Twelve people recognized political prisoners over politically motivated persecution
Joint statement by the Belarusian human rights community
January 13, 2023
In response to the charging, pre-trial detention and sentencing:
- for “taking part in group actions grossly violating public order” under Part 1 of Article 342 of the Criminal Code of Mr. Dzianis Puchak, Mr. Yauhen Verkhavodkin, Ms. Ilona Belavus, Ms. Liudmila Bazhok, Mr. Yauhen Fitsau, Ms. Aliaksandra Rybchyk, Ms. Natallia Yurkevich, and Mr. Dzianis Pishchala;
- under Part 1 of Article 342 of the Criminal Code and under part 1 of Article 328 of the Criminal Code for simple possession of marijuana that is not usually punished by imprisonment of Mr. Siarhei Kudrytski and Ms. Liudmila Charniha;
- under Part 1 of Article 342 of the Criminal Code and for “calling for restrictive measures against Belarus” under Article 361 of the Criminal Code of Mr. Hleb Yuryeu; and
- under Part 1 of Article 342, “insulting the president of Belarus” under Article 368, and under Article 366 of the Criminal Code for comments posted on the Internet of Mr. Andrei Krasnik,
we reiterate the position set out in the joint statement of the human rights community of August 10, 2020, and would like to note the following:
Article 21 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights guarantees freedom of peaceful assembly. This freedom is not subject to any restrictions other than those established by law and necessary in a democratic society for the purposes of national and public security, public order, public health, and morals, or the protection of the rights, and freedoms of others.
The post-election protests were spontaneous and self-organized. They were caused by distrust of the results of the August 9, 2020, presidential election, which was marred by numerous violations and fraud and was not recognized by the international community as democratic, fair, and free.
Citizens assembled peacefully and posed no threat to national or public security. Despite this, the demonstrators were attacked by special units of the Ministry of Internal Affairs who used disproportionate violence, riot gear, and non-lethal weapons.
For the first time in the history of Belarus, rubber bullets and water cannons were used against peaceful demonstrators. A considerable amount of damage was inflicted by the use of stun grenades.
In our statement of August 10, 2020, the Belarusian human rights community condemned the actions of law enforcement agencies and placed all responsibility for what happened on August 9 and 10 on the authorities of Belarus.
We assess the persecution of the above-mentioned individuals as politically motivated, as it is related solely to their exercise of freedom of peaceful assembly and expression in the post-election period and recognize them as political prisoners.
We demand that the Belarusian authorities:
- Immediately release Mr. Dzianis Puchak, Mr. Yauhen Verkhavodkin, Ms. Ilona Belavus, Ms. Liudmila Bazhok, Mr. Yauhen Fitsau, Ms. Aliaksandra Rybchyk, Ms. Natallia Yurkevich, Mr. Siarhei Kudrytski, Ms. Liudmila Charniha, Mr. Hleb Yuryeu, Mr. Andrei Krasnik, and Mr. Dzianis Pishchala and stop their criminal prosecution.
- Immediately release all political prisoners, and other individuals detained in connection with their exercise of freedom of peaceful assembly in the post-election period, and stop political repression in the country.
Human Rights Center Viasna
Barys Zvozskau Belarusian Human Rights House
Belarusian Association of Journalists
Belarusian Helsinki Committee
Office for the Rights of Persons with Disabilities