At least 118 people convicted in the protest-related criminal trials in December
The Human Rights Center “Viasna” continues to monitor politically motivated criminal trials related to the exercise by citizens of their fundamental rights, such as freedom of expression and peaceful assembly. Starting with the election campaign for the presidential elections in 2020, the Belarusian authorities have been actively using the judicial system in order to suppress any criticism of the authorities and discussions on the further development of the state.
The Human Rights Center “Viasna” continues to monitor politically motivated criminal trials related to the exercise by citizens of their fundamental rights, such as freedom of expression and peaceful assembly.
In December, HRC Viasna recorded at least 210 citizens who were persecuted in court for political reasons. The number of political prisoners increased by 80 people. Human Rights Center “Viasna” is aware of at least 118 citizens who were convicted in the frames of the protest-related criminal trials in December. Of those, 83.9% are men and 16.1% are women.
Analysis of the protest-related criminal cases run by the courts in December demonstrates that in the majority of cases the Belarusian authorities used criminal prosecution and the judicial system to repress citizens for exercising their rights to freedom of expression and peaceful assembly.
The Belarusian authorities continue to actively use the defamatory articles of the Criminal Code (Articles 188, 367, 368, 369, 370, 391) to prosecute citizens. Such cases amount to 42,4% of the total number of politically motivated cases monitored by HRC “Viasna” around the country in December.
In December, the number of persons convicted of “organizing mass riots” (Art. 293 of the Criminal Code) and “organizing or participating in actions grossly violating public order” (Article 342 of the Criminal Code) constituted 39% of the total number of politically prosecuted individuals. 2.5% of the accused were charged under defamatory articles together with Art. 342 of the Criminal Code.
The judicial monitoring once again revealed a broad geography of politically motivated prosecutions, with similar trials taking place in dozens of cities across Belarus. The numbers of the prosecuted in Minsk and the regions are as follows:
- 58 persons in Minsk;
- 35 persons in the Homieĺ region;
- 33 persons in the Minsk region;
- 32 persons in the Brest region;
- 24 persons in the Hrodna region;
- 16 persons in the Mahilioŭ region;
- 12 persons in the Viciebsk region.
Types and length of sentences
The monitoring of trials proves that the country’s judicial system tends to select the most severe types of punishment, resulting in restricted freedom and imprisonment.
In December, the courts applied imprisonment in 43.2% and restricted freedom (imprisonment in open penitentiaries, or “khimiya”) in 19.5% of cases. Home confinement (the so-called “domestic khimiya”) was ordered in 31.4% of cases. Arrest (short terms of imprisonment) was used as a punishment in 1.7% of cases, compulsory medical treatment—in 2.5% of cases. Fines constituted only 1.7% of all sentences.
Thus, various types of custodial sentences were handed down in 98.3% of the politically motivated cases.
December sentences in numbers:
- 51 person was sentenced to 284 years and 6 months of imprisonment;
- 23 people were sentenced to 49 years of restricted freedom in an open penitenitary (“khimiya”);
- 37 people were sentenced to 76 years and 4 months of home confinement (“domestic khimiya”);
- 2 people were sentenced to 5 months of arrest;
- 2 persons received a fine of 4,690 BYN (approximately 1,830 USD);
- 1 person received a fine of 2,900 BYN (approximately 1,130 USD) as an additional punishment;
- 6 persons were sentenced to compulsory medical treatment (*for 3 of the accused, this was an additional punishment, along with the main one).