Sixteen people prosecuted under notorious Article 342 are recognized as political prisoners
Joint statement by the Belarusian human rights community
July 13, 2022
In relation to the indictment, pre-trial detention, and custodial sentences under Part 1 of Article 342 of the Criminal Code (group actions that grossly violate public order) of Mr. Yauhen Yarmak, Mr. Dzmitryi Sidorkin, Mr. Artsiom Lamanosau, Ms. Hanna Lapo, Mr. Yauhen Batura, Mr. Aliaksei Lisouski, Mr. Aliaksandr Hurnik, Mr. Dzmitryi Ivanou, Ms. Tatsiana Talochka, Mr. Stanislau Kabeshau, Ms. Palina Kabeshava, Mr. Pavel Maksimau, Ms. Viktoryia Navitskaya, Ms. Yuliya Mudreuskaya, Mr. Vital Brahinets, and Mr. Yuryi Hladchuk, we reiterate the position set out in the joint statement of the human rights community of August 10, 2020, and would like to 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, 2020, presidential election, which was marred by numerous violations and fraud and was not recognized by the international community as democratic, fair, and free.
Citizens assembled peacefully and posed no threat to national or public security. However, the demonstrators were attacked by special units of the Interior Ministry with disproportionate use of physical force, special equipment, and 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 our 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.
A number of individuals have been arrested and detained as part of the government crackdown on anti-war protests following the Russian military invasion of Ukraine.
We assess the persecution of the above-mentioned individuals 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 Mr. Yauhen Yarmak, Mr. Dzmitryi Sidorkin, Mr. Artsiom Lamanosau, Ms. Hanna Lapo, Mr. Yauhen Batura, Mr. Aliaksei Lisouski, Mr. Aliaksandr Hurnik, Mr. Dzmitryi Ivanou, Ms. Tatsiana Talochka, Mr. Stanislau Kabeshau, Ms. Palina Kabeshava, Mr. Pavel Maksimau, Ms. Viktoryia Navitskaya,Ms. Yuliya Mudreuskaya, Mr. Vital Brahinets, and Mr. Yuryi Hladchuk stop their 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, reconsider politically motivated cases, and stop political repression in the country.
Human Rights Center Viasna
Belarusian Association of Journalists
Belarusian Helsinki Committee
Barys Zvozskau Belarusian Human Rights House