Seven convicts in defamation and flag desecration trials called political prisoners

2021 2021-02-10T17:37:22+0300 2021-02-10T17:37:23+0300 en http://spring96.org/files/images/sources/protesty_gomel_den_vosmoy12.jpg The Human Rights Center “Viasna” The Human Rights Center “Viasna”
The Human Rights Center “Viasna”

Minsk – February 10, 2021

In response to the growing number of convictions, including terms of imprisonment, on charges of defamation and desecration of national symbols, we, representatives of the Belarusian human rights community, once again reaffirm our demands to decriminalize defamation and refrain  from imposing custodial sentences for insulting officials, the state, government agencies and national symbols (see joint statement of December 22, 2020), and note the following.

We have received information about the following persons imprisoned for insulting officials, the president, judges and desecrating state symbols:

Illia Smolski, sentenced by the Lieninski District Court of Brest to one year of restricted freedom (so-called “khimiya”) under Art. 370 of the Criminal Code (desecration of state symbols). The convict has been sent to serve the sentence in an open penal facility.

Uladzimir Shynkevich, sentenced in a closed trial at the Orša District Court to one year and three months in prison under part 1 of Art. 368 of the Criminal Code (insulting the President of the Republic of Belarus).

Uladzimir Niapomniashchykh, officially charged and arrested under Art. 366 (threat of violence against an official in connection with the performance of official duties) and Art. 369 of the Criminal Code (insult of an official). He is in the pre-trial detention center in Homieĺ.

Uladzimir Mikhalka, officially charged and arrested under part 1 of Art. 368 of the Criminal Code (insulting the President of the Republic of Belarus). He is in the pre-trial detention center in Homieĺ.

Mikhail Hladysh, sentenced by the Pieršamajski District Court of Viciebsk to two years of restricted freedom (so-called “khimiya”) under Art. 369 of the Criminal Code (insult of an official). The convict has been sent to serve the sentence in an open penal facility.

Heorhi Vasilenka, sentenced by the Centraĺny District Court of Homieĺ to two years of restricted freedom (so-called “khimiya”) under Part 1 of Art. 339 (hooliganism; in reality, desecrating the state flag). The convict has been sent to serve the sentence in an open penal facility.

Valadar Tsurpanau, sentenced by the Mahilioŭ District Court to three years of restricted freedom (so-called “khimiya”) under Art. 391 of the Criminal Code (insulting a judge or lay judge). The convict was has been to serve the sentence in an open penal facility.

We consider the persecution and imprisonment of Illia Smolski, Uladzimir Shynkevich, Uladzimir Niapomniashchykh, Uladzimir Mikhalka, Mikhail Hladysh, Heorhi Vasilenka, and Valadar Tsurpanau to be politically motivated, as they are linked to their peaceful exercise of freedom of expression. The convicts are therefore political prisoners, according to para. 3.1 (a) of the Guidelines for the Definition of Political Prisoners.

We call on the Belarusian authorities to:

  • immediately release political prisoners Illia Smolski, Uladzimir Shynkevich, Uladzimir Niapomniashchykh, Uladzimir Mikhalka, Mikhail Hladysh, Heorhi Vasilenka, and Valadar Tsurpanau and overturn their criminal convictions;
  • take measures aimed at decriminalizing defamation offenses and repealing articles of the Criminal Code that provide for liability for insulting the state, state symbols and officials, namely Articles 188, 189, 367, 368, 369, 369-1, 370, and 391 of the Criminal Code of the Code of the Republic of Belarus, and to drop all criminal cases opened on these charges;
  • immediately release all political prisoners and put an end to political repression in the country.

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