Human rights defenders call to release 8 convicts in defamation trials

2021 2021-10-16T13:36:59+0300 2021-10-16T14:19:07+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

October 15, 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:

Mikhail Chamuraka, sentenced by the Dubroŭna District Court to three years of restricted freedom in an open penitentiary under Art. 188 of the Criminal Code (slander); sent to serve the sentence;

Uladzimir Sushko, sentenced by the Žlobin District Court to two years of restricted freedom in an open penitentiary under Art. 369 of the Criminal Code for insulting a police officer in a Telegram chat; sent to serve the sentence;

Aliaksandr Litvishchanka, sentenced by the Kastryčnicki District Court of Mahilioŭ to one year and six months of imprisonment in a penal colony under Art. 369 (insulting a representative of the authorities) and Art. 368 of the Criminal Code (insulting the president);

Aliaksandr Zhykharevich, sentenced to two years and eight months of restricted freedom in an open penitentiary under Art. 369 of the Criminal Code for insulting police officers; sent to serve the sentence;

Aliaksandr Kurhanski, detained for online comments after the deaths of IT worker Andrei Zeltser and KGB officer Dzmitry Fedasiuk. He has been charged under Art. 130 (incitement of social hatred) and Art. 369 of the Criminal Code (insulting a representative of the authorities);

Aksana Kaspiarovich, detained for online comments after the deaths of IT worker Andrei Zeltser and KGB officer Dzmitry Fedasiuk. She has been charged under Art. 130 of the Criminal Code (incitement of social hatred);

Artur Zhvirydouski, sentenced by the Astraviec District Court to three years of imprisonment in a penal colony under part 1 of Art. 339 (hooliganism) and Art. 370 of the Criminal Code (insulting state symbols);

Ihar Buzuk, sentenced by the Kastryčnicki District Court of Hrodna to two years of imprisonment in a penal colony under Art. 370 of the Criminal Code (insulting state symbols).

In this regard, we consider their persecution and imprisonment to be politically motivated, as they are related to the peaceful exercise of freedom 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 Mikhail Chamuraka, Uladzimir Sushko, Aliaksandr Litvishchanka, Aliaksandr Zhykharevich, Aliaksandr Kurhanski, Aksana Kaspiarovich, Artur Zhvirydouski and Ihar Buzuk 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.

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