Human rights defenders call to release another 11 political prisoners
Joint statement by the Belarusian human rights community
January 18, 202
In response to the pre-trial detention, indictment and sentencing of Aliaksei Arbuzau, Aliaksei Kaveryn, Lidziya Novik, Paval Adamovich, Ivan Haurylau, Aliaksei Dudko, Maryia Kalosha under Part 1 of Article 342 of the Criminal Code (Group actions grossly violating public order), of Stanislau Nestseruk under Part 2 of Art. 293 of the Criminal Code, of Volha Yaltsevich under Part 2 of Art. 342 of the Criminal Code, of Paval Yukhnevich under Part 1 of Article 342 and Part 3 of Article 361 of the Criminal Code, sending Illia Kadzetau to penitentiary to serve his sentence of restraint freedom under Part 1 of Art. 342 of the Criminal Code, reaffirming the position set out in the joint statement of the human rights community of August 10, 2020, we note the following:
Freedom of peaceful assembly is guaranteed by Article 21 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. This freedom is not subject to any restrictions other than those established by law and necessary in a democratic society for the purposes of national and public security, public order, public health and morals, or the protection of the rights and freedoms of others.
The post-election protests were spontaneous, self-organized, and were caused by distrust of the results of the August 9 presidential election, which was marred by numerous violations and fraud, and was not recognized by the international community as democratic, fair and free.
The meetings were peaceful and did not pose a threat to national or public security. Despite this, the demonstrators were attacked by special units of the Ministry of Internal Affairs who used disproportionate violence, riot gear and non-lethal weapons.
For the first time in the history of Belarus, rubber bullets and water cannons were used against peaceful demonstrators. A particularly large amount of damage was inflicted by the use of stun grenades.
In its statement of August 10, 2020, the Belarusian human rights community condemned the actions of law enforcement agencies and placed all responsibility for what happened on August 9 and 10 on the authorities of Belarus.
We assess the prosecution of the aforementioned individuals who have been imprisoned and charged with group activities grossly violating public order and mass disorder, as well as those imprisoned for supporting victims of prosecution for participating in protests, as politically motivated, as it is related solely to their exercise of freedom of peaceful assembly and expression in the post-election period, and recognize them as political prisoners.
We also note that in the midst of a profound human rights crisis, it is unacceptable to use the tools of criminal prosecution to further restrict freedom of expression.
In this regard, we call on the Belarusian authorities to:
Immediately release Aliaksei Arbuzau, Aliaksei Kaveryn, Lidziya Novik, Paval Adamovich, Ivan Haurylau, Aliaksei Dudko, Maryia Kalosha, Stanislau Nestseruk, Volha Yaltsevich, Illia Kadzetau, Paval Yukhnevich and stop their criminal prosecution.
Immediately release all political prisoners, as well as other individuals detained in connection with their exercise of freedom of peaceful assembly in the post-election period, and stop political repression in the country.
Human Rights Center Viasna
Belarusian Association of Journalists
Barys Zvozskau Belarusian Human Rights House
Belarusian Helsinki Committee