Human rights defenders call to release three new political prisoners
Joint statement by the Belarusian human rights community
December 30, 2021
We, the human rights community, note with deep concern that the authorities use administrative prosecutoin to suppress freedom of expression, including the freedom to seek, receive and impart information and ideas of all kinds, regardless of frontiers, either orally, in writing, in print, in the form of art, or through any other medium of one's choice.
Some detainees’ terms of administrative arrest are repeatedly prolonged, so their detention is comparable to criminal punishment in terms of length.
In accordance with para. 3.1 of the Guidelines on the Definition of Political Prisoners, approved by the Belarusian human rights defenders at the III Human Rights Forum, a person deprived of liberty is to be regarded as a political prisoner and should be released immediately, if their detention (including administrative arrest) has been imposed solely because of their non-violent exercise of freedoms guaranteed by the international human rights law.
These criteria fully apply to all persons arrested under administrative charges for exercising their civil rights and freedoms. Accordingly, all persons subjected to administrative arrest for exercising their internationally recognized rights and freedoms are considered as political prisoners for the period of their isolation. Individual statements on recognizing some of them as political prisoners are intended to draw special attention to specific cases of the most severe punishment applied to individuals for exercising their rights and freedoms.
For instance, Tatsiana Batura, who was detained on November 15 in the Minsk City Court when she tried to attend the first trial of the political prisoner Volha Zalatar, was ill-treated and sentenced to administrative arrest three times in a row;
Anatol Shalkovich, who became popular because of his video statement distributed by the Ministry of Internal Affairs, in which he spoke about his love for white and red colours, was detained on November 11 and then repeatedly sentenced to administrative arrest;
Mikalai Bredzeleu, who was detained on December 10 and sentenced to administrative arrest, continues to be held in a detention center; there is currently no information on his procedural status.
The practice of sentencing a person to several administrative arrests in a row has been used by the Belarusian authorities as a politically motivated pressure for quite a long time.
We, representatives of Belarusian human rights organizations, express our protest against the political persecution and arrest of Tatsiana Batura, Anatol Shalkovich and Mikalai Bredzeleu and call on the Belarusian authorities to:
- cancel court decisions handed down against the political prisoners and immediately release those;
- stop repressions against dissidents and participants of peaceful assemblies; release all detainees who serve administrative arrest for exercising their civil rights and freedoms;
- immediately release all political prisoners and stop political repression in the country.
Human Rights Center “Viasna”
Belarusian Helsinki Committee
Belarusian Association of Journalists
Barys Zvozskau Belarusian Human Rights House