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Rights defenders recognize 21 people as political prisoners

2022 2022-11-08T17:21:51+0300 2022-11-08T17:22:06+0300 en https://spring96.org/files/images/sources/komment_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 5, 2022

The Belarusian human rights community notes an increase in the number of convictions and imprisonments under several defamation and desecration of state symbols articles of the Criminal Code of the Republic of Belarus, 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:

At the moment we know about the following persons imprisoned for having allegedly insulted Mr. Aliaksandr Lukashenka, police officers, judges, desecrated state and state symbols, and exercised their freedom of opinion in other forms:

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

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

Mr. Siarhei Litskevich was convicted of ‘insulting the president’, ’insulting the government official’, and ‘desecrating state symbols’ under Articles 368, 369, and 370 of the Criminal Code respectively and sentenced to imprisonment.

Mr. Aleh Falei was taken into custody under Article 339 of the Criminal Code (‘hooliganism’) for protest graffiti and under Article 369 of the Criminal Code for ‘insulting a government official.’

Mr. Aleh Dutchyk was convicted of ‘discrediting the Republic of Belarus’ and ‘insulting the president’ under Articles 369-1 and 368 of the Criminal Code respectively and sentenced to three years of imprisonment in a penal colony.

Mr. Pavel Malitvik was convicted of ‘insulting a government official’ and ‘threatening violence against an employee of the internal affairs bodies’ under Articles 369 and 364 of the Criminal Code and sentenced to 24 months of imprisonment in a penal colony for his comments about a Ministry of Internal Affairs officer.

Mr. Aleh Ramanchyk was convicted of ‘slandering’, ‘unlawfully disclosing personal data’, and ‘participating in actions that grossly violate the public order’ under Article 188, Part 2 of Article 203-1, and Part 1 of Article 342 of the Criminal Code respectively for distributing flyers with the prosecutor's personal data and information about his activities and participating in a peaceful protest. Mr. Ramanchuk was sentenced to three years of restricted freedom in an open-type penal facility and has started to serve his sentence.

Mr. Artsiom Mikhaltsou 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.

Mr. Pavel Kulheika was convicted of ‘insulting a government official’ and ‘Illegal dissemination of information about private life’ under Articles 369 and 179 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.

Mr. Dzmitryi Malashenka was convicted of ‘discrediting the Republic of Belarus’ under Article 369-1 of the Criminal Code and sentenced to 24 months of imprisonment in a penal colony.

Mr. Ihar Belanozhka was convicted of ‘insulting the president’ under Part 1 of Article 368 of the Criminal Code and sentenced to 12 months of imprisonment in a penal colony.

Mr. Aliaksei Ivanou was convicted of ‘insulting a government official’ and ‘inciting social hatred’ under Article 369 and Part 1 of Article 130 of the Criminal Code and sentenced to three years of imprisonment in a penal colony for expressing his opinion about the Zeltser case.

Mr. Valeryi Sivuk was convicted of ‘insulting’ and ‘slandering the president’ under Part 1 of Article 368 and Article 188 of the Criminal Code and sentenced to 18 months of imprisonment in a penal colony.

Mr. Uladzimir Shymchuk was convicted of ‘insulting the president’ and ‘desecrating state symbols’ under Part 1 of Article 368 and Article 370 of the Criminal Code and sentenced to 18 months of imprisonment in a penal colony.

Mr. Aleh Krychkouski was convicted of ‘insulting the president’ under Part 1 of Article 368 of the Criminal Code and sentenced to 12 months of imprisonment in a penal colony.

Mr. Vasil Dzemidovich was convicted of ‘insulting a government official, a judge, and the president’ under Articles 369, 391, and 368 of the Criminal Code and ‘organization of riots’ under Part 1 of Article 293 of the Criminal Code. The charges stemmed from Mr. Dzemidovich’s statements posted on social networks. He was sentenced to six years of imprisonment in a penal colony.

Ms. Maryna Kalaskova 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. The punishment was replaced with imprisonment.

Mr. Dzianis Varabei was convicted of ‘desecrating state symbols’ under Article 370 of the Criminal Code and sentenced to 12 months of imprisonment in a penal colony for damaging a state flag.

Mr. Ivan Varabei was convicted of ‘desecrating state symbols’ under Article 370 of the Criminal Code and sentenced to 12 months of imprisonment in a penal colony for damaging a state flag.

Ms. Liudmila Samak was convicted of ‘insulting the president’ under Part 1 of Article 368 of the Criminal Code and sentenced to 12 months of imprisonment in a penal colony.

Mr. Edhar Shyrko was convicted of ‘insulting a government official’ and ‘inciting social hatred’ under Article 369 and Part 1 of Article 130 of the Criminal Code and sentenced to three years of imprisonment in a penal colony for expressing his opinion about the Zeltser case.

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. Valeryi Tumilevich, Mr. Uladzimir Chmurau, Mr. Siarhei Litskevich, Mr. Aleh Falei, Mr. Aleh Dutchyk,Mr. Pavel Malitvik, Mr. Aleh Ramanchyk, Mr. Artsiom Mikhaltsou, Mr. Pavel Kulheika, Mr. Dzmitryi Malashenka, Mr. Ihar Belanozhka, Mr. Aliaksei Ivanou, Mr. Valeryi Sivuk, Mr. Uladzimir Shymchuk, Mr. Aleh Krychkouski,Mr. Vasil Dzemidovich, Ms. Maryna Kalaskova, Mr. Dzianis Varabei, Mr. Ivan Varabei, Ms. Liudmila Samak, and Mr. Edhar Shyrko and to stop their criminal prosecution.
  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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