Shchuchyn resident faces criminal charges under Art. 193.1
Aliaksei Shchadrou, a Catholic believer of the village of Aliaksandrauka, Shchuchyn district, is facing charges under Art. 193.1 of the Criminal Code (activities on behalf of an unregistered organization). The criminal case was initiated after Aliaksei Shchadrou opened an asylum for the homeless in his home village.
According to an order by Major Siarhei Asovik, head of the Department of Law Enforcement and Prevention of Shchuchyn district police department, Aliaksei Shchadrou “arranged activities (…) of an unregistered religious organization and provided conditions for its functioning without obtaining registration under procedures set by the legislation.”
Aliaksei Shchadrou argues that he did not create an organization, but was simply doing charity by opening an asylum. He also says he prayed together with the homeless, but did not create a religious sect.
Antoni Hremza, Vice-Chancellor of the Hrodna Roman Catholic Curia, which Aliaksei Shchadrou belongs to, also called the actions the believer a private initiative, not the creation of a sectarian movement.
Under the charges Aliaksei Shchadrou is facing up to two years in prison.
Deputy Chairman of the Human Rights Center “Viasna” Valiantsin Stefanovich stresses that in 2011 the Venice Commission released its Conclusion regarding Article 193-1 of the Criminal Code of the Republic of Belarus. The Conclusion, in particular, states that Article 193-1 violates the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and is a potential tool for the government in curbing civil activism, providing the authorities wide powers to interfere with the fundamental rights to freedom of association, freedom of thought, belief and expression.
During the period from 2005 to 2012, 18 members of unregistered organizations were convicted under Article 193.1. Five of them received prison terms. Among them are the trials of “Partnership” and the Young Front. Many activists received official warnings from prosecutors demanding to put an end to their activities in unregistered organizations. Moreover, none of the cases initiated under Article 193.1 has been decided in favor of the accused.