Valiantsin Stefanovich: "The new law on amnesty is totally politically motivated, and most political prisoners are "violators"
Human rights defenders have condemned the draft Law on Amnesty submitted to Parliament on June 15, calling it over-politicized. Meanwhile, Lukashenka said at a special meeting that "there should be no politics there" and that "everything must be honest."
At a meeting held on June 12 to address the upcoming amnesty issues timed to coincide with the holiday of July 3, President Lukashenka, according to his press service, said: "We hold an amnesty in our state and for our society. This is both a signal to society and encouraging of prisoners. There should be no politics there."
However, when analyzing the list of articles under which a person can not fall under the amnesty, human rights activists spoke about the political overtones that marked the amnesty law of 2012.
"If one compares it with the amnesty laws from previous years, the list of articles that are not covered by the amnesty does not mention, for example, Article 342, and 367 ... I remind you that as a result of the events of December 19, 10 people were convicted under Article 342. Among them is Dzmitry Bandarenka, who received two years' imprisonment and was eventually released by a pardon not so long ago. Among them is Pavel Seviarynets, who is now in the Brest region serving a sentence. And eight more persons who are serving various terms, either conditional or suspended sentences, having been convicted under the article. Meanwhile, according to the new law, none of them falls under the amnesty. Although previously we had hopes that Pavel Seviarynets could be released. As for the persons sentenced to restriction of freedom in the form of probation or suspended sentence, e.g. Iryna Khalip, Uladzimir Niakliayeu and others, these restrictions are expected to be lifted. And now we see that our hopes are not fulfilled," said deputy chairman of the Human Rights Center “Viasna” Valiantsin Stefanovich.
Mr. Stefanovich says that with Article 367 being mentioned in the Law, it is evident that the authorities have once again applied "personal approach" to amnesty: "The situation here is also clear: journalist Andrei Pachobut was convicted under it, he is now serving a suspended sentence. The amnesty would not apply to him to."
The human rights defender notes that most of the articles not covered by the amnesty are serious and heinous crimes: murder, rape, sexual assault, banditry, terrorism and others. Strangely enough, Article 342 ("organization and preparation of group actions violating public order or active participation in them") and Article 367 ("defamation of the President") have appeared in their number.
"I repeat that these articles never before were on the list of articles that are not covered by amnesty. And this year what we see here is this "peculiarity," adds Mr. Stefanovich, stressing that the main purpose of the current amnesty law is preventing the release of political prisoners.
"Most political prisoners today are labeled as “violators” of penal regulations. Including our colleague Ales Bialiatski, who said that a meeting would soon be held in prison, which is expected to assign the status to him,” said the human rights defender. “Therefore, the hopes of the international community and Belarusian human rights organizations that the amnesty would allow the release of at least a few political prisoners had not materialized. None of them will be released in this amnesty," says Mr. Stefanovich.
The Human Rights Center "Viasna" still urges the Belarusian authorities to unconditionally and immediately release all the political prisoners.