Five more convicts in defamation trials called political prisoners

2021 2021-04-08T18:28:26+0300 2021-04-08T18:28:27+0300 en https://spring96.org/files/images/sources/dif_illustr.jpg The Human Rights Center “Viasna” The Human Rights Center “Viasna”
The Human Rights Center “Viasna”

Joint statement by representatives of the Belarusian human rights community

Minsk – April 8, 2021

In response to the new convictions, including terms of imprisonment, on charges of defamation, we, representatives of the Belarusian human rights community, once again reaffirm our demands to decriminalize defamation and refrain from imposing custodial sentences for insulting officials, the state, government agencies and national symbols (see joint statement of December 22, 2020), and note the following.

We have received information about the following persons imprisoned for insulting officials:

Stanislau Paulinkovichsentenced by the Mahilioŭ District Court to two years of restricted freedom in an open penitentiary under Art. 391 of the Criminal Code (insulting a judge); the convict has been sent to serve his sentence;

Valery Lozasentenced by the Svietlahorsk District Court to two 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;

Yury Karnilovichsentenced by the Zavodski District Court of Minsk to three 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;

Pavel Berasniousentenced by the Maladziečna District Court 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;

Vital Zaradzei – charged under Art. 391 of the Criminal Code (insulting a judge); taken into custody in the pre-trial detention center in Brest.

We consider the persecution and imprisonment Stanislau Paulinkovich, Valery Loza, Yury Karnilovich, Pavel Berasniou and Vital Zaradzei to be politically motivated, as they are linked to their peaceful exercise of freedom of expression. The convicts are therefore political prisoners, according to para. 3.1 (a) of the Guidelines for the Definition of Political Prisoners.

We call on the Belarusian authorities to:

  • immediately release political prisoners Stanislau Paulinkovich, Valery Loza, Yury Karnilovich, Pavel Berasniou and Vital Zaradzei and overturn their criminal convictions;
  • 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 Articles 188, 189, 367, 368, 369, 369-1, 370, and 391 of the Criminal Code of the Republic of Belarus, and to drop all criminal cases opened on these charges;
  • immediately release all political prisoners and put an end to political repression in the country.

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