Urgent Action: Young Prisoners’ Health at Growing Risk (Belarus: UA 44.20)
April 1, 2020
Vladislav Sharkovsky and Emil Ostrovko were imprisoned in 2018, both at the age of 17, for a minor, non-violent drug offense. Like many young people in Belarus, they should not be in prison in the first place. Their health is poor, and with the spread of COVID-19, they and many prisoners face a growing risk.
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President of Belarus Due to postal restrictions caused by COVID-19, please only send physical mail to the Embassy Fax: +375 17 226 06 10
+375 17 222 38 72
Email: [email protected]
Ambassador Dmitry Basik Embassy of Belarus
1619 New Hampshire Ave NW, Washington DC 20009
Phone: 202 986 9420 I Fax: 202 986 1805
Email: [email protected]
Salutation: Dear Ambassador
Vladislav Sharkovsky and Emil Ostrovko are two of the many young people in Belarus who were arrested as children and have been imprisoned for minor, non-violent drug-related offenses, and whose cases have been a growing matter of concern in the country and internationally.
Vladislav and Emil have serious health issues. Emil is suffering from chronic asthma. Vladislav was a healthy teenager before his arrest but during his imprisonment his health has deteriorated – he has developed a persistent and recurring cough, flashes and floaters in his vision, and deep vein thrombosis. According to his mother, on 9 March 2020 he complained of a stomach ache in the morning and later that day fainted at mealtime. He was given an injection but the stomach ache persisted, and the prison medical staff did not give him any information about his ailment.
With the rapid spread of COVID-19, their health and lives, as well as those of numerous other prisoners are at risk. States have a duty to review the need for continued custodial detention and should consider if the current pandemic qualifies prisoners for early or conditional release or other alternative non-custodial measures. The authorities should take into account individual circumstances and the risks posed to groups at risk, such as those with serious medical conditions and those with a weakened immune systems.
I urge you to consider without delay and approve an early or conditional release for Vladislav and Emil, as they are at heightened risk of becoming severely ill due to COVID-19; implement a process to promptly review the need for continued custodial detention of all prisoners in Belarus who are at heightened risk due to COVID-19, including people with pre-existing medical conditions; and review the country’s anti-drug policy and end the practice of imprisoning children for minor, non-violent drug-related offenses under Article 328, and take measures to release all children and young people who were children at the time of the offense.