Statement by the Human Rights Center "Viasna" and the Belarusian Helsinki Committee on sentencing of Andrei Haidukou
Minsk - July 1, 2013
On July 1, 2013, Andrei Haidukou was convicted under paragraph 1, Article 14 and Article 356-1 of the Criminal Code (attempt to establish cooperation with the special service, security or intelligence services of a foreign state) and sentenced to 1.5 years in prison.
Criminal charges were brought against Andrei Haidukou in early November 2012, when he was detained by the State Security Committee (KGB) agents and placed in the KGB detention center. On November 13, 2012, the State Security Committee disseminated information on the suppression of unlawful activity of a citizen of the Republic of Belarus, who was engaged by a foreign intelligence in the collection and transmission of information of political and economic nature. As a result, the detainee faced criminal charges under Par. 1, Art. 356 of the Criminal Code of Belarus (high treason in the form of intelligence activities). However, during the trial the charges were reclassified to Par. 1, Art. 14 and Art. 356-1 of the Criminal Code of the Republic of Belarus.
The Human Rights Center "Viasna" and the Belarusian Helsinki Committee arrive at a conclusion that the preliminary investigation and the trial were completely closed and non-transparent, despite the increased interest in the case among the public and the media. Moreover, the authorities failed to provide any justification for the consideration of the case in a closed court session. Given the fact that Haidukou was initially charged with committing a grave crime (Article 356 of the Criminal Code, “high treason”), and later his actions were reclassified to a less serious crime, it can be assumed that the need for consideration of the case in a closed trial was motivated by a desire to conceal from the public the unlawful methods of the investigation and the provocation of the accused in the commission of a crime. This qualification of the offense by the court shows that the KGB misled the public, while the KGB did not establish the fact of entering by a national of the Republic of Belarus into illegal cooperation with the security agencies of a foreign state. Having established the circumstances, the KGB continued to induce Haidukou to commit a graver crime, thus committing a provocation.
Haidukou’s right to legal protection was violated during the investigation; the investigators arbitrarily limited his meetings with the lawyer. Haidukou’s contacts with his family were limited to occasional correspondence subjected to surveillance and censorship. As a measure of affecting Haidukou’s lawyer, the investigation warned him of criminal liability for disclosure of information of the investigation. This measure, too broadly applied in practice, severely limits the ability of the lawyer to defend the interests of his client.
A. Haidukou was convicted of an offense under Article 356-1 of the Criminal Code, which criminalizes the establishment of cooperation on a confidential basis with the special service, security or intelligence agency of a foreign country with no elements of high treason. This act was first criminalized in November 2011.
Back in 2011, Belarusian human rights defenders stressed the inadmissibility of the use of non-specific definitions in the criminal law, including allowing for their arbitrary and expanded interpretation.
A statement of the Chairman of the State Security Committee V. Vakulchyk that came at the end of May 2013 said that the criminal case against A. Haidukou had reached court and was expected to be considered in a closed court hearing. Meanwhile, the indictment was not changed. This excessive activity of the KGB head, not the prosecution, who is supposed to be defending the charges in court, in disclosing details and prospects of the trial was evidence of the possible impact of the State Security Committee on the findings and the procedural decisions of the court.
Taking into account the social significance of the case, the nature of the charges leaves no doubt that the consideration of it in court was to be held in compliance with the principle of transparency, as there were no prerequisites for its restriction as provided by law.
It should be noted that the act for which Haidukou was convicted belongs to the category of crimes that do not pose a danger to society. A person accused of committing it cannot be subjected to the measure of restraint in the form of custody. According to para. 1 of the Resolution of the Plenum of the Supreme Court of the Republic of Belarus “On the appointment by courts of penalties on the deprivation of liberty,” imprisonment as a punishment may be imposed only in cases prescribed by law for the crimes that represent a significant danger to the society, when the court, with regard to the nature of the crime and the personality of the convict, arrives at a conclusion that his or her isolation will protect society against crime and will contribute to the objectives of criminal responsibility. Analysis of the available data does not allow to conclude that the judicial sentence of imprisonment is grounded. In our view, the fact that the court found Haidukou guilty of attempting to commit a crime that belongs to a category that does not pose a great danger to society, while not being previously convicted, did not allow the court to apply imprisonment to the convict. Thus, his detention and conviction to imprisonment are arbitrary.
Assessing the circumstances in their complexity, as well as the nature of the charges, the procedural violations made during the investigation, and the closed mode of the trial, based on the information available to the human rights defenders on the actions of Haidukou, which served as the formal basis for his detention, the Human Rights Center "Viasna" and the Belarusian Helsinki Committee arrive at the following conclusions:
The sentencing of Andrei Haidukou is groundless and politically motivated, as it is largely aimed at increasing the role and significance of the KGB in the State using methods that are unacceptable in a democratic society, while deprivation of liberty was used in violation of the right to a fair trial, and other rights and freedoms guaranteed by the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, and the duration of detention is clearly disproportionate (inadequate) to the offense of which the person has been convicted;
The Belarusian Helsinki Committee and the Human Rights Center "Viasna" demand to immediately release Andrei Haidukou, to overturn the illegal sentence imposed by the court and to guarantee its revision, subject to the right to a fair trial.