Peace Activist Olga Karach Was Sentenced to 12 Years in Prison Due to Her Human Rights Activities

On July 8, 2024, Brest Regional Court announced the verdict in the case of human rights defender Olga Karach, head of the International Center for civil initiatives “Our House” (Nash Dom). Olga Karach is accused of “conspiracy to seize power by unconstitutional means“ (part 1 of Article 357 of the Belarusian Criminal Code); “promotion of extremist activity” (part 1 and part 2 of Article 361-4 of the Belarusian Criminal Code); “discrediting the Republic of Belarus” (Article 369-1 of the Criminal Code). Together with her, Veranika Tsepkala, Yauhen Vilski, Anatoli Kotau and Vadzim Dzmitrenak received 12 years in prison each and fines. 


The decision announced on July 8 in the Brest Regional Court creates an extremely worrying situation for the security of Olga Karach and her organization International Center for Civil Initiatives “Our House” (Nash Dom), which supports war resisters and conscientious objectors in Belarus as part of the #ObjectWarCampaign network. This decision of the court reinforces the threat to the security of peace activists and human rights defenders in Belarus. This concerning situation has also been highlighted last week by the UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Belarus, during her report to the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva. 


Karach, through her organization ‘Our House’, carries out numerous activities defending human rights and advocating the right to conscientious objection to military service in Belarus. She is also supporting Belarusian citizens who have fled to other countries to avoid military service in Belarus and possible military activities in support of the illegal Russian aggression to Ukraine. Because of these activities she has been subject to multiple prosecutions and even the risk of deportation from Lithuania where she is currently seeking protection. Apart from the decision announced on July 8, she is also waiting for the decisions in other two cases in which she is tried. Karach stated that she expects death penalty or 25 years in prison in one of these cases. This clearly shows the risks that Belarusian human rights defenders are exposed to. 


Olga Karach is being threatened, tried and punished for her peace work and it is simply unacceptable!  The European Bureau for Conscientious Objection (EBCO), War Resisters’ International (WRI), the International Fellowship of Reconciliation (IFOR), and Connection e.V. stand in solidarity with the human rights defender Olga Karach and will continue to follow her case closely.  


Pressenza IPA