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Another 20 people recognized as political prisoners over defamatory charges

2022 2022-11-03T23:09:00+0300 2022-11-19T16:30:06+0300 en https://spring96.org/files/images/sources/dif_illustr.jpg The Human Rights Center “Viasna” The Human Rights Center “Viasna”
The Human Rights Center “Viasna”

Joint statement by the Belarusian human rights community

November 3, 2022

The Belarusian human rights community notes an increase in the number of criminal convictions and imprisonments for defamation and desecration of state symbols, and for other actions aimed at the lawful exercise of the freedom of expression.
 
We demand to put an end to the persecution of legitimate expression of views and, reaffirming our repeated calls to decriminalize defamation and to refrain from imposing custodial sentences for insulting officials, the state, government agencies, and symbols (as mentioned in the Joint statement of December 22, 2020), note the following:

We have identified the following persons in custody or imprisoned for ‘insulting’ Mr. Aliaksandr Lukashenka, government officials (police officers), judges, state symbols, and other manifestations of freedom of opinion:

Mr. Dzianis Varozau, Mr. Viachaslau Pantsiushenka, Ms. Volha Tserakh, Mr. Uladzimir Lavar, and Ms. Katsiaryna Zaretskaya were charged with hooliganism (Article 339 of the Criminal Code) and taken into custody for hanging Ukrainian and Belarusian national flags.

Mr. Anton Yakavuk was taken into custody under Article 368 of the Criminal Code for ‘insulting the president.’

Ms. Volha Sheuchyk was taken into custody on charges under Part 1 of Article 342 (‘organization and preparation of actions that grossly violate public order, or active participation in them’), and Articles 369 (‘insulting a government official’), 389 (’threatening a judge’), and 391 (‘insulting a judge’) of the Criminal Code for participating in peaceful protests and expressing her opinions.

Mr. Pavel Klapatok was convicted of ‘insulting the president’, ‘slandering the president’, and ‘desecrating the state symbols’ under Part 1 of Article 368, Part 2 of Article 367, and Article 370 of the Criminal Code respectively for his posts on the Internet including a digital image with a combination of red background and a green ornamented swastika.

Mr. Aliaksandr Vauchok was convicted of ‘slandering’ and ‘insulting the president’ and under Part 2 of Article 367 and Part 1 of Article 368 of the Criminal Code respectively and sentenced to two and a half years of imprisonment in a penal colony.

Mr. Valiantsin Shumik was convicted of ‘desecrating the state symbols’ under Article 370 of the Criminal Code and sentenced to 24 months of restricted freedom in an open-type penal facility. He has started to serve his sentence.

Mr. Maksim Kurouski was convicted of ‘insulting the president’ under Part 1 of Article 368 of the Criminal Code and sentenced to 24 months of imprisonment in a penal colony.

Mr. Aliaksandr Smolka was convicted of ‘desecrating structures and damaging property’ with protest graffiti and ‘insulting the president’ under Articles 341 and 368 of the Criminal Code respectively. He was sentenced to 18 months of restricted freedom in an open-type penal facility.

Mr. Pavel Tseleshau was convicted of ‘desecrating the state symbols’ under Article 370 of the Criminal Code for having torn down and damaged the state flag. He was sentenced to 24 months of restricted freedom in an open-type penal facility and has started to serve his sentence.

Mr. Aliaksandr Zhaliazouski was convicted of ‘insulting a government official’ under Article 369 of the Criminal Code and sentenced to three years of restricted freedom in an open-type penal facility. He has started to serve his sentence.

Ms. Katsiaryna Batura was convicted of ‘insulting the president’ under Article 368 of the Criminal Code and sentenced to two and a half years of restricted freedom in an open-type penal facility. She has started to serve her sentence.

Mr. Eduard Isayeu was convicted of ‘slandering’ and ‘insulting the president’ under Articles 367 and 368 of the Criminal Code and sentenced to three and a half years of imprisonment in a penal colony.

Mr. Aliaksandr Bakunovich was convicted of ‘desecrating the state symbols’ under Article 370 of the Criminal Code for having torn down the state flag. He was sentenced to 24 months of restricted freedom in an open-type penal facility and has started to serve his sentence.

Mr. Aliaksandr Hladkikh was 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 penal facility. He has started to serve his sentence.

Ms. Vera Musienka was convicted of ‘insulting a government official’ under Article 369 of the Criminal Code and sentenced to 12 months of imprisonment in a general-security penal colony.

Mr. Aliaksandr Antashkevich was convicted of ‘insulting a government official’ under Article 369 of the Criminal Code and sentenced to 24 months of restricted freedom in an open-type penal facility. He has started to serve his sentence.

We consider the persecution and imprisonment of the persons listed above politically motivated in nexus with the peaceful exercise of their views. Therefore, we recognize these persons as political prisoners per paragraph 3.1 (a) of the Guidelines on the Definition of Political Prisoners. We demand that the Belarusian authorities:

  1. Immediately release the political prisoners Mr. Dzianis Varozau, Mr. Viachaslau Pantsiushenka, Ms. Volha Tserakh, Mr. Uladzimir Lavar, Ms. Katsiaryna Zaretskaya, Mr. Anton Yakavuk, Ms. Volha Sheuchyk, Mr. Pavel Klapatok, Mr. Aliaksandr Vauchok, Mr. Valiantsin Shumik, Mr. Maksim Kurouski, Mr. Aliaksandr Smolka, Mr. Pavel Tseleshau, Mr. Aliaksandr Zhaliazouski, Ms. Katsiaryna Batura, Mr. Eduard Isayeu, Mr. Aliaksandr Bakunovich, Mr. Aliaksandr Hladkikh, Ms. Vera Musienka, and Mr. Aliaksandr Antashkevich, and stop the criminal prosecution against them.
  2. Decriminalize defamation offenses and abolish the articles of the Criminal Code that institute 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 drop all ongoing criminal cases under these articles.
  3. Immediately release all political prisoners and stop political repression.

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