Why activists detained in ‘graffiti case’ face deliberately unfair, excessively grave charges?

2015 2015-08-25T12:17:49+0300 2015-08-25T12:17:49+0300 en http://spring96.org/files/images/sources/sapelka-1.jpg The Human Rights Center “Viasna” The Human Rights Center “Viasna”
The Human Rights Center “Viasna”
Pavel Sapelka

Pavel Sapelka

Lawyer Pavel Sapelka has commented on the prosecution and detention of youth activists in the so-called ‘graffiti case’:

“In addition to an openly intimidating nature of the actions by law enforcement agencies – a tough detention, clearly unjustified use of physical force, intimidation of the public by inadequate measures of criminal law – there is one more prosaic explanation for such illicit charges:

In accordance with the Criminal Procedure Code, custody as a preventive measure only applies to persons suspected or accused of committing a crime for which the law prescribes a penalty of imprisonment for a term exceeding two years. It is only in exceptional cases that this measure of punishment may be imposed on the suspect or the accused in cases of crimes for which the law prescribes a penalty of imprisonment for up to two years if they do not have permanent residence in the territory of the Republic of Belarus, or their identity has not been established.

Therefore, the qualification of actions under the article providing liability for damage to property would not allow law enforcement agencies to hold the detained activists in custody for more than three days, as articles dealing with property damage provide a much more lenient punishment.

Maybe the reason is that bruises won’t heal in three days?

The approach is not new: it has been successfully used by the KGB, prosecutors and the police, including in respect of political prisoners: they faces obviously more serious charge under one article of the Criminal Code, and later the court convicted them of a crime which did not pose significant public danger. This scheme was used to hold in the detention center the defendants in the ‘Partnership case’ in 2006; likewise, Andrei Haidukou was waiting for the verdict, who was first accused of treason. A relatively new body of preliminary investigation – the Investigative Committee – is no different from its predecessors in the field of law enforcement.

It is worth recalling that even when there is a formal right to apply a measure of restraint in the form of detention, this measure applies only when there are serious reasons for this: a preventive measure may be applied by the body conducting criminal proceedings only when the evidence collected in the criminal case provides reasonable grounds to believe that the suspect or the accused can escape from the prosecuting authority and the court; impede the preliminary investigation of the criminal case or its consideration by the court, including through the provision of illegal influence on the persons involved in the criminal process, concealment or falsification of the materials relevant to the case, failure to appear without good reason, when summoned by the criminal proceedings; commit a socially dangerous act provided for in the criminal law; resist the execution of the sentence.

As a rule, investigators do not possess such evidence at the beginning of the investigation, and the measure of restraint is chosen on the basis of allegations, which certainly violates the rights of the accused (suspects).”

Pavel Sapelka for palitviazni.info