MINSK, Belarus—Belarussian human rights activist Valyatsin Stefanovich commented on Tuesday on the arrest of Russian-Israeli travel blogger Alexander Lapshin in Minsk, facing extradition to Baku over his visits to the Nagorno-Karabakh (Artsakh) Republic.
Israeli blogger Alexander Lapshin has been detained on December 15 in Minsk, Belarus by the orders of Azerbaijani authorities for his visits to the Artsakh in 2011, 2012 and 2016.
“Persecution of bloggers is unacceptable regardless of their nationality. As far as I know, Alexander Lapshin has not written anything which could be considered as a threat to a national security,” said Stefanovich. “As a human rights activist, I do not support the actions of a state that hand over a person to a country where he faces persecution. Lapshin’s actions contained no threat to public safety and national security alike, and the decision [about extradition] is wrong.”
Statements calling for the release of Lapshin have been issued by the Committee to Protect Journalists, the Russian Foreign Ministry, Israel, Armenia’s Human Rights Defender’s (Ombudsman) Office, and the Artsakh Foreign Ministry.
Armenian Ombudsman Arman Tatoyan on January 23 met with representatives of the Council of Europe to present Lapshin’s extradition to Baku and other Azerbaijani violations of human rights. Tatoyan during the meeting noted that the “decision on his extradition is of political nature, poses a direct threat to freedom of speech and creates an impermissible precedent.”
Stefanovich noted that if the extradition proceeds, Belarussian authorities should ensure that Lapshin is safe in Baku.
“Bloggers and journalists should be able to visit disputed territories that are considered dark spots, where no international norms are limited. Those kinds of visits are necessary for human rights missions to observe the overall situation in the sphere of human rights which are not often regulated by the norms of the international law,” Stefanovich concluded.