Lawyer Pavel Sapelka: It is essential that hate crimes receive adequate assessment of state
The case of beating Mikhail Pishcheuski will be re-examined by the Tsentralny District Court of Minsk. This decision was taken by the panel of judges of the Minsk City Court, having considered on December 9 an appeal filed by the victim’s mother, human rights activist Tatsiana Reviaka told BelaPAN.
The verdict against Dzmitry Lukashevich, who was previously convicted of hooliganism and inflicting grievous bodily harm to Mikhail Pishcheuski, has now been canceled.
According to the human rights activist, during the hearing of the appeal the prosecutor asked the panel of judges to increase the sentence up to seven years in prison, while the victim’s mother and lawyer asked to review the case. As a result, the Minsk City Court agreed with the arguments of the aggrieved party and sent the case for retrial.
“So far, the situation is in favor of the victims. At least now we can count on an adequate sentence for the accused,” said Ms. Reviaka when commenting on the decision.
Mikhail Pishcheuski was severely beaten when leaving a night club in Minsk, which hosted a gay party on May 25, 2014. Several visitors coming out of the club were insulted by a couple of young people, after which there was a conflict. Mikhail Pishcheuski was seriously injured in a fight, and the attackers, including Lukashevich who beat him, fled the crime scene and watched the arrival of the ambulance and the police from an archway of a nearby house. The assaulters were seen by one of the witnesses, who detained Lukashevich and handed him to the police.
Doctors diagnosed Mikhail Pishcheuski with a fractured skull and bleeding in the brain, about 20% of the brain had to be removed. For about a month, the victim was in a coma. The chances of his survival were minimal, but the guy came around and began to open his eyes and to breathe independently.
On October 16, the Tsentralny District Court of Minsk found Dzmitry Lukashevich guilty under Part 1 of Article 339 and Article 155 of the Criminal Code of Belarus. He was sentenced to imprisonment for two years and eight months in a penal colony, and ordered to pay moral damages, which was estimated at 100 million rubles.
Mikhail Pishcheuski’s parents appealed the verdict, considering it too mild.
“Such a decision of the panel of judges of the City Court indicates that the trial at the court of first instance was quite superficial and did not consider all the circumstances,” said lawyer Pavel Sapelka. “When holding a new trial, the court will be working in a different composition and will not be associated with the previous decision.”
“Hate crimes are dangerous in themselves, because they give a signal to members of a particular social group or nationality that they are in danger. It is essential that these crimes are thoroughly investigated and receive an adequate assessment of the state, including law enforcement agencies. In this case, the victim’s affiliation to a particular social group was not a qualifying criterion – in Belarus, such criteria are very rarely taken into account by the courts. They only separately punish inciting ethnic hatred and violent crimes motivated by ethnicity. While committing a crime against a representative of a particular social group is only an aggravating circumstance. But this has not been considered by the trial court when pronouncing its verdict. Hopefully, it will happen during the retrial,” said the expert.