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Fifteen people recognized as political prisoners over prosecution under notorious Article 342

2022 2022-10-05T15:56:16+0300 2022-10-28T00:53:00+0300 en https://spring96.org/files/images/sources/minsk_1810.jpeg The Human Rights Center “Viasna” The Human Rights Center “Viasna”
The Human Rights Center “Viasna”

Joint statement by the Belarusian human rights community

October 5, 2022

In connection with the information about detention and sentencing under Part 1 of Article 342 of the Criminal Code (‘group actions that grossly violate public order’) of Ms. Meryem Herasimenka, Mr. Uladzimir Zubets, Ms. Aksana Mankevich, Mr. Aleh Halubouski, Mr. Henadz Drazdou, Mr. Piotr Drazdou, Mr. Valiantsin Mitskevich, Ms. Katsiaryna Bibilnikava, Ms. Natallia Dulina, Mr. Uladzislau Shakovich, Mr. Illia Astrouski, Mr. Dzianis Kharunzhy, Ms. Liudmila Abrazouskaya, Mr. Ruslan Ksionzhyk, and Mr. Dzianis Panamarou, 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 is 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. Despite this, the demonstrators were attacked by special units of the Ministry of Internal Affairs who used disproportionate violence, riot gear, and non-lethal weapons.

For the first time in the history of Belarus, rubber bullets and water cannons were used against peaceful demonstrators. A considerable 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.

We also consider it necessary to note that the demonstrators did not commit any of the actions covered by Art. 293 of the Criminal Code and cannot be qualified as mass riots, accordingly. The protesters did not set fires, destroy property or put up armed resistance to law enforcement agencies.

Individual cases of violence performed by demonstrators against police officers require a separate legal qualification, taking into account the context and circumstances of the use of violence, including self-defense against actions of police officers known to be disproportionate.

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 demand that the Belarusian authorities:

  • Immediately release the political prisoners Ms. Meryem Herasimenka, Mr. Uladzimir Zubets, Ms. Aksana Mankevich, Mr. Aleh Halubouski, Mr. Henadz Drazdou, Mr. Piotr Drazdou, Mr. Valiantsin Mitskevich, Ms. Katsiaryna Bibilnikava, Ms. Natallia Dulina, Mr. Uladzislau Shakovich, Mr. Illia Astrouski, Mr. Dzianis Kharunzhy, Ms. Liudmila Abrazouskaya, Mr. Ruslan Ksionzhyk, and Mr. Dzianis Panamarou, and stop criminal prosecution against them.
  • Immediately release all political prisoners, and other individuals detained in connection with their exercise of freedom of peaceful assembly in the post-election period, and stop political repression in the country.

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