Seven more political prisoners in Belarus
Statement by the human rights community of Belarus
January 24, 2022
We, representatives of the human rights community in Belarus, note that criminal liability for incitement of “other social hatred or discord” (Article 130 of the Criminal Code) has been selectively and discriminatorily applied by both the investigators and courts in an apparent attempt to protect the institutions of power. Moreover, it seems unreasonable to label representatives of the authorities, police officers, military personnel, etc. as separate social groups falling under protection in this context.
We also insist that it is unacceptable to apply a law aimed to protect government officials, law enforcement officers, and judges from threats in connection with the lawful performance of their duties to punish those citizens who have spoken out in connection with the clear violation of the Constitution and law by state institutions, the involvement of government officials, prosecutors and judges in torture and in creating a climate of impunity for torture and other human rights violations.
Seven people were convicted. Among them:
- Henadz Siauruk sentenced to 4 years in a penal colony under Art. 364 of the Criminal Code for threatening to use violence against an employee of the internal affairs bodies on social networks, Art. 369 of the Criminal Code for insulting a government official, Art. 368 of the Criminal Code for insulting A. Lukashenka, Art. 130 of the Criminal Code for inciting hatred;
- Yury Chudzinovich sentenced to 4 years in a penal colony under Art. 130 of the Criminal Code for inciting hatred on the Internet, Art. 188 of the Criminal Code for defamation against a social pedagogue–a member of the election commission, Art. 174 of the Criminal Code for evasion of child support;
- Dzmitryi Kaneuski sentenced to 3 years in a penal colony under Art. 130 of the Criminal Code for inciting hatred against police officers;
- Andrei Sachanka to 3 years in a penal colony under Art. 364 of the Criminal Code for threatening to use violence against an employee of the internal affairs bodies on the Internet, Art. 366 of the Criminal Code for threat against an official performing official duties or another person performing a public duty;
- Aliaksandr Ivanou to 3 years in a penal colony under Art. 364 of the Criminal Code for telephone threats of violence against law enforcement officers, and Art. 391 of the Criminal Code for insulting a judge;
- Uladzislau Tsimashchuk to 3 years in a penal colony under Art. 130 of the Criminal Code for inciting hatred against police officers on social networks.
The persons mentioned above did not call for violent acts on national, ethnic, racial, or religious grounds. Their actions did not and could not entail serious consequences for the victims.
- Ruslan Slutskі sentenced to 11 years of restricted freedom under Part 1 of Art. 14, part 1 of Art. 309 of the Criminal Code for attempting to render unusable railway tracks by trying to connect the rails with a metal wire, which could lead to delays in train traffic, as well as under Part 1 of Art. 289 of the Criminal Code for “an act of terrorism” consisted of throwing homemade metal spikes on the highway in front of cars participating in the pro-government rally, which damaged the tires of four cars.
The qualification of the actions of the individuals listed above, as well as the type and amount of their punishment, was clearly disproportionate to the severity of the offense and thus inappropriate. In each case, the imprisonment was an excessively harsh response of the authorities to the protests of citizens. In a number of cases, there was a clearly selective approach to determining the punishment for politically motivated acts as compared to similar acts with no political motive.
We emphasize once again that in a number of these cases, the nature of the actions of the accused were the result of numerous and widespread human rights violations by the authorities, the lack of freedom of expression, were caused by the lack of investigation of crimes against peaceful protesters and other victims of cruel treatment and torture, disappointment with the authorities’ reluctance to use the force of law to protect citizens’ violated rights in the absence of conditions for a democratic and constitutional change of government in fair elections.
Having studied these cases of criminal prosecution, we came to the conclusion that all of them are politically motivated.
According to the Guidelines on the Definition of Political Prisoners, a person deprived of liberty is to be regarded as a political prisoner, if at least one of the following criteria is observed:
- a) the detention has been imposed in violation of the right to a fair trial, other rights and freedoms guaranteed by the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights or the European Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms;
- d) the person has been detained in a discriminatory manner as compared to other persons.
We, the representatives of the Belarusian human rights community, declare that further imprisonment of Henadz Siauruk, Yury Chudzinovich, Dzmitryi Kaneuski, Andrei Sachanka, Aliaksandr Ivanou, Uladzislau Tsimashchuk, Ruslan Slutski is politically motivated, and recognize them as political prisoners. In this regard, we call on the Belarusian authorities to:
- to review the sentences passed against the mentioned political prisoners while exercising the right to a fair trial and eliminating the factors that affected the qualification of actions, the type and amount of punishment;
- release the mentioned political prisoners by taking other measures to ensure their appearance in court;
- immediately release all political prisoners and stop political repression.
Human Rights Center Viasna
Belarusian Helsinki Committee
Barys Zvozskau Belarusian Human Rights House
Belarusian Association of Journalists