Homel Region Court upholds acquittal of Dzmitry Smyk. Yauhen Yakavenka’s cassation complaint is pending
On 16 July, the panel of judges of the Homel Region Court considered the protest of the procuracy against the verdict of the Tsentralny District Court of Homel acquitting the Jehowah’s Witness Dzmitry Smyk of draft-dodging (Article 435 of the Criminal Code) and left the verdict standing.
The youngster refused from serving in the army because of his religious convictions and asked to be assigned to an alternative civilian service.
Bear in mind that on 6 November 2009, the Tsentralny District Court of Homel found Mr. Smyk guilty of violating Article 435 of the Criminal Code, ‘evasion from military service’. On 9 December, the Homel Region Court considered the cassation appeal and left the verdict of the Tsentralny District Court standing. On 23 January, a similar ruling was issued by Chairperson of the Homel Region Court.
However, on 15 March, following the protest of the Supreme Court, the presidium of the Homel Region Court reversed its decision and returned the case for a second trial.
On 31 May 2010, the Tsentralny District Court acquitted Mr. Smyk, reversing the verdict according which he had been sentenced to pay a fine of 3,5 million rubles. The procuracy disagreed with the acquittal and lodged a protest with the Homel Region Court.
Meanwhile, on 4 May the Minsk District Court acquitted another conscientious objector who insisted on being assigned to an alternative civilian service, and on 15 June the Minsk Region Court considered the protest of the procuracy against the acquittal and left in force the verdict of the Minsk District Court.
On 23 July, the Homel Region Court will consider the cassation complaint of Yauhen Yakavenka, who has been sentenced to a year of personal restraint with direction to an open penitentiary institution for refusal to service in the army because of his pacifist convictions.
As said by Valiantsin Stefanovich, a lawyer of the Human Rights Center Viasna, according to the international standards people have the right to demand an alternative civilian service because of their convictions, be it religious, pacifist, humanist or humanitarian convictions. ‘Such convictions can prevent a person from even hypothetic participation in preparation to war or military actions, i.e. killing other people’, commented the lawyer.
Human rights defenders are of the opinion that Mr. Yakavenka has been convicted for conscientious objection to military service. He has repeatedly applied to the military enlistment office with the demand to be assigned to an alternative civilian service.