Human rights defenders call to release eight new political prisoners

2022 2022-01-13T15:19:43+0300 2022-01-13T20:03:07+0300 en https://spring96.org/files/images/sources/difamacija_ill.jpg The Human Rights Center “Viasna” The Human Rights Center “Viasna”
The Human Rights Center “Viasna”

Joint statement by the Belarusian human rights community

January 13, 2022

In response to an increase in the number of cases of conviction and imprisonment of individuals under a number of defamatory articles of the Criminal Code, as well as for insulting state symbols of the Republic of Belarus, we, representatives of the Belarusian human rights community, reaffirming our repeated calls to decriminalize defamation and to refrain from imposing terms of imprisonment for insulting officials, the state, government agencies and symbols (as mentioned in the Joint statement of December, 22, 2020), note the following.

At the moment, we know about the following persons imprisoned for insulting the president, police officers, judges, as well as insulting state symbols:

  1. Aliaksandr Haurylenka was sentenced to 2 years of imprisonment and a fine under Art. 369 of the Criminal Code (insulting a government official) for his insulting comments in social networks against KGB officer D. Fedasiuk, who was killed during the intrusion into A. Zeltser's apartment;
  2. Aliaksandr Nikalayeu was sentenced to 2 years of imprisonment under Art. 368, 369, 391 of the Criminal Code for insulting A. Lukashenka, a government official and a judge;
  3. Siarhei Vasiliyeu was sentenced to 3 years of restricted freedom at an open penitentiary under Art. 367 of the Criminal Code for slandering A. Lukashenka sent to serve the sentence;
  4. Andrei Kavalenka was sentenced to 1.5 years of restricted freedom in an open penitentiary under Art. 369 of the Criminal Code for insulting a police officer, sent to serve his sentence;
  5. Siarhei Sak was sentenced to 2 years of restricted freedom at an open penitentiary under Part 1 of Art. 368 of the Criminal Code for slandering A. Lukashenka, sent to serve his sentence;
  6. Viachaslau Smirnou was sentenced to 2 years of restricted freedom at an open penitentiary under Part 1 of Art. 368 of the Criminal Code for slandering A. Lukashenka, sent to serve his sentence;
  7. Natallia Vasilevich was detained on charges under Art. 368, 369 of the Criminal Code for insulting A. Lukashenka and an official;
  8. Yahor Leuchyk was detained on charges under Part 1 of Art. 342, Part 1 of Art. 368, Art. 369 and 391 of the Criminal Code for insulting A. Lukashenka, a representative of the authorities and a judge, participation in group actions grossly violating public order.

In this regard, we consider the persecution and imprisonment of the persons listed above as politically motivated in connection with the peaceful exercise of their views, and the convicts as political prisoners in accordance with paragraph 3.1 (a) of the Guidelines on the Definition of Political Prisoners. We, therefore, call on the Belarusian authorities to:

  1. Immediately release political prisoners Aliaksandr Haurylenka, Aliaksandr Nikalayeu, Siarhei Vasiliyeu, Andrei Kavalenka, Siarhei Sak, Viachaslau Smirnou, Natallia Vasilevich, Yahor Leuchyk and stop the criminal prosecution against them;
  2. take measures aimed at decriminalizing defamation offenses and repealing 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, and stop all ongoing criminal cases under these articles;
  3. immediately release all political prisoners and stop political repression.

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