Viasna: Persons detained in graffiti case are new political prisoners
Minsk. August 17, 2015.
The Human Rights Center "Viasna" calls to stop the prosecution under Part 2, Art. 339 of the Criminal Code ("malicious hooliganism") of Viachaslau Kasinerau, Yaraslau Ulyianenkau, as well as Maksim Piakarski and Vadzim Zharomski, and demands their immediate release from custody.
According to information received by the Human Rights Center "Viasna", on August 11, law enforcement officers detained five youth activists: Maksim Piakarski, Vadzim Zharomski, Viachaslau Kasinerau, Yaraslau Ulyianenkau and a citizen of the Russian Federation Pavel (last name unknown). The latter two were later released on bail, while Maksim Piakarski and Vadzim Zharomski were taken into custody before charges were brought against them. Viachaslau Kasinerau is in custody in hospital, where he was placed with a double fracture of the jaw inflicted as a result of detention by the Interior Ministry officers.
The prosecution and detention were preceded by a criminal case opened by the Minsk Office of the Investigative Committee under Part 2, Art. 339 of the Criminal Code ("malicious hooliganism"), which in turn stemmed from political graffiti painted by unknown persons in two locations in Minsk, and Art. 341 of the Criminal Code ("desecration of facilities and property damage"), an episode dealing with the destruction of property owned by an individual entrepreneur (a big board depicting police officers) in another location in Minsk.
In this regard, the Human Rights Center "Viasna" stresses the following:
- Inscribing graffiti with the words "Belarus Must Be Belarusian" depicting the Belarusian ornament, a crossed-out swastika and the hammer and sickle, as well as with the words "Revolution of Consciousness, It Is Near At Hand...", depicting a man with a bottle in his hand, are not intended to disturb public order and do not show obvious disrespect for society, do not contain any advocacy of national, religious, racial, social or other hatred. The nature and content of the inscriptions indicates the absence of hooligan motives in the actions of the persons who have committed them and, accordingly, the absence of the elements of a crime under Part 2, Art. 339 of the Criminal Code.
- Investigation of the criminal case opened under Art. 341 of the Criminal Code should take place within the limits defined by the Criminal Code and the Criminal Procedure Code of the Republic of Belarus, given the fact that the offense falls into the category of crimes that do not pose great danger to society and do not provide for the detention of suspects in the commission of the offense. In addition, the issue of compensation for the damage may be considered in civil proceedings.
- The actions of the Interior Ministry officers, which carried out the detention of the said persons with the use of physical force and non-lethal weapons, were clearly disproportionate and severe, and caused, as a result, injuries to the detainees.
The Human Rights Center "Viasna" states that:
- the detention of Maksim Piakarski, Vadzim Zharomski and Viachaslau Kasinerau in custody on suspicion of malicious hooliganism is illegal and disproportionate;
- the detention of Maksim Piakarski, Vadzim Zharomski and Viachaslau Kasinerau in custody is enforced in the absence in their actions of the elements of an offense under Part 2, Art. 339 of the Criminal Code;
- the existence of political motives in the actions of the authorities aimed at strengthening the authority by the subject of power, allows qualifying Maksim Piakarski, Vadzim Zharomski and Viachaslau Kasinerau as political prisoners;
- these actions of the authorities occur during the presidential election campaign, bearing a demonstrative nature and clearly aim to prevent possible acts of civil activity, especially among young people.
The Human Rights Center "Viasna" demands to:
- immediately review procedural measures taken against Maksim Piakarski, Vadzim Zharomski and Viachaslau Kasinerau aimed at isolating them, and release them from detention;
- stop the prosecution of Maksim Piakarski, Vadzim Zharomski, Viachaslau Kasinerau, Yaraslau Ulyianenkau under Part 2, Art. 339 of the Criminal Code in connection with the absence in their actions of the elements of the crime;
- ensure compliance with all the procedural rights during the period of investigation, including the right to legal protection and freedom from cruel and inhuman treatment;
- conduct a proper investigation into the facts of cruel and inhuman treatment of detainees and bring those responsible to liability under the law.