Human rights defenders demand the immediate release of political prisoner Andrei Levanyuk
Joint statement by Belarusian human rights organizations
Minsk, 23 June 2021
We, representatives of the Belarusian human rights community, note the following in connection with the sentencing of Andrei Levanyuk to one-month arrest under Article 341 of the Criminal Code, pronounced by the Maskoŭski District Court of Brest on 7 April 2021 and coming into force thereof:
According to the verdict of the court, Andrei Levanyuk was found guilty of a crime and sentenced to one-month arrest under Article 341 of the Criminal Code. On 13 February 2021, he spray-painted an inscription "But deliver us from the evil" on the facade of the house in Višniovaja street in Brest, thus causing damage to Housing Maintenance Service-6 in the amount of 51 Belarusian rubles 99 kopecks (20 US dollars). According to the indictment, this inscription worsened the "aesthetic perception" of the building, and thus Levaniuk showed his dissatisfaction with the results of the presidential election, as well as with the actions of law-enforcers "to counteract the mass riots".
The essence of the actions - the content of the inscription, in our opinion, testifies to its protest nature. Obviously, the purpose of the action was to express protest and disagreement with the falsified presidential election and the current situation in the country in the post-election period.
We believe that this form of expression falls under the protection of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and has nothing to do with the charges.
Following Article 19 of the Covenant, everyone has the right to freedom of expression; this right includes freedom to seek and receive information and ideas of all kinds, regardless of frontiers, either orally, in writing or in print, in the form of art, or through any other media of their choice. The exercise of this right may impose special duties and responsibilities. It may accordingly be subject to certain restrictions, which must, however, be prescribed by law and be necessary: for respect of the rights and reputations of others, for the protection of public safety, public order, public health, or morals.
The defendant did not infringe on sacred or historical and cultural values. The inscription does not contain obscene language or hate speech on the grounds of nationality, race, religion, or social origin, and other characteristics and the damage caused was symbolic in nature and was voluntarily repaid by the defendant even before the court hearings.
Thus, these actions cannot be qualified as a criminal offense, much less deprive a citizen of his liberty.
In this context, we consider Andrei Levanyuk's deprivation of liberty to be politically motivated and recognize him a political prisoner following paragraph 3.1(a) of the Guidelines on the Definition of Political Prisoner.
Given that, we, representatives of Belarusian human rights organizations, demand:
- Immediate and unconditional release of Andrei Levonyuk.
- Immediate release of all political prisoners and termination of political repressions in the country.
Human Rights Center "Viasna"
Barys Zvozskau Belarusian Human Rights House
Belarusian Documentation Center