6 more convicted in defamation trials
Joint statement by the Belarusian human rights community
October 25, 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:
Andrei Stsepankou (detained under Articles 130 and 369 of the Criminal Code); Aliaksandr Halkouski and Bahdan Shymanovich (sent to an open penitentiary under Article 368 of the Criminal Code); Yury Nahorny (sent to an open penitentiary under Article 369 of the Criminal Code); Andrei Charneuski (sent to an open penitentiary under Article 370 of the Criminal Code); Aleh Harmazinski (sent to a penal colony under Article 368 of the Criminal Code).
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 Andrei Stsepankou, Aliaksandr Halkouski, Bahdan Shymanovich, Yury Nahorny, Andrei Charneuski, and Aleh Harmazinski 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
Identity and Law
Barys Zvozskau Belarusian Human Rights House
Belarusian Association of Journalists