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Ten people recognized as political prisoners

2022 2022-10-03T20:53:35+0300 2022-10-04T15:59:43+0300 en https://spring96.org/files/images/sources/milicyja-kajdanki.jpg The Human Rights Center “Viasna” The Human Rights Center “Viasna”
The Human Rights Center “Viasna”

Statement by the human rights community of Belarus

October 3, 2022

We, representatives of the human rights community in Belarus, note that criminal liability for ‘incitement of hatred’ under 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 state bodies. Moreover, it seems unreasonable to label government officials, 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, police officers, and judges from threats related to their lawful professional duties to punish those citizens who have spoken out about the clear violation of the Constitution and law by state bodies, the involvement of government officials, prosecutors and judges in torture and in creating a climate of impunity for torture and other human rights violations, often showing signs of crimes against humanity.

A closed-door trial in these cases grossly violates the procedural rights of the accused and reduces to a minimum the assessment of the credibility, sufficiency, and admissibility of any evidence for the prosecution.

Six people were convicted:

  • Mr. Illia Verameyeu was sentenced to 6.5 years of imprisonment in a penal colony for his comments against a ‘social group’ of police officers and calls for resistance as a response to the Belarus involvement in the Russian war in Ukraine. He was found guilty of ‘inciting hatred’ and an ‘attempt to organize a mass riot’ under Part 1 of Article 130 and Part 1 of Article 14 and Part 1 of Article 293 of the Criminal Code.
  • Ms. Maryna Sankevich was sentenced to seven years of imprisonment in a penal colony for publications in Telegram channels. She was found guilty of ‘inciting hatred’, ‘organizing and preparing group actions that violate the public order’, ‘organizing riots’, and ‘insulting the President’ under Part 1 of Article 130, Part 1 of Article 293, and Part 1 of Article 368 accordingly.
  • Mr. Valiantsin Muzykin was sentenced in a closed court session to 24 months of imprisonment in a penal colony for ‘inciting hatred’ (Part 1 of Article 130 of the Criminal Code) and ‘insulting a government official’ (Article 369 of the Criminal Code).
  • Mr. Stanislau Puhachou was sentenced in a closed court session to seven years of imprisonment in a penal colony for sending police officers personal data to a Telegram channel. The court found him guilty of ‘inciting hatred’, ‘illegal collection and dissemination of information about private life’, and ‘illegal actions with respect to information about private life and personal data’ under Part 3 of Article 130, Part 1 of Article 179, and Part 1 of Article 203-1 of the Criminal Code accordingly.
  • Mr. Anatol Mikhailau was sentenced to four years of imprisonment in a penal colony for his publications in Telegram channels and registration in a deemed ‘extremist’ Telegram chat. The court considered it as ‘incitement to hatred’ (Part 1 of Article 130 of the Criminal Code), ‘participation in an extremist formation’ (Part 3 of Article 361-1 of the Criminal Code), ‘organization of riots’ (Part 1 of Article 293 of the Criminal Code), ‘insult of the President’ (Part 1 of Article 368 of the Criminal Code), and ‘insult of a government official’ (Article 369 of the Criminal Code).
  • Mr. Pavel Miakish was sentenced to five years of imprisonment in a penal colony for sending police officers personal data to a Telegram channel. The court found him guilty of ‘inciting hatred’ and ‘illegal collection and dissemination of information about private life’ under Part 3 of Article 130 and Part 1 of Article 179 of the Criminal Code accordingly.
  • Mr. Illia Trubin was sentenced to 16 years of imprisonment on charges of acts of terrorism and illegal actions with ammunition and flammable substances for setting fire to two toll collection devices. The qualification of his actions is redundant as they lack the elements of terrorism.

Another three people were detained:

  • Mr. Siarhei Shametska was detained in the Workers' Movement case on the arbitrary charge of treason and creation of an extremist formation. The nature of the preventive measure and its period does not correspond to the circumstances of the case revealing its selective use for mere political reasons.
  • Ms. Yana Pinchuk was detained on charges of defamation, illegal actions with personal data, incitement to hatred, creation, and leading of an extremist formation, and calls for restrictive measures (sanctions). Despite the call of the UN Human Rights Committee, she was transferred to the Belarusian authorities from the Russian Federation.
  • Mr. Siarhei Pasiuk was detained on charges of ‘incitement to hatred’ and ‘desecration of buildings and damage to property’ under Part 3 of Article 130 and Article 341 of the Criminal Code accordingly. He was also charged with calls for restrictive measures (sanctions) and other actions aimed at harming the national security of the Republic of Belarus (Part 1 of Article 361 of the Criminal Code), promotion of extremist activities (Part 1 of Article 361-4), and an insult of the President (Article 367 of the Criminal Code).

We emphasize once again that in a number of the abovementioned cases the nature of the acts of the accused was the result of numerous and widespread human rights violations by the authorities, the lack of freedom of expression, and 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 criminal prosecution cases, we concluded 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:

  1. 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;
  2. 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 the further imprisonment of Mr. Illia Verameyeu, Ms. Maryna Sankevich, Mr. Valiantsin Muzykin, Mr. Stanislau Puhachou, Mr. Anatol Mikhailau, Mr. Pavel Miakish, Mr. Siarhei Shametska, Ms. Yana Pinchuk, Mr. Siarhei Pasiuk, and Mr. Illia Trubin is politically motivated, and they themselves — political prisoners. We demand that the Belarusian authorities:

  • review the sentences passed against the mentioned political prisoners and their preventive measures 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, review politically motivated sentences, and end political repression against citizens.

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Belarusian Association of Journalists

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