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Feliks Zhylinski and Andrei Navakouski recognized as political prisoners

2022 2022-12-23T17:38:10+0300 2022-12-23T17:38:10+0300 en The Human Rights Center “Viasna” The Human Rights Center “Viasna”
The Human Rights Center “Viasna”

Joint statement by the Belarusian human rights community

December 23, 2022

In response to the recent sentences pronounced in politically motivated criminal trials involving protesters and other persons accused of using violence against or violent resistance to police officers and other officials performing official duties (Articles 363, 364, and 366 of the Criminal Code), namely:

  1. Mr. Feliks Zhylinski, who was sentenced to four years of imprisonment in a penal colony for insulting A. Lukashenka, calling for resistance to dispersing peaceful assemblies, and resisting arrest for beforementioned activities under p. 1 of Art. 13 and Art. 364, Art. 364, and p. 1 of Art. 368 of the CC. The nature of the violent actions of the convict was adequate to the nature of the attack. In addition, Mr. Zhylinski is prosecuted under p. 1 of Art. 343 of the CC on dubious charges of producing and storing pornography for distribution.
  2. Mr. Andrei Navakouski, who was sentenced to three years of imprisonment in a penal colony for “organizing or actively participating in group actions that grossly violate the public order” (p. 1 of Art. 342 of the CC) and resisting arrest for that (Art. 364 of the CC) in his own apartment. He did not cause any serious harm to the officers of the Ministry of Internal Affairs who were attacking him.

In this regard, reaffirming our position set out in the Joint statement of human rights organizations of January 16, 2021we note the following:

Citizens’ peaceful assemblies should be protected by the state, and the police should not take actions to forcibly stop them, even if they take place in violation of the procedures for their organization and holding. Violent dispersal of assemblies and the use of physical force, let alone special weapons against protesters should be carried out only as an extreme measure, in cases when the behavior of assembly participants becomes violent and poses a real threat to national and public security, life and health of citizens.

Disproportionate brutal actions of the police aimed at suppressing peaceful assemblies cannot be considered as a legitimate activity for the protection and preservation of public order, and in cases of violence used by protesters who were provoked by the same police officers, these actions should be considered based on the severity of the injury and intent to cause such harm, as well as seen as justifiable or necessary defense carried out to protect oneself from clearly unlawful actions of law enforcement officers who had followed unlawful orders.

According to the Guidelines on the Definition of Political Prisoners, violence that was provoked by the initial disproportionate use of physical force, means of restraint, and if there was no intent to cause non-symbolic material damage or harm to anyone in the actions of the accused, provides grounds to hold these individuals to be political prisoners.

Based on this and guided by para. 3.2 (a, b, c, d) of the Guidelines on the Definition of Political Prisoners, we recognize Mr. Feliks Zhylinski and Mr. Andrei Navakouski as political prisoners, and demand that:

  • the sentences passed against these political prisoners be reviewed, their right to a fair trial be respected, the factors that influenced the decision to sentence these individuals to imprisonment be eliminated and they are released, and their appearance in court be ensured by other means;
  • all political prisoners are released.

Human Rights Center Viasna

Legal Initiative

Human Constanta

Barys Zvozskau Belarusian Human Rights House

PEN Belarus


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