Valiantsin Stefanovic: authorities have another chance to prosecute opposition members
Lawyer and human rights defender Valiantsin Stefanovic comments on a number of suits filed by Hrodna KGB asking to recognize that the seized printed editions are of extremist nature:
“We observe unprecedented processes when the regional Committee for State Security (KGB) appeals to court under the Code of Civic Procedures, asking to recognize the legal fact that some printed editions are extremist. Among the editions on their list there is the Chronicle Review of Human Rights Violations in Belarus”, published by Viasna in 2004. According to the plaintiffs, it contains pictures from the rallies of anti-Belarusian nature: the Freedom Day, the Chernobyl March, Ancestors’ day, and others. The KGB also thinks the Review contains calls to overthrow the regime in an unconstitutional way.
Meanwhile, in 2004, when the draft law "about counteraction to extremism" was still considered by the parliament, we warned the Belarusian society about possible usage of the law against the political opposition and dissidents. Now, in Hrodna, we are actually observing the facts when any kind of criticism, including publishing of human rights materials, is assessed as extremist and containing (although it is still not clear, where) calls to anti-constitutional change of state system.
In our opinion, this is a very dangerous tendency. Although the law does not contain any sanctions and is more of a guiding nature, it still can be logically concluded that if the materials (in our case, the Chronicle Review of Human Rights Violations in Belarus -- 2004) are recognized extremist editions containing calls to overthrow the constitutional system, then their authors might be prosecuted.
We have a criminal article “Calls to overthrow the constitutional system”, which provides for criminal responsibility for such actions. This way, the Belarusian authorities have another chance to prosecute dissidents. Now we need to do everything we can to draw the public attention to these lawsuits. Moreover, we are in the election period at the moment. We should not allow for such a persecution now.