Human rights organizations declare 11 more persons political prisoners
Joint statement by the Belarusian human rights community
20 September 2022
In response to an increase in the number of cases of conviction and imprisonment of individuals under defamatory articles of the Criminal Code, as well as for desecration of state symbols of the Republic of Belarus and other actions related to the lawful exercising the right to freedom of expression, 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 desecrating symbols (joint statement of 22 December 2020), note the following:
We have received information about the following persons imprisoned for insulting Aliaksandr Lukashenka, government officials (policemen), judges, desecrating state symbols, and for other forms of realization of freedom of opinion:
- Aliaksandr Hryhareuski, convicted under Art. 367 of the Criminal Code for slandering A. Lukashenka to one year and six months of imprisonment;
- Hanna Volskaya, convicted under Art. 369 of the Criminal Code for insulting a government official to restricted freedom in an open-type correctional facility, serving her sentence;
- Aliaksandr Adziarykha, convicted under part 1 of Art. 368 of the Criminal Code for insulting Aliaksandr Lukashenka, Art. 369 for insulting KGB Chairperson Ivan Tsertsel, CEC Chairperson Liudmila Yarmoshyna, deputies, ministers for foreign affairs and emergencies, and the prosecutor to three years of imprisonment and a fine of 6,400 Belarusian roubles ($2,535);
- Mikhail Kasiakou, convicted under Art. 368 of the Criminal Code for insulting Lukashenka and under Art. 370 of the Criminal Code for desecrating state symbols to two years in prison;
- Yury Chubanau, convicted under part 3 of Art. 203-1 of the Criminal Code for sharing personal data of an Interior Ministry officer, Art. 369 for insulting a government official, part 1 of Art. 368 for insulting Lukashenka, Art. 370 for desecrating state symbols, and part 1 of Art. 367 for slandering Aliaksandr Lukashenka to two years of imprisonment;
- Yauhen Buzhynski, taken into custody under Art. 368 and 369 of the Criminal Code for insulting Lukashenka and a government official;
- Yauhen Hukau, convicted under Art. 368 and 369 of the Criminal Code for insulting Lukashenka and a government official to one year and 10 months of imprisonment;
- Illia Davydzenka, convicted under Art. 368 of the Criminal Code for insulting Lukashenka by burning his effigy and Art. 342 of the Criminal Code for participating in a peaceful march to three years of imprisonment;
- Pavel Laryn, taken into custody under Art. 368 and 369 of the Criminal Code for insulting Lukashenka and a government official,
- Pavel Mazheika, taken into custody for exercising the right to freedom of expression;
- Volha Mankevich, taken into custody under Art. 368 of the Criminal Code for insulting A. Lukashenka.
We consider the prosecution and imprisonment of the abovementioned persons politically motivated, related to the peaceful exercise of the right to express opinions, and demand that the Belarusian authorities immediately release 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:
- immediately release political prisoners Yauhen Hryhareuski, Hanna Volskaya, Aliaksandr Adziarykha, Mikhail Kasiakou, Yury Chubanau, Yauhen Buzhynski, Yauhen Hukau, Illia Davydzenko, Pavel Laryn, Pavel Mazheika, Volha Mankevich and terminate criminal proceedings against them.
- take measures aimed at decriminalizing defamation offenses and the abolition of 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, and 370 of the Criminal Code, to terminate all criminal cases which were previously opened under these articles.
- immediately release all political prisoners and end political repression.
Human Rights Center "Viasna";
Barys Zvozskau Belarusian Human Rights House;
Belarusian Association of Journalists;