HRDs insist on retrial and release of political prisoner Siarhei Monich
Statement by the human rights community of Belarus
Minsk – June 16, 2021
On April 2, Siarhei Monich was sentenced by the Minsk District Court to one year in prison for spray-painting “Riot Police are Murderers” and “3%” (both qualified under Part 1 of Art. 339 of the Criminal Code), to three months of arrest for spray-painting “Kubrakou is a Fascist” (Art. 369 of the Criminal Code) and to two years in prison for possession and transportation of drugs, 0.1 g of marijuana, without the purpose of sale (Part 1 of Art. 328 of the Criminal Code). He was sentenced to an aggregated term of 3 years in a general-security penal colony.
With regard to the persecution of Siarhei Monich under Art. 339 and 369 for spray-painting protest slogans, we, representatives of the human rights community, once again reaffirming our repeated demands to decriminalize defamation and to refrain from imposing terms of imprisonment for insulting officials, the state, government agencies and symbols (joint statement of December 22, 2020), consider the persecution and imprisonment of Siarhei Monich under Art. 339 and 369 of the Criminal Code to be politically motivated, as they are related to the peaceful exercise of freedom of expression.
Regarding the conviction of Siarhei Monich under Part 1 of Art. 328 of the Criminal Code, we come to the following conclusions (see in detail in the findings on the trial (Russian only)):
A review of judicial practice proves that imprisonment under Part 1 of Art. 328 of the Criminal Code is normally imposed in case of repeated offence or commission of the crime in conjunction with other serious crimes.
Thus, the penalty of imprisonment for a term of 2 years for possession, without the purpose of selling, of a small amount of drugs, marijuana weighing 0.1 g, is clearly disproportionate to the offense in terms of duration and conditions of imprisonment; we are also convinced that Siarhei Monich was imprisoned for this offense selectively in comparison with other persons.
According to the Guidelines on the Definition of Political Prisoners, a person deprived of liberty is also to be regarded as a political prisoner, if, as well as political reasons for their prosecution, at least one of the following criteria is observed:
c) the length of the detention or its conditions are clearly disproportionate (incommensurate) to the offense the person is suspected, accused or has been found guilty of;
d) the person has been detained in a discriminatory manner as compared to other persons.
Considering the above, we consider the persecution and imprisonment of Siarhei Monich to be politically motivated. The convict is therefore a political prisoner in accordance with para. 3.2 (c, d) of the Guidelines on the Definition of Political Prisoners.
We, the representatives of Belarusian human rights organizations, call on the Belarusian authorities to:
- reconsider the detention measures and the court ruling imposed on Siarhei Monich, while respecting his right to a fair trial and eliminate the factors that influenced the verdict, as well as to release the convict, selecting other measures that will ensure his appearance in court;
- immediately release all political prisoners and end political repression in the country.
Human Rights Center "Viasna"
Barys Zvozskau Belarusian Human Rights House
Belarusian Documentation Center