Eleven people recognized as political prisoners over lack of fair justice in courts
Statement by the human rights community of Belarus
November 17, 2022
We, representatives of the human rights community in Belarus, note that criminal liability for ‘incitement of social hatred’ under Article 130 of the Criminal Code (hereafter CC) 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 insist that it is unacceptable to apply a law aimed to protect government officials, law enforcement officers, and judges from threats in connection with the lawful performance of their duties to punish those citizens who have spoken out in connection with the clear violation of the Constitution and law by state institutions, 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.
We are aware of the conviction and detention of:
- Mr. Aliaksei Kuzmin was taken into custody under Article 130 of the CC for sharing the data of government officials involved in repression to the protest Telegram channel.
- Mr. Aliaksei Daineka was sentenced to 18 months of imprisonment under Article 130 of the CC for his comments on social networks.
- Mr. Uladzislau Kupryianau was taken into custody under Article 130 of the CC for sharing the data of government officials involved in repression to the protest Telegram channel.
- Mr. Andrei Razhkou was sentenced to three years of imprisonment under Articles 130, 364, 369, and 391 of the CC for his comments on social networks.
- Mr. Siarhei Savich was taken into custody under Article 130 and Part 3 of Article 361 of the CC for posting comments on social networks that called for sanctions.
- Mr. Aliaksandr Petushkou was sentenced to seven and a half years of imprisonment under Articles 130, 293, 342, and 368 of the CC for posting comments on the Internet about the need to resume protests, insulting Mr. Aliaksandr Lukashenka, and participating in peaceful demonstrations.
- Mr. Siarhei Zakharanka was sentenced in a closed-door trial to four years of imprisonment under Articles 367, 342, 369, 368, 179, 130, 361-4 for slandering Mr. Lukashenka, insulting him and other government officials, and sharing personal data of individuals involved in the crackdown on protests with media recognized as extremist.
- Mr. Siarhei Matsiukhevich was sentenced to three years of imprisonment for posting commentaries on the Internet about the possibility of resistance to the suppression of protest.
- Mr. Artsiom Vouna was sentenced to eight years of imprisonment under Articles 130, 179, and 352 of the CC for sharing data of employees of internal affairs bodies to protest Internet resources.
- Mr. Vadzim Vasilyeu was sentenced in a closed-door trial to 12 years of imprisonment under Articles 342, 361, 361-1, 130, 293, 290-4 for protest activity as a Telegram channels administrator.
- Mr. Stanislau Kuzmitski was sentenced to 15 years of imprisonment under Articles 293, 290-4, 361, 342 for protest activity as a Telegram channels administrator.
Having studied these criminal prosecution cases, we concluded that all of them are politically motivated. The court decisions were made for political reasons in violation of the fundamental principles of fair justice.
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.
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:
- 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;
- 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 Mr. Aliaksei Kuzmin, Mr. Aliaksei Daineka, Mr. Uladzislau Kupryianau, Mr. Andrei Razhkou, Mr. Siarhei Savich, Mr. Aliaksandr Petushkou, Mr. Siarhei Zakharanka, Mr. Siarhei Matsiukhevich, Mr. Artsiom Vouna, Mr. Vadzim Vasilyeu, Mr. Stanislau Kuzmitski are political prisoners.
We demand that the Belarusian authorities:
- review the sentences and measures of restraint of the mentioned political prisoners while exercising the right to a fair trial and eliminating the factors that affected the qualification of actions, the type and amount of punishment, and the measures of restraint;
- 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.
Human Rights Center Viasna
Belarusian Association of Journalists
Barys Zvozskau Belarusian Human Rights House