Human rights defenders call to release 9 more persons prosecuted on defamation charges

2021 2021-09-17T18:48:57+0300 2021-09-17T18:48:58+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 the Belarusian human rights community

September 17, 2021

In response to the new cases of conviction, imprisonment and pre-trial detention of individuals on defamation charges, we, representatives of the Belarusian human rights community, once again reaffirming our repeated calls to decriminalize defamation and refrain from imprisoning individuals for insulting officials, the state, state bodies and symbols (joint statement of December 22, 2020), we note the following.

We have received information about the following persons imprisoned for insulting the president, government officials (police officers), judges and state symbols, as well as the use of other permissible forms of expression:

Dzmitry Taratun – sentenced on May 14, 2021 to three years of restricted freedom in an open penitentiary (“khimiya”) under Part 2 of Article 339 of the Criminal Code (hooliganism) for spray-painting protest graffiti on the wall of a building; the convict was sent to serve the sentence;

Iryna Vikkholm – charged under Article 367 of the Criminal Code (slander against the president); taken into custody in a pre-trial detention center;

Andrei Astratsou – sentenced to five years of imprisonment in a penal colony under Article 368 (insulting the president), Art. 369 (insulting a representative of the authorities), Art. 366 (threat of violence against an official), and Art. 364 of the Criminal Code (threat of violence against a police officer) for commenting on a Telegram channel;

Artsiom Sokal – sentenced to one year and six months in a penal colony under Part 1 of Article 367 (slander against the president) and Part 1 of Article 368 of the Criminal Code (insulting the president) for distributing a message in a Telegram chat;

Kanstantsin Dudzikau – sentenced to one year and six months of restricted freedom in an open penitentiary (“khimiya”) under Article 369 of the Criminal Code (insulting a representative of the authorities); the convict was sent to serve the sentence;

Artsiom Shalehin – sentenced to two years of restricted freedom in an open penitentiary (“khimiya”) under Article 369 of the Criminal Code (insulting a representative of the authorities); the convict was sent to serve the sentence;

Aliaksei Alikin – sentenced to two years of restricted freedom in an open penitentiary (“khimiya”) under Article 369 of the Criminal Code (insulting a representative of the authorities); the convict was sent to serve the sentence;

Yauhen Piatrou – sentenced to one year in a penal colony under Part 1 of Article 368 of the Criminal Code (insulting the president);

Uladzimir Kuzub – sentenced to three years of restricted freedom in an open penitentiary (“khimiya”) under Article 369 of the Criminal Code (insulting a representative of the authorities); the convict was sent to serve the sentence.

In this regard, we consider their persecution and imprisonment to be politically motivated, as they are related to the peaceful exercise 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 Dzmitry Taratun, Iryna Vikkholm, Andrei Astratsou, Artsiom Sokal, Kanstantsin Dudzikau, Artsiom Shalehin, Aliaksei Alikin, Yauhen Piatrou and Uladzimir Kuzub and end criminal prosecution against them;
  • take measures aimed at decriminalizing defamatory offenses and abolishing 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 Belarus, and terminate all previously initiated criminal cases under these articles;
  • immediately release all political prisoners and stop political repression.

Human Rights Center "Viasna"

Belarusian Helsinki Committee

Belarusian Association of Journalists

Lawtrend

Legal Initiative

Barys Zvozskau Belarusian Human Rights House

PEN Belarus

Latest news

Partnership

Membership