Over 110 arrested after death of KGB officer Document
Between September 29 and October 1, Belarusian security forces arrested dozens of people for commenting on the deaths of IT worker Andrei Zeltser and KGB officer Dzmitry Fedasiuk. According to the Interior Ministry, in the 24 hours following the incident, the agency identified more than 200 people who posted “insulting comments”.
To date, Viasna knows the names of more than 110 people detained on charges of “insulting a representative of the authorities” (Art. 369 of the Criminal Code) and “incitement to social hatred” (Art. 130 of the Criminal Code). Most of the detainees were not released 72 hours after the detention. The families of some of them still do not know their whereabouts.
Pavel Sapelka, lawyer at the Human Rights Center “Viasna”, explains why the political motives for imprisoning these people are obvious.
“The consequences of the shooting in Minsk can have a devastating effect on the remnants of the rule of law and the rights of citizens. We again witness a government policy of double standards, when one of the parties is armed and holds power, and therefore is right.
The principles of freedom of expression are based on the understanding that “freedom of expression and equality are foundational rights, whose realisation is essential for the enjoyment and protection of all human rights. [...] Pluralism and diversity are hallmarks of freedom of expression. Realisation of the right to freedom of expression enables vibrant, multi-faceted public interest debate giving voice to different perspectives and viewpoints. Inequality results in the exclusion of certain voices, undermining this. The right of everyone to be heard, to speak and to participate in political, artistic and social life are, in turn, integral to the attainment and enjoyment of equality. When people are denied public participation and voice, their issues, experiences and concerns are rendered invisible, and they become more vulnerable to bigotry, prejudice and marginalisation.”
The content of one of the principles is as follows: “Politicians and other leaders in society should avoid statements that could promote discrimination or infringe on equality.” However, an open call for terror and violence from General Aleh Belakoneu, chairman of the Standing Committee on National Security of the House of Representatives, is still unpunished, while more than a hundred ordinary citizens were detained and imprisoned for statements that were not the cause of the act of violence, but reactions to what happened earlier. Whatever this reaction may be, it should not be an excuse for humiliation, ill-treatment and imprisonment, at least not until a court delivers its verdict.
Art. 130 of the Criminal Code carries punishment for “intentional acts aimed at inciting racial, national, religious or other social hatred or enmity on the grounds of racial, national, religious, linguistic or other social affiliation.” I am truly confident that it is impossible to incite hostility or enmity with one or two messages on social media. Even the epic statement by General Belakoneu by itself will not make anyone (even if they are wearing balaclavas) kill in response to the death of a colleague.
Another standard is the presumption in favor of the application of non-custodial measures of restraint, unless the need for such harsh measures is justified. Moreover, references to extraordinary circumstances and even to the mere severity of the accusations are not among such grounds.
Therefore, there are obvious political motives for imprisonment of tens or even hundreds of people, for each of whom it is a tragedy that can be exacerbated by harsh conditions of detention.”