Aliaksandr Kardziukou is political prisoner
Joint statement by representatives of the Belarusian human rights community
Minsk – May 7, 2021
On February 25, the Brest Regional Court found Aliaksandr Kardziukou guilty of attempted murder in connection with the victim’s official activities and resisting a police officer in the performance of his duties to protect public order, combined with the use of violence.
Kardziukou was sentenced to 9 years in prison under Part 1 of Art. 14, para. 10 Part 2 of Art. 139 of the Criminal Code, and 2 years in prison under Part 2 of Art. 363 of the Criminal Code. The total period of imprisonment ordered by the court is 10 years in a penal colony. Henadz Shutau, a protester killed during post-election protests in Brest, was posthumously found guilty of resisting a person in the performance of his duties to protect public order, combined with the use of violence.
In this regard, we, representatives of the Belarusian human rights community, having analyzed the court verdict and other available sources of information, as well as relying on the opinion of experts and lawyers of the Human Rights Center "Viasna" on this criminal case, note the following:
As it has been repeatedly noted before, we consider it inadmissible and illegal to involve servicemen of the Armed Forces of the Republic of Belarus to perform police functions, including dispersing protests.
An analysis of the laws governing the participation of the military in peacetime in non-defense tasks leads us to the conclusion that the armed forces may be involved in such tasks in a strictly defined manner and to a limited extent, in particular to perform the functions of protecting individual facilities and territories, and providing assistance to the population.
In accordance with the Constitution, regulatory acts of government bodies should be published or made public in another way provided by law. Thus, the unpublished secret presidential decree No. 99-Z of February 23, 2012 “On approval of the Regulations on the state system of response to acts of terrorism, the activities of terrorist organizations, illegal armed groups and riots” is irrelevant for assessing the legality of reciprocal actions of citizens and the military and should not be grounds for imposing certain duties on citizens or restricting their rights. In addition, we have repeatedly stated that there were no riots in Belarus after the presidential election in August 2020, as what we saw were mostly peaceful protests, the participants of which were unjustifiably subjected to ill-treatment and torture, and these grave allegations have not yet been investigated.
The court ruled that on August 11, 2020, a “high level of threat of mass riots was established” in Belarus, in connection with which servicemen of the Armed Forces were involved in the protection of public order. These included Captain Haurylau and warrant officer Halitsyn of the special operations forces (former airborne troops). These servicemen were armed with two combat pistols with 16 rounds of ammunition each, dressed in civilian clothes and carrying out the task of mixing with the protesters and identifying among them the “organizers and instigators” of possible riots. To perform this mission, the servicemen with combat weapons were disguised as protesters and acted accordingly, including by clapping their hands, fleeing the approaching police officers, etc.
At 10.33 pm, a quick (lasting up to 1 minute) conflict took place between the defendants and the alleged victims, which resulted in the death of Henadz Shutau and injuries to the victims, as well as a shot breaking a balcony and window glass of a nearby residential building with a bullet hitting the ceiling of a residential apartment.
After analyzing the verdict, we conclude that the criminal prosecution of Kardziukou and Shutau could have been aimed at demonstratively brutal cessation of protest activity, justification of violations of the order of service and use of weapons by law enforcement officers. The assessment of the evidence in various aspects of the case was either superficial and incomplete or incorrect, in violation of the principle of the presumption of innocence. The application of domestic law in the case and the assessment of the facts and evidence were clearly arbitrary and resulted in a clear error, by which the court violated its obligation of independence and impartiality. Thus, the right of the defendants to a fair trial was violated.
According to paragraph 3.2 of the Guidelines on the Definition of Political Prisoners, a political prisoner is a person deprived of liberty if, in the presence of political motives for their persecution, at least one of the following factors occurs:
a) the detention has been imposed in violation of the right to a fair trial, other rights and freedoms guaranteed by the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights or the European Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms;
b) the detention was based on falsification of evidence of the alleged offence, or imposed in the absence of the event or elements of the offence, or imposed in connection with an offence committed by another person.
In this regard, we declare Aliaksandr Kardziukou a political prisoner and call on the authorities of the Republic of Belarus to:
- immediately review the verdict passed against Aliaksandr Kardziukou by the Brest Regional Court, respect the right to a fair trial and eliminate the factors that influenced the verdict;
- release Aliaksandr Kardziukou from custody and apply other measures to ensure his appearance in court, given the lack of grounds for stricter measures.
Human Rights Center "Viasna"
Belarusian Helsinki Committee
Center for Legal Transformation (Lawtrend)