Rock-solid plea: Don’t send Bi-2 back to Russia, urges Human Rights Watch director (video)

Picture courtesy of Andrea DiCenzo.

A Human Rights Watch director pleaded with the Thai authorities not to deport a Russian rock band back to their homeland.

Elaine Pearson, the Asia Director of the Human Rights Watch division, revealed that the Russian-Belarusian rock band Bi-2 faces persecution for their outspoken public criticism of the Russian government if Thailand deports them back home.

The Thai police arrested the band for allegedly performing a concert without the proper work authorisations. Subsequently, they were transferred to an immigration detention centre pending deportation. Pearson wasted no time in demanding the release of the band, which was formed in 1988 in Bobruisk, Belarus.

“The Thai authorities should immediately release the detained members of Bi-2 and allow them to go on their way,

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“Under no circumstances should they be deported to Russia, where they could face arrest or worse for their outspoken criticisms of Russian President Vladimir Putin and Russia’s war in Ukraine.”

The lineup of Bi-2 comprises seven members, including Russian citizens and dual nationals from Russia, Israel, and Australia.

Bi-2 took to Facebook, on Sunday, January 28, to reveal that Thai police had detained them on January 24, shortly after their performance in Phuket, southern Thailand. Allegedly, the police cited inadequate legal permits for their performance and confiscated their passports.

On January 25, following a night in a Phuket detention facility, the band faced trial. The court levied a fine, which they promptly paid. Bi-2 lamented the lack of an interpreter during their encounters with the police and in court, claiming they couldn’t comprehend the Thai-language court documents related to their case.

Subsequently, the group was transferred from Phuket to an immigration detention centre in Bangkok, where they await deportation to their respective countries.

The Russian government perceives Bi-2 as a national security threat. Maria Zakharova, the Russian Foreign Ministry spokesperson, insinuated that the band had allegedly denounced Russia and expressed support for Ukraine.

In July 2022, a Russian Parliament member accused the band of “discrediting [the Russian] military” and urged the Federal Security Service to investigate their “anti-Russian stance” and attempts at “discrediting” Russia.

In May 2023, Russia’s Justice Ministry labelled Bi-2’s frontman, Egor Bortnik (stage name: Leva), a “foreign agent” for opposing Russia’s actions in Ukraine and making negative statements about the country and its authorities.

Bi-2 contended in their statement that “external [Russian] pressures significantly contributed to our detention,” citing retaliation for their creativity, views, and stance.

While it remains uncertain if Russian authorities have sought the band’s forcible return, amidst escalating repression in Russia, authorities have employed transnational repression to target activists and critics abroad.

As a signatory to the United Nations Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment, Thailand is legally bound not to deport individuals facing the threat of torture. Thailand’s Act on Prevention and Suppression of Torture and Enforced Disappearances, enacted in February 2023, codifies this obligation domestically, forbidding the expulsion of individuals at risk of torture or mistreatment.

Human Rights Watch emphasised that the Thai government must not deport any band members to Russia. Doing so would likely subject them to arbitrary arrest, detention, mistreatment, politically motivated charges, and unfair trials, reported

Pearson underscored the gravity of the situation, expressing concern that Russian authorities seek retribution against these artists for their dissent.

“The Thai government should not sanction the deportation of these activists to a place where persecution awaits.”

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Bob Scott

Bob Scott is an experienced writer and editor with a passion for travel. Born and raised in Newcastle, England, he spent more than 10 years in Asia. He worked as a sports writer in the north of England and London before relocating to Asia. Now he resides in Bangkok, Thailand, where he is the Editor-in-Chief for The Thaiger English News. With a vast amount of experience from living and writing abroad, Bob Scott is an expert on all things related to Asian culture and lifestyle.

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