Human rights organizations call to release six persons convicted of defamation offenses

2021 2021-07-27T11:01:18+0300 2021-07-27T15:54:54+0300 en http://spring96.org/files/images/sources/telegtam_illustr.jpeg The Human Rights Center “Viasna” The Human Rights Center “Viasna”
The Human Rights Center “Viasna”

Joint statement by representatives of the Belarusian human rights community

Minsk – July 27, 2021

In response to the new cases of conviction and imprisonment of individuals under a number of defamatory articles of the Criminal Code, as well as on charges of insulting the state symbols, we, representatives of the Belarusian human rights community, once again reaffirming our repeated calls to decriminalize defamation and refrain from imprisoning individuals for insulting officials, the state, state bodies and symbols (joint statement dated December 22, 2020), we note the following:

We have received information about the following persons imprisoned for insulting the president, government officials (police officers), judges and desecration of state symbols, as well as the use of other permissible forms of expression:

Maksim Zhaliaznou – sentenced to 1 year and 6 months of restricted freedom in an open correctional facility (“khimiya”) under Art. 369 of the Criminal Code (insulting a representative of the authorities); the convict has been sent to serve the sentence;

Maksim Shaulinski – sentenced to 2 years of restricted freedom in an open correctional facility (“khimiya”) under Art. 188 of the Criminal Code (libel); the convict has been sent to serve the sentence;

Henadz Kaziuchyts – sentenced to 2 years of restricted freedom in an open correctional facility (“khimiya”) under Art. 369 of the Criminal Code (insulting a representative of the authorities); the convict has been sent to serve the sentence;

Ivan Kurylenka – sentenced to 3 years of restricted freedom in an open correctional facility (“khimiya”) under Art. 369 (insulting a representative of the authorities) and Art. 188 of the Criminal Code (libel); the convict has been sent to serve the sentence;

Andrei Hryva – sentenced to 3 years in a penal colony under Art. 369 (insulting a representative of the authorities), Art. 391 (insulting a judge or lay judge) and Art. 368 of the Criminal Code (insulting the president);

Uladzimir Aliakseyeu – sentenced to 3 years of restricted freedom in an open correctional facility (“khimiya”) under Art. 369 (insulting a representative of the authorities), Art. 391 (insulting a judge or lay judge) and Art. 188 of the Criminal Code (libel); the convict has been sent to serve the sentence.

In this regard, we consider their persecution and imprisonment to be politically motivated, as they are related to the peaceful exercise of expression. The convicts are therefore political prisoners in accordance with paragraph 3.1 (a) of the Guidelines on the Definition of Political Prisoners.

We call on the Belarusian authorities to:

  • immediately release political prisoners Maksim Zhaliaznou, Maksim Shaulinski, Henadz Kaziuchyts, Ivan Kurylenka, Andrei Hryva and Uladzimir Aliakseyeu and end criminal prosecution against them;
  • take measures aimed at decriminalizing defamatory offenses and abolishing 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 Republic Belarus, and terminate all previously initiated criminal cases under these articles;
  • immediately release all political prisoners and stop political repression.

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