10 more persons in defamation cases listed as political prisoners

2021 2021-11-23T11:16:03+0300 2021-11-23T11:18:05+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

November 23, 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:

Ihar Hryshchankau, sentenced on August 26 by the Baranavičy District and City Court of Baranovichi to two years of restricted freedom in an open penitentiary (“khimiya”) under Art. 368 of the Criminal Code for insulting Lukashenka in a Telegram chat; sent to serve his sentence;

Raman Smolkin, sentenced by the Salihorsk District Court two years of restricted freedom in an open penitentiary (“khimiya”) under Article 369 of the Criminal Code for insulting a government official; sent to serve his sentence;

Raman Aniskou, sentenced by the Minsk District Court to three years of restricted freedom in an open penitentiary (“khimiya”) under Art. 365, 364 and 369 of the Criminal Code for offensive comments against a representative of the authorities; sent to serve his sentence;

Dzmitry Shchurko, taken into custody in SIZO No. 7 on charges of “insulting the president” under Art. 368 of the Criminal Code;

Natallia Padleuska, taken into custody in pre-trial prison No. 8 on charges of “insulting the president and a government official” (Articles 368 and 369 of the Criminal Code);

Uladzimir Dalmatovich, taken into custody on charges of setting fire to the state flag under Art. 370 of the Criminal Code;

Vasil Hlushakou, sentenced by the Čyhunačny District Court of Viciebsk to one year and six months of restricted freedom in an open penitentiary (“khimiya”) under Art. 369 of the Criminal Code for insulting a police officer; sent to serve his sentence;

Siarhei Batura, sentenced by the Lieninski District Court of Mahilioŭ to two years and six months in prison under Art. 368 of the Criminal Code for insulting Lukashenka;

Aliaksei Zabiran, taken into custody on charges of insulting a government official under Art. 369 of the Criminal Code;

Mikalai Hantsel, sentenced by the Maladziečna District Court to two years of restricted freedom in an open penitentiary (“khimiya”) under Art. 368 of the Criminal Code for insulting Lukashenka; sent to serve his sentence.

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 Ihar Hryshchankau, Raman Smolkin, Raman Aniskou, Dzmitry Shchurko, Natallia Padleuska, Uladzimir Dalmatovich, Vasil Hlushakou, Siarhei Batura, Aliaksei Zabiran and Mikalai Hantsel 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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