The list of political prisoners is updated by four new names
Joint statement of the Belarusian human rights community
23 September 2022
We, members of the human rights community of Belarus, once again stress that imprisonment and criminal persecution for various protest actions are used by the authorities to suppress civil and political activism, dissent, and anti-war actions.
Criminal legislation was considerably toughened and updated with new constituent elements of crimes that are only used by the authorities for political repressions.
The Ministry of Internal Affairs and KGB arbitrarily declared extremist certain groups of citizens united by social or political interests who criticize the actions of the authorities and demand changes in the state system and its policies. This, in turn, opens the way for arbitrary criminal prosecution and imprisonment of "members" of such groups as a disproportionate restriction of the right of association and freedom of expression. Thus:
Pavel Piskun was sentenced to two years of imprisonment on charges of promoting extremist activity under Article 361-4 of the Criminal Code for sending information and videos covering the movement of Russian military equipment on the territory of Belarus to a Telegram channel;
Dzianis Sasunkievich was sentenced to two years of imprisonment on charges of promoting extremist activity under Article 361-4 of the Criminal Code;
Anton Maliuha was sentenced in a closed session to three years of imprisonment on charges of promoting extremist activity under part 1 of Article 361-4, part 1 of Article 375-1 for transmitting information about the location of military units on the territory of Belarus to Ukraine and sending texts to a Telegram channel.
When we evaluate the specified information in the context of socio-political developments after 24 February 2022, the core event being the military invasion into Ukraine by the Russian Federation and the ensuing acts of anti-war protest and solidarity with the people of Ukraine, we conclude that in these cases, the citizens are persecuted because of their political opinions and non-violent implementation of freedom of expression, information, and association. In this context, the assessment of the public danger of Belarusian citizens' participation in military actions on the territory of Ukraine as part of military formations created by the Ukrainian state has also changed.
Andrei Maslau was convicted for preparation for participation in the military actions on the territory of a foreign state - as he had an intention to join the defenders of sovereign Ukraine - under part 1 of article 13 and part 1 of article 361-3 of the Criminal Code to two years and six months of imprisonment.
We recognize these people as political prisoners under paragraph 3.1(a) of the Guidelines on the Definition of Political Prisoners, and demand from the Belarusian authorities:
- to immediately release political prisoners Pavel Piskun, Dzianis Sasunkievich, Anton Maliuha, and Andrei Maslau;
- to immediately release all political prisoners and stop political repression against citizens of the country.
Human Rights Center "Viasna";
Belarusian Association of Journalists;
Barys Zvozskau Belarusian Human Rights House;