White-red-white flag is not subject to criminal prosecution
Statement by the Human Rights Center ‘Viasna’
On 20 April 2010 Vitsebsk Kastrychnitski Court is due to consider the criminal case initiated against a member of the Conservative Christian Party BPF Siarhei Kavalenka, following an incident on 7 January 2010, when Mr. Kavalenka placed a Belarusian historical and national white-red-white flag on top of Vitsebsk’s main New Year Tree. Mr. Kavalenka was arrested by the police, who used violence against him.
He was charged with ‘disorderly conduct’ (Paragraph 1 of Article 339 of the Criminal Code). Siarhei Kavalenka was also accused of threatening and using violence against policemen (Paragraph 2 of Article 363 of the Criminal Code).
Considering this, the Human Rights Center ‘Viasna’ states:
The public demonstration and placing of a national white-red-white flag by Mr. Kavalenka can in no way be deemed as a criminal offence, since it is neither cynical nor disregardant of the society, and did not aim at this.
The act committed by Kavalenka is a civil and political event, performed in the form stated above, and was not aimed at undermining public order or disrespect for the society.
It is especially doubtful that Kavalenka allegedly used violence against the policemen during his arrest. The police used excessive force against Kavalenka and handcuffed him. Kavalenka tried to appeal the brutality at the prosecuting and judicial bodies, a medical examination registered bruises on Kavalenka’s body. The recent conviction on the same charges of the activist Surhan by Vitsebsk Kastrychnitski Court makes us believe that these charges are a revenge used against Kavalenka by the law enforcement bodies and a justification of the abuse of their power.
Considering this, the Human Rights Center ‘Viasna’ demands to stop the criminal prosecution of Sirahei Kavalenka under par.1 of Art. 339 of the Criminal Code due to evident lack of corpus delicti in the act.
The Human Rights Center ‘Viasna’ calls on the Belarusian authorities to secure Siarhei Kavalenka’s right to a fair trial, establish every circumstance of the case, deliver a judgment concerning the lawfulness of the police’s actions against Mr. Kavalenka and ascertain the truth.
20 April 2010, Minsk