18 more prisoners declared political in Belarus
Joint statement of Belarusian human rights community
27 December 2022
In light of the information received about charges, detention, and sentencing under part 1 of Art. 342 of the Criminal Code ("group actions gravely disrupting public order") concerning Aleh Shvayko, Mikalai Artsiukhou, Dzmitry Buyvidovich, Fiodar Paretski, Aleh Davydzenka, Natallia Aktsiabrskaya, Anastasia Chumak, Dzmitry Berasneu, Siarhei Chareshka, Maksim Puchynski, Aliaksandr Tsyhankou, Andrei Zhuk, Maryia Zhuk, Vasil Khamutouski, Ryhor Vasilkou, as well as Dzmitry Liauchuk, Illia Duben, Andrei Biasko who were convicted under Part 1 of Article 342 of the Criminal Code to restricted freedom and started serving their sentences in open-type correctional facilities, we would like to reaffirm the position stated in the joint statement of the human rights community of 10 August 2020 and communicate 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 except those established by law and necessary in democratic countries to maintain national security or public safety, public order, public health or morals, or for the protection of the rights and freedoms of others.
The criminalized actions were spontaneous and self-organized and were caused by questioning the official results of the presidential elections in Belarus that were held on 9 August 2020 with numerous violations and falsifications and were not recognized by the international community as democratic, fair, and free.
Citizens' assemblies were peaceful and did not pose a threat to either national or public security. Despite this, the demonstrators were attacked by special police units with disproportionate use of physical force, special means, and weapons.
For the first time in the history of Belarus, rubber bullets and water cannons were used against peaceful demonstrators. The use of stun grenades caused severe wounds.
In its statement of 10 August 2020, the Belarusian human rights community condemned the actions of the law enforcement agencies and put all responsibility for what happened on August 9 and 10 on the Belarusian authorities.
We consider the persecution of the above-mentioned persons deprived of their liberty and accused of group actions that grossly violate public order and mass riots as politically motivated and related to their exercise of freedom of peaceful assembly and expression, and therefore, recognize them as political prisoners.
In this regard, we demand that the Belarusian authorities:
- Immediately release Aleh Shvayko, Mikalai Artsiukhou, Dzmitry Buyvidovich, Fiodar Paretski, Aleh Davydzenka, Natallia Aktsiabrskaya, Anastasia Chumak, Dzmitry Berasneu, Siarhei Chareshka, Maksim Puchynski, Aliaksandr Tsyhankou, Andrei Zhuk, Maryia Zhuk, Vasil Khamutouski, Ryhor Vasilkou, as well as Dzmitry Liauchuk, Illia Duben, Andrei Biasko and to stop their criminal prosecution.
- Immediately release all political prisoners, as well as citizens detained in connection with the implementation of freedom of peaceful assembly in the post-election period, and stop political repression against citizens of the country.
Viasna Human Rights Center;
Barys Zvozskau Belarusian Human Rights House;
Belarusian Helsinki Committee;