 6 October 2022, she was released from jail.

On 28 October 2022, Ms. Loika was detained again in Minsk and on 31 October sentenced to 15 days in detention under the same charges of “petty hooliganism”. On the day of the arrest, a “confession video” featuring Ms. Loika in handcuffs giving unofficial testimony about her engagement in human rights work, including her work with Human Constanta and the fact that she received funding from international organisations to carry out her human rights work, appeared on a Telegram channel. Reportedly, the Main Directorate for Combating Organized Crime and Corruption of the Belarusian Ministry of Internal Affairs (GUBOPiK) has repeatedly extracted such video “confessions” under torture and other ill-treatment or duress from Government critics, activists and human rights defenders.

On 14 November 2022, Ms. Loika was not released after serving her 15-day detention. The alleged reason was that accusations of “petty hooliganism” were brought against her. According to the information received, while in detention, Ms. Loika had been tortured with electric shocks during questioning and that she was left for eight hours in the low temperatures of Akrestina Detention Centre’s courtyard without outerwear, after which she fell ill. In addition, the Akrestina Detention Centre authorities reportedly prevented the delivery of packages from Ms. Loika’s colleagues which contained medicines, personal hygiene products and warm clothing.

On 24 December 2022, Ms. Loika was charged under articles 342(1) of the Criminal Code on the “organization and preparation of actions that grossly violate public order, or active participation in them” and article 130(3) of the Criminal Code on “inciting racial, national, religious or other social enmity or discord”. The basis for these accusations is reportedly connected to her human rights work, including scrutiny of police activities, which the prosecution has described as “inciting enmity” against police officers as “a professional group”, conduct which the prosecution states is a form of extremism.

After the imposition of criminal charges, Ms. Loika was moved from Akrestina Detention Center to Pre-trial Detention Center nb. 1 on Volodarskogo street. Although the conditions in Volodarskogo Detention Center are reportedly better, she has continued to experience degrading conditions while in detention, including a ban on correspondence and inability to keep a vegan based diet as per her personal convictions.

On 20 June 2023, the Minsk City Court found Ms. Loika guilty of “inciting racial, national, religious or other social enmity or discord” under article 130(3) of the Criminal Code and sentenced her to seven years in prison in a closed-door trial. On 3 October 2023, the Supreme Court of Belarus upheld the sentence.

On 13 October 2023, the Belarus Committee for State Security’s (KGB) decision to include Ms. Loika on a list of “persons, participating in terrorist activities” was made public. This designation impacts her ability to receive money transfers while in detention and puts those who try to transfer money to her while she’s in detention at risk of being included on a watch list for people financing terrorism.

Since her detention, Ms. Loika has been systematically denied the exercise of her rights. In addition to the prohibition on her sending or receiving personal correspondence and keeping her vegan diet, she has also been denied access to a dentist despite her requests and medical need for one. Ms. Loika’s defense attorneys were subsequently subjected to various forms of retaliation, including detention and disbarment by the Qualification Commission of the Ministry of Justice. The targeting of human rights lawyers in this way constitutes a systemic violation of the human rights defenders’ rights to legal counsel.


In the communication, we express our serious concern over the arrest, detention and sentencing of Ms. Nasta Loika and the allegations that these were conducted in retaliation for her work as a human rights defender. Noting that Ms Loika has been charged with national security, extremist and terrorist-related offenses, we reiterate our concerns in relation to the Belorussian counter-terrorist and countering extremism legal framework (BLR 2/2021; BLR 3/2022; BLR 3/2023 BLR 4/2023 and BLR 9/2023) which, due to its vague nature and discriminatory application, is susceptible to target citizens for the mere exercise of their human rights and freedoms, including freedom of opinion and expression.

We express further concerns about placing her on the list of “persons participating in terrorist activities”, which can discriminatorily limit her access to support both in pre-trial detention and in prison. We bring to the attention of the Belarus Government that individuals or groups may only be placed on a terrorism watchlist where it is necessary and proportionate in response to an actual, distinct, and measurable terrorist act or threat, following a fair and accountable legal process and subject to effective judicial safeguards (Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms while countering terrorism, Human Rights Principles Applicable to Watchlisting 2000). The underlying definitions of terrorism must also be consistent with those in the terrorism suppression conventions and United Nations Security Council resolution 1566 or be otherwise consistent with international law. We would like to further bring to the Belarus Government’s attention that this list is susceptible to excessively restricting and impairing their enjoyment of rights and freedoms, including the exercise of freedom of expression, opinion, association and assembly, as well as all economic, social and cultural rights.

The judicial harassment of Ms. Loika reflects a wider trend of increased targeting of human rights defenders and civil society by the authorities in Belarus. We are seriously concerned by the general conditions of detention in female prisons in Belarus, and the alleged discrimination against women convicted and imprisoned on politically motivated charges.


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