Three new political prisoners in Belarus
Joint statement by representatives of the Belarusian human rights community
Minsk – March 25, 2021
In response to new cases of conviction and imprisonment on defamatory charges and on charges of insulting state symbols, we, representatives of the Belarusian human rights community, reaffirming our repeated demands to decriminalize defamation and refrain from imprisoning individuals for insulting officials, the state, government agencies and symbols (joint statement of December 22, 2020), note the following.
We received information about the following persons imprisoned for insulting the president, government officials (police officers) and insulting state symbols:
Uladzimir Shakun – sentenced by the court of Žytkavičy district to two years of restricted freedom in an open penitentiary under Part 1 of Art. 368 of the Criminal Code (insulting the President of the Republic of Belarus) and Art. 370 of the Criminal Code (insulting state symbols); the convict has been sent to serve his sentence;
Illia Tananka – sentenced by the Frunzienski District Court of Minsk to one and a half years of restricted freedom in an open penitentiary under Art. 369 of the Criminal Code (insulting a government official); the convict has been sent to serve his sentence;
Ramuald Ulan – sentenced by the court of Smarhoń district to two and a half years of restricted freedom in an open penitentiary under Art. 188 of the Criminal Code (slander); the convict has been sent to serve his sentence.
In this regard, we consider the persecution and imprisonment of Uladzimir Shakun, Illia Tananka and Ramuald Ulan to be politically motivated, as they are connected with their peaceful exercise of freedom of expression. The convicts are therefore political prisoners, in accordance with paragraph 3.1 (a) of the Guidelines on the Definition of Political Prisoners.
We call on the Belarusian authorities to:
- immediately release political prisoners Uladzimir Shakun, Illia Tananka and Ramuald Ulanai and stop the criminal prosecution against them;
- take measures aimed at decriminalizing defamation offenses and repealing articles of the Criminal Code that provide for liability for insulting the state, state symbols and officials, namely Art. 188, 189, 367, 368, 369, 369-1, 370, and 391, and to drop all criminal charges currently brought under these articles;
- immediately release all political prisoners and end political repression.
Human Rights Center "Viasna"
Center for Legal Transformation “Lawtrend”
Belarusian Helsinki Committee
Barys Zvozskau Belarusian Human Rights House