Analytical review of the court proceedings on the criminal case of Sviataslau Baranovich
The hearings on the criminal case were held at the
Maskouski District Court of Minsk since 28 September till 12 October. The trial
was led by Judge Alena Rudnitskaya with the participation of prosecutor of the
Maskouski District Procuracy of Minsk Siarkou as the state accuser.
Mr. Baranovich was charged under Article 293, part 2 of the Criminal Code of the Republic of Belarus, “direct participation in mass riot” for participation in the peaceful protest rally on 19 December 2010 in Minsk.
On 12 October the court found Baranovich guilty and sentenced him to three years of personal restraint without direction to a penitentiary institution. The court used Article 70 of the Criminal Court towards Sviataslau Baranovich and gave him a penalty which was milder than the minimal sanction of Article 293, part 2 of the Criminal Code. This was done with reference to mitigating circumstances: that Sviataslau Baranovich was young and had a job.
Despite the fact that the verdict seems to be mild, the Human Rights Center “Viasna” thinks that it doesn't correspond to the factual materials of the case and therefore is unlawful.
1. Likewise with the previous trials, there was no evidence that mass riot took place during the peaceful action of protest on 19 December 2010 in Minsk. According to Article 293, part 2 mass riot is accompanied with arsons, pogroms, personal violence, destruction of property and armed resistance to law-machinery officers and public agents.
2. No evidence was provided at court that the defendants committed at least one of the actions which are qualified as committing mass riot by the disposition of Article 293 of the Criminal Code of the Republic of Belarus.
3. A number of court materials, first of all – video materials, can directly prove that Baranovich committed other violations of the law, which can be qualified as disorderly conduct.
During his speech at the court debates the state accuser didn't give any assessment to testimonies of numerous victims, namely Siarhei Masalski, Siarhei Palai, Dzmitry Shpak and Vadzim Smirnou, who said they hadn't seen the defendant or other demonstrators delivering blows, making pogroms, arsons or showing armed resistance to the police. The only thing the state accusation was referred to was that the commitment of mass riot on 19 December 2010 had been proved during analogical trials. Thus, nether the state accuser, nor the court gave an assessment to testimonies of the victims and the defendant's witnesses, from which it followed that there had been no mass riot in Minsk.
Absence of the fact of mass riot
The protect action of 19 December 2010 in Minsk was of peaceful in its essence. Only a small group, not more than 20 people, deviated from the peaceful character of the action and took part in violent actions. Some of them wade it from hooligan motives, but their activities weren't accompanied with pogroms, arsons, armed resistance and personal violence.
Mass riot provides a direct intent, coordination of actions and wildness of the crowd. The witnesses stated they hadn't seen the demonstrators holding any times which could be used for violent actions (including spade handles, ice axes, spades and axes). Unlawful actions were stopped as soon as the riot police came, which had demonstratively abstained from interfering with actions of lawbreakers for quite a long time.
Evidence of guilt
None of the witnesses confirmed seeing the defendant hitting police officers or the entrance door of the House of the Government. The defendant explained that he was hit in the head with a truncheon. Being in a state of shock and bleeding, he delivered several blows on the police baffles with a truncheon he had pulled out of a window of the House of the Government, but didn't intend to beat the police or inflict any harm to them.
The conviction of Sviataslau Baranovich under Article 293, part 2 of the Criminal Code of the Republic of Belarus is unlawful and politically motivated.
Short description of the trial
28 September 2011
The trial started with reading of the accusation by the prosecutor, from which it followed that Sviataslau Baranovich had taken an active part in a mass riot which was accompanied with arsons, personal violence and resistance to public agents, that he had allegedly joined several thousand of people under the pretext of the non-democratic character of the presidential election. Baranovich acted in a mob, using physical violence.
Baranovich partially admitted his guilt and explained to the court that he went up the stairs of the House of the Government on Nezalezhnasts Square and was hit in the head with a truncheon. He surrendered to his emotion and wanted to break through, but didn't want to inflict any harm to anybody. He snatched a truncheon out of a policeman's hands and picked a baffle which was lying nearby, after which he walked further into the crowd. He delivered blows with his hands and the truncheon only on the baffles, to prevent the police from beating people next time. He explained his actions with a nervous breakdown and the fact that the police started beating peaceful citizens, including him.
The court proceeded to interrogation of witnesses. Witnesses Perapeika, Skarakhod, Strahach, Zinkevich and others didn't see any arsons, but saw a crowd with different level of aggression, which attacked police officers. All witnesses emphasized that they hadn't seen the accused and couldn't tell anything about his actions.
12 October 2011
The hearings started with interrogation of victims Ihar Bahnou, Andrei Liavitski, Vadzim Smirnou and others, who gave analogical testimonies, i.e. they hadn't seen the defendant. They also stated that they hadn't seen any traits of mass riot, through sticks had been thrown into them and they had been hit with plastic fishing rods that hadn't inflicted any harm to them.
The court proceeded to familiarization with written materials of the case.
The main document was the protocol of examination of the scene. According to it, bottles, iron bars, spade handles, an axe, ice axes, bottles with incendiary mix and other tools were found there.
A video of the events was watched by the judge with the sound turned off. The present people weren't shown the video. After watching the video, the counsel emphasized that the defendant hadn't hit on the baffles and hadn't tried to get into the window of the House of the Government.
There were no debates.
The prosecutor made a short remark on the fact of mass riot, referring to earlier court verdicts, and then proposed to use Article 70 of the Criminal Code and started speaking about the mitigating circumstances which could be used to give the defendant a sentence which would be milder than the minimal sanction of the accusative article.
The counsel agreed that the fact of mass riot had been proved during other trials, but emphasized that there hadn't been any mass riot and asked to justify his client.
the court agreed with the prosecutor's arguments and issued a penalty which was not connected to imprisonment.
Such verdict again emphasizes the political character of all trials connected to the events of 19 December 2010, as far as earlier sentences, issued for actions which were by far less aggressive than that of Baranovich, were connected with imprisonment, which witnesses that the real aim of the authorities was to use repressions towards political activists and participants of the protest action. What concerns the situation of Sviataslau Baranovich, the authorities wanted to demonstrate the decrease of the number of political prisoners for increasing the opportunities for negotiations with the European Union.