18 names added to list of political prisoners

2021 2021-11-11T18:34:53+0300 2021-11-11T22:45:46+0300 en https://spring96.org/files/images/sources/telegtam_illustr.jpeg The Human Rights Center “Viasna” The Human Rights Center “Viasna”
The Human Rights Center “Viasna”

Joint statement by the Belarusian human rights community

November 11, 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:

Aliaksandr Shmatau, sentenced to 2 years of restricted freedom in an open penitentiary (“khimiya”) under Art. 369 of the Criminal Code for publicly insulting a representative of the authorities; sent to serve the sentence;

Ihar Ukhaliuk, sentenced to 2 years of restricted freedom in an open penitentiary (“khimiya”) under Part 1 of Art. 367 of the Criminal Code for libel against the president; sent to serve the sentence;

Aleh Hrudzinau, sentenced to 1 1/2 years of restricted freedom in an open penitentiary (“khimiya”) under Art. 369 of the Criminal Code for publicly insulting a representative of the authorities; sent to serve the sentence;

Aliaksei Fedarkevich, sentenced to 2 years of restricted freedom in an open penitentiary (“khimiya”) under Art. 369 of the Criminal Code for publicly insulting a representative of the authorities; sent to serve the sentence;

Vadzim Sobaleu, sentenced to a term of restricted freedom in an open penitentiary (“khimiya”) under Art. 370 of the Criminal Code for desecration of state symbols; sent to serve the sentence;

Valery Pankratovich, taken into custody in a pre-trial detention center on charges of insulting the president;

Andrei Harbunou, sentenced to 1 year of restricted freedom in an open penitentiary (“khimiya”) under Art. 369 of the Criminal Code for publicly insulting a representative of the authorities; sent to serve the sentence;

Anton Shlemen, sentenced to 1 ½ years of restricted freedom in an open penitentiary (“khimiya”) under Article 370 of the Criminal Code for desecration of state symbols; sent to serve his sentence;

Yury Viarshuk, sentenced to 2 years of restricted freedom in an open penitentiary (“khimiya”) under Art. 369 of the Criminal Code for publicly insulting a representative of the authorities; sent to serve the sentence;

Siarhei Ilyushenka, sentenced to 2 ½ years of restricted freedom in an open penitentiary (“khimiya”) under Art. 369 of the Criminal Code for publicly insulting a representative of the authorities; sent to serve the sentence;

Viktar Pytsko, sentenced to 2 ½ years of restricted freedom in an open penitentiary (“khimiya”) under Art. 369 of the Criminal Code for publicly insulting a representative of the authorities; sent to serve the sentence;

Siarhei Yupatau, sentenced to 3 years of restricted freedom in an open penitentiary (“khimiya”) under Art. 369 of the Criminal Code for publicly insulting a representative of the authorities; sent to serve the sentence;

Alaiksandr Hrynevich, sentenced to 3 years of restricted freedom in an open penitentiary (“khimiya”) under Art. 369 of the Criminal Code for publicly insulting a representative of the authorities; sent to serve the sentence.

We are also aware about the pre-trial detention of the following persons for commenting on social media on the deaths of Andrei Zeltser and a KGB officer on September 28:

Mikalai Dzemchanka, Aliaksandr Milasheuski, Aleh Korzun, Siarhei Ryndzevich, and Ivan Charaviaka.

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 Aliaksandr Shmatau, Ihar Ukhaliuk, Aleh Hrudzinau, Aliaksei Fedarkevich, Vadzim Sobaleu, Valery Pankratovich, Andrei Harbunou, Anton Shlemen, Yury Viarshuk, Siarhei Ilyushenka, Viktar Pytsko, Siarhei Yupatau, Alaiksandr Hrynevich, Mikalai Dzemchanka, Aliaksandr Milasheuski, Aleh Korzun, Siarhei Ryndzevich, and Ivan Charaviaka 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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