9 more persons in defamation cases classified as political prisoners

2021 2021-11-04T12:34:23+0300 2021-11-04T12:34:24+0300 en https://spring96.org/files/images/sources/vk_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

November 4, 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:

Aleh Filipau, sentenced on October 14 to one year and six months in prison under Part 2 of Art. 368 of the Criminal Code for painting protest slogans on a residential building in Brest;

Mikhail Prach, sentenced to one year and six months of restricted freedom under Art. 341 and 391 of the Criminal Code for painting protest slogans and insulting a judge; sent to an open penitentiary to serve his sentence;

Valery Yasechak, sentenced to two years of restricted freedom under 368 of the Criminal Code for insulting the president; sent to an open penitentiary to serve his sentence;

Aliaksandr Zhdanau, sentenced to two years and six months of restricted freedom under Art. 369 of the Criminal Code for publicly insulting a government official; sent to an open penitentiary to serve his sentence;

Yauhen Shpilkou, sentenced to two years of restricted freedom under Art. 369 of the Criminal Code for publicly insulting a government official; sent to an open penitentiary to serve his sentence;

Siarhei Khatskevich, sentenced to one year and six months of restricted freedom under Art. 369 of the Criminal Code for publicly insulting a government official; sent to an open penitentiary to serve his sentence;

Vadzim Tsishkevich, sentenced to one year and eight months of restricted freedom under Art. 369 of the Criminal Code for publicly insulting a government official; sent to an open penitentiary to serve his sentence;

Adam Tsiasliuk, remanded in custody in a pre-trial detention center on charges under Art. 369 of the Criminal Code;

Miraslau Fedarovich, remanded in custody in a pre-trial detention center on charges under Art. 369 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 Aleh Filipau, Mikhail Prach, Valery Yasechak, Aliaksandr Zhdanau, Yauhen Shpilkou, Siarhei Khatskevich, Vadzim Tsishkevich, Adam Tsiasliuk, and Miraslau Fedarovich 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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