Bialiatski calls for respect for fundamental rights and freedoms of political prisoner Zhamchuzhny
Ales Bialiatski, head of the Human Rights Center "Viasna", has written to the Interior Ministry’s Department of Corrections urging to take immediate measures to ensure that political prisoner Mikhail Zhamchuzhny is held in conditions, which would guarantee his personal security and respect for fundamental rights and freedoms.
Bialiatski stresses in his open letter that a number of human rights organizations in Belarus earlier said that Mikhail Zhamchuzhny was imprisoned as a result of a trial that failed to meet the standards of a fair trial as guaranteed by the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. The sentencing was based on charges provoked by representatives of the law-enforcement, while the duration of his sentence is clearly disproportionate.
In addition, Zhamchuzhny has been repeatedly subjected to gross violations of his rights. In particular, during his pre-trial detention in Viciebsk Mikhail Zhamchuzhny reported beatings by a corrections officer. He also informed Viasna about the violation of his right to appeal against the procedural decisions against him and the actions of prison authorities. While in penal colony No. 14, the political prisoner faced repeated penalties under false pretenses. He was then labelled a repeat infringer and put on the register as a person ‘prone to extremism and other destructive activities.’
Bialiatski further highlights the fact that in early 2017 the administration of penal colony No. 14 without sufficient grounds filed a request to tighten Zhamchuzhny’s imprisonment conditions and to send him to prison providing for the maximum number of restrictions. However, later the proceedings were stopped on the initiative of the prison administration.
Of particular concern to the human rights activist are the recent reports from penal colony No. 9 alleging intolerable and degrading conditions for Zhamchuzhny, including harassment and intimidation, which are apparently aimed to isolate the prisoner from other prisoners, limit his rights and endanger his life and health. Moreover, there have been efforts to humiliate his human dignity. In the latest act of harassment, the prisoner has been on false grounds subjected to a disciplinary penalty and confined to so-called ‘cell-type premises’.
Ales Bialiatski believes that his right to seek the protection of Zhamchuzhny’s violated rights stems from the provisions of the Declaration on the Right and Responsibility of Individuals, Groups and Organs of Society to Promote and Protect Universally Recognized Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms.
“To the same end, everyone has the right, individually and in association with others, inter alia: to complain about the policies and actions of individual officials and governmental bodies with regard to violations of human rights and fundamental freedoms, by petition or other appropriate means, to competent domestic judicial, administrative or legislative authorities or any other competent authority provided for by the legal system of the State, which should render their decision on the complaint without undue delay,” says Viasna leader quoting the UN Declaration.
In July 2015, Mikhail Zhamchuzhny, founder of the Platform Innovation human rights NGO, was sentenced by the Viciebsk Regional Court to 6 years in a penal colony. On October 23, the Supreme Court's judicial board for criminal cases examined the activist’s appeal and ordered a more severe punishment, six and a half years in prison.
He was found guilty of committing crimes under Art. 376 (Parts 1 and 2), Art. 16 (Part 5), Art. 375 (Part 1) and Art. 431 (Parts 1 and 2) of the Criminal Code: inciting deliberate disclosure of information constituting a service secret; illegally purchasing and selling special technical means for secretly obtaining information, including repeatedly; bribery and repeated bribery.
Belarusian human rights activists declared Mikhail Zhamchuzhny a political prisoner.