July criminal trials: at least 52 people convicted on political grounds
For three years, the Viasna Human Rights Center has observed a steady trend toward criminal prosecution and convictions of citizens for political reasons. According to the available data, about 150 people were repressed during July 2023. Activists have information about at least 52 citizens convicted in the past month, of which 15 are women, and 37 are men.
Criminal proceedings based on political motives are often conducted as group cases and against entire families. This indicates that repression is list-based. The judicial system only imitates justice. In reality, its task is to impose restrictions on the repressed. The vast majority of such criminal cases are tried in a single court session.
A three-year analysis showed that the judicial system is capable of repressing about 220 people per month in politically motivated criminal cases. At the same time, the lowest rate of judicial repression was recorded in February 2022, when the referendum on amending the Constitution was held: less than 80 people were convicted then. At the same time, the number of people prosecuted by the courts in Minsk was lower than in most regions of the country in February 2022. The region with the smallest number of people prosecuted for three years is the Viciebsk region.
The following trends determined criminal prosecution on political grounds in July:
- the continued prosecution of citizens on lists for participation in the 2020 marches under Article 342 of the Criminal Code (73 people were tried under this article during the month, and another 5 citizens were charged with this corpus delicti along with defamation offenses);
- the developing trend of criminal repressions for donations to informal associations deemed "extremist formations" and "terrorist organizations" by the authorities (11 people were tried under this category of cases during the month);
- a person convicted in June for financing the activities of an extremist formation and financing extremist activities was tried in July for financing terrorist activities;
- a sharp outbreak of proceedings under Article 411 of the Criminal Code against 4 political prisoners against the background of an increase in this category of cases to double-digit figures on a national scale over the past period.
July sentences in numbers:
- 28 people sentenced to a total of 94 years and 1 month of imprisonment
- 24 people were sentenced to a total of 58 years and 6 months under home confinement
- 4 people received fines totaling 206,090 Belarusian rubles (approx. $81,500) as an additional punishment to imprisonment
In July, the courts handed down custodial sentences in 53,8% of all cases. Home confinement was ordered in almost half of the cases (46,2%).
Thus, various types of custodial and freedom-restricting sentences were handed down in all of the politically motivated trials known to Viasna in July.
In June, the Viasna Human Rights Center observed a continuing trend toward criminal prosecution and convictions of citizens for political reasons. According to the available data, about 202 people were repressed during the past month. Activists have information about at least 58 citizens convicted in June, of which 18 are women and 40 are men.