19 more persons qualify as political prisoners

2020 2020-11-05T18:15:00+0300 2020-11-06T14:53:27+0300 en https://spring96.org/files/images/sources/protest_grits.jpg The Human Rights Center “Viasna” The Human Rights Center “Viasna”
The Human Rights Center “Viasna”

Minsk – November 5, 2020

Following reports about criminal charges brought against Dzmitry Dubkou, Tsimur Ryzapur, Viktar Siadou, Valery Kalenchyts, Pavel Niapeuny, Dzmitry Kanapelka, Raman Kananovich, Yauhen Prapolski, Raman Hvazdziolka, Yury Kuzmich, Ivan Bahdzevich, and Maryia Nestserava under Art. 293 of the Criminal Code (mass riots), as well as against Ihar Prazhennikau, Dzianis Hutsin, Maksim Babich (minor), Kiryl Paulavets, Volha Klaskouskaya, Dzianis Dzemukh, and Yauhen Dzmitryeu under Art. 342 of the Criminal Code (group actions that grossly breach public order), reaffirming our position set out in the joint statement by the Belarusian human rights community of August 10, 2020, we note the following.

Freedom of peaceful assembly is guaranteed by Article 21 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. This freedom is not subject to any restrictions other than those established by law and necessary in democracies for the purposes of national and public security, public order, public health and morals, or the protection of the rights and freedoms of others.

The post-election protests were spontaneous, self-organized, and were caused by distrust of the results of the August 9 presidential election, which was marred by numerous violations and fraud, and was not recognized by the international community as democratic, fair and free.

Meetings of citizens were peaceful and did not pose a threat to national or public security. Despite this, the demonstrators were attacked by special units of the Ministry of Internal Affairs who used disproportionate violence, riot gear and non-lethal weapons.

For the first time in the history of Belarus, rubber bullets and water cannons were used against peaceful demonstrators. A particularly large amount of damage was inflicted by the use of stun grenades.

In its statement of August 10, the Belarusian human rights community condemned the actions of law enforcement agencies and placed all responsibility for what happened on August 9 and 10 on the authorities of Belarus.

We also consider it necessary to note that the demonstrators did not commit the actions covered by Art. 293 of the Criminal Code and accordingly cannot be qualified as mass riots. The protesters did not set fires, destroy property or put up armed resistance to law enforcement agencies.

Individual cases of violence against police officers by demonstrators require a separate legal qualification, taking into account the context and circumstances of the use of violence, including in the context of self-defense against knowingly disproportionate actions of police officers.

We consider the persecution of Dzmitry Dubkou, Tsimur Ryzapur, Viktar Siadou, Valery Kalenchyts, Pavel Niapeuny, Dzmitry Kanapelka, Raman Kananovich, Yauhen Prapolski, Raman Hvazdziolka, Yury Kuzmich, Ivan Bahdzevich, Maryia Nestserava, Ihar Prazhennikau, Dzianis Hutsin, Maksim Babich (minor), Kiryl Paulavets, Volha Klaskouskaya, Dzianis Dzemukh, and Yauhen Dzmitryeu to be politically motivated, as it is solely linked to the exercise of their freedom of peaceful assembly and expression related to the announced results of the presidential election and are calling them political prisoners.

In this regard, we call on the Belarusian authorities to:

  • immediately release political prisoners Dzmitry Dubkou, Tsimur Ryzapur, Viktar Siadou, Valery Kalenchyts, Pavel Niapeuny, Dzmitry Kanapelka, Raman Kananovich, Yauhen Prapolski, Raman Hvazdziolka, Yury Kuzmich, Ivan Bahdzevich, Maryia Nestserava, Ihar Prazhennikau, Dzianis Hutsin, Maksim Babich (minor), Kiryl Paulavets, Volha Klaskouskaya, Dzianis Dzemukh, and Yauhen Dzmitryeu and to drop the charges they are facing;
  • immediately release all political prisoners, as well as all individuals detained in connection with the exercise of freedom of peaceful assembly in the post-election period, and end political repression against the country's citizens.

Human Rights Center “Viasna”

Belarusian Helsinki Committee

Legal Initiative

Center for Legal Transformation “Lawtrend”

Barys Zvozskau Belarusian Human Rights House

FORB Initiative

PEN Belarus

Belarusian Association of Journalists

Belarusian Documentation Center

List of political prisoners

There are 121 political prisoners in Belarus, as of November 6, 2020.

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