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Seventeen people charged with insulting officials and state symbols recognized political prisoners

2022 2022-08-12T15:51:17+0300 2022-08-16T20:06:51+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

August 12, 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, and other actions aimed at the lawful exercising of freedom of expression we, representatives of the Belarusian human rights community demand to put the end to the persecution for legitimate expression of views and, 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 Mr. Aliaksandr Lukashenka, police officers, judges, as well as insulting state and state symbols:

  1. Mr. Vasil Chykh, convicted of ‘discrediting the Republic of Belarus’ under Article 369-1 of the Criminal Code and sentenced to 18 months of imprisonment in a general-security penal colony.
  2. Ms. Natallia Leanovich, convicted for ‘insulting Mr. Aliaksandr Lukashenka’ under Part 1 of Article 368 of the Criminal Code and sentenced to 24 months of imprisonment in a penal colony.
  3. Mr. Viktar Khliabets, convicted of ‘insulting a government official’ under Article 369 of the Criminal Code and sentenced to 18 months of imprisonment in a penal colony.
  4. Mr. Yuryi Holik, convicted of ‘slandering Mr. Aliaksandr Lukashenka’ under Part 2 of Article 367 of the Criminal Code and sentenced to 24 months of imprisonment in a penal colony.
  5. Mr. Uladzislau Plushchau, convicted of ‘slandering and insulting a government official’ under Articles 188 and 369 of the Criminal Code and sentenced to 24 months of imprisonment in a penal colony.
  6. Mr. Valeryi Klimenchanka, convicted of ‘inciting hatred’ under Part 1 of Article 130 of the Criminal Code in the Zeltser case and sentenced to 24 months of imprisonment in a penal colony.
  7. Mr. Ivan Yanchanka, convicted of ‘inciting hatred’ under Part 1 of Article 130 of the Criminal Code in the Zeltser case and sentenced to 24 months of imprisonment in a penal colony.
  8. Ms. Natallia Taran, convicted of ‘insulting and slandering Mr. Aliaksandr Lukashenka’ and ‘insulting a government official’ under Part 1 of Art. 368, Part 2 of Article 367, and Article 369 and sentenced to 3.5 years of imprisonment in a penal colony.
  9. Mr. Viktar Nestserau, convicted of ‘insulting a government official’ under Article 369 of the Criminal Code and sentenced to 18 months of restricted freedom in an open-type correctional facility; sent to serve his sentence.
  10. Mr. Valeryi Yeliseyeu, convicted of ‘insulting a government official’ under Article 369 of the Criminal Code and sentenced to 18 months of restricted freedom in an open-type correctional facility; sent to serve his sentence.
  11. Mr. Aliaksandr Katsenka, convicted of ‘insulting a government official’ under Article 369 of the Criminal Code and sentenced to 18 months of restricted freedom in an open-type correctional facility; sent to serve his sentence.
  12. Mr. Kiryl Davidziuk, charged with ‘desecrating state symbols’ and taken into custody under Article 370 of the Criminal Code.
  13. Mr. Siarhei Kireyenka, charged with ‘inciting hatred’ and ‘insulting government official’ and taken into custody under Part 1 of Article 130 and Article 369 of the Criminal Code in Zeltser case.
  14. Mr. Dzmitryi Rybak, charged with ‘insulting Mr. Aliaksand Lukashenka and a government official’ and taken into custody under Articles 368 and 369 of the Criminal Code.
  15. Mr. Aleh Chychykaila, charged with ‘insulting Mr. Aliaksand Lukashenka’ and taken into custody under Article 368 of the Criminal Code.
  16. Mr. Vital Yanchanka, taken into custody for collecting and sending to a Telegram channel information about shortcomings in the work of public amenities, and for filming military equipment in the Homieĺ region and sending the files to ‘extremist’ channels.
  17. Mr. Andrei Slavashevich, taken into custody under Article 370 of the Criminal Code for a broken pole of the state flag.

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 recognize 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 the political prisoners Mr. Vasil Chykh, Ms. Natallia Leanovich, Mr. Viktar Khliabets, Mr. Yuryi Holik, Mr. Uladzislau Pliushchou, Mr. Valeryi Klimenchanka, Mr. Ivan Yanchanka, Ms. Natallia Taran, Mr. Viktar Nestserau, Mr. Valeryi Yeliseyeu, Mr. Vital Pradybailau, Mr. Kiryl Davidziuk, Mr. Siarhei Kireyenka, Mr. Dzmitryi Rybak, Mr. Aleh Chychykaila, Mr. Vital Yanchanka, and Mr. Andrei Slavashevich and stop the criminal prosecution against them.
  2. decriminalize defamation offenses and abolish articles of the Criminal Code that provide for liability for insulting the state and state symbols, 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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