Ten more people recognized as political prisoners over extremism charges
Statement by the human rights community of Belarus
March 30, 2023
We, representatives of the Belarusian human rights community, reiterate that the authorities use imprisonment and criminal liability for protest actions to suppress public and political activism, dissent, and anti-war protests.
In the wake of the 2020 presidential elections, Criminal legislation has been substantially tightened and extended with new corpus delicti, which are used by the authorities solely for political repression.
Out-of-court, the Interior Ministry and the KGB arbitrarily recognize as extremist citizens' groups brought together by public or political interests that criticize the authorities' actions and demand reforms in the state and its policies. Several media resources were recognized as extremist formations as well. This results in the arbitrary prosecution and imprisonment of their members and respondents as a disproportionate measure restricting the right to association and freedom of expression. For instance:
- Mr. Artsiom Babkou was convicted in a closed court session of “promoting extremist activities” under part 1 of Article 361-4 of the Criminal Code and sentenced to 24 months of imprisonment in a penal colony for sharing with a Telegram channel information about the movement of Russian military units transport through the territory of Belarus.
- Ms. Aliaksandrа Kasko was taken into custody and charged under Article 361-4 of the Criminal Code for her interviews to a media recognized as an extremist organization.
- Mr. Valeryi Tsimashenka was convicted of “promoting extremist activities” and “organizing and preparing actions that grossly violate public order” for sending information to a Telegram channel and sentenced to three years of imprisonment in a penal colony under part 1 of Article 361-4 and part 1 of Article 342 of the Criminal Code.
- Mr. Yaraslau Kazakevic was taken into custody for sending pictures of the Russian military moving through the territory of Belarus to a Telegram channel, which is recognized as an extremist organization.
- Mr. Dzmitryi Kachanouski, Ms. Kseniya Alkenava, and Mr. Yuryi Adamau were taken into custody on charges of financing extremist activities under Article 361-2 of the Criminal Code.
- Mr. Mikalai Vasilevich and Mr. Dzmitryi Sluk were taken into custody on charges of financing terrorist activities under Article 290-1 of the Criminal Code.
- Mr. Viktar Zalatareuski was taken into custody on charges of participation in the activities of an extremist organization under Articles 361-1 and 361-4 of the Criminal Code for registering in a Telegram channel.
It can be concluded in the context of the military invasion of Ukraine by the Russian Federation on February 24, 2022, and the following anti-war protest and solidarity actions with the people of Ukraine in Belarus that in these cases citizens are persecuted for their political views as well as for the non-violent exercise of freedom of expression, dissemination of information and association.
Therefore, we recognize the named individuals as political prisoners in accordance with paragraph 3.1 (a) of the Guidelines on the Definition of “Political Prisoner”, and demand that the Belarusian authorities:
- immediately release political prisoners Mr. Artsiom Babkou, Ms. Aliaksandrа Kasko, Mr. Valeryi Tsimashenka, Mr. Yaraslau Kazakevich, Mr. Dzmitryi Kachanouski, Ms. Kseniya Alkenava, Mr. Yuryi Adamau, Mr. Mikalai Vasilevich, Mr. Viktar Zalatareuski, and Mr. Dzmitryi Sluk;
- immediately release all political prisoners and end political repression in the country.
Human Rights Center Viasna
Belarusian Helsinki Committee
Belarusian Association of Journalists
Barys Zvozskau Belarusian Human Rights House