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Statement of human rights defenders of Belarus on recognition of ten political prisoners

2023 2023-09-08T17:41:10+0300 2023-09-11T10:59:36+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

September 8, 2023

We, the representatives of the Belarusian human rights community, once again emphasize that deprivation of liberty and criminal responsibility for various protest activities are used by authorities to suppress social and political activity, dissent, and anti-war demonstrations.

In 2021, criminal legislation was significantly tightened and supplemented with new types of crimes used by authorities exclusively 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 actions of the authorities and demand reforms in the state and its policies. Several media resources were recognized as extremist formations as well. This in turn paves the way for 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:

Dzmitryi Makeyeu sentenced to up to six years in a penal colony and a fine of 18,500 rubles under Part 2 of Article 361-3 (financing of participation of citizens of the Republic of Belarus on the territory of a foreign state in an armed formation of one of the opposing parties, in armed conflicts, military operations), Part 1 and 2 of Article 361-2 (financing of extremist activities), Part 1 and 2 of Article 361-4 of the Criminal Code (assistance to extremist activities) for donations the Belsat TV channel, the BYSOL Solidarity Fund, as well as the Kalinouski Regiment, the transfer of official documents and photos of Russian military equipment to protest Telegram channels recognized by the authorities as extremist formations;

Anton Khadkevich sentenced to up to three years and 6 months of imprisonment in a correctional colony under Part 1 of Article 342 (organization and preparation of actions grossly violating public order or active participation in them), Parts 1 and 2 of Article 361-4 (promotion of extremist activity), Part 1 of Article 367 of the Criminal Code (slander against A. Lukashenka);

Dzmitryi Hudzeyeu detained under Part 2 of Article 290-5 (organization of the activities of a terrorist organization and participation in the activities of such an organization) and Part 3 of Article 361 of the Criminal Code (participation in the activities of an extremist formation)

Artsiom Karatkevich detained under Article 361-1 of the Criminal Code (creation of an extremist formation or participation in its activities);

Valiantsin Shtermer detained under Article 130 (incitement of national hatred), Article 361-1, Part 1 of Article 368 of the Criminal Code (insulting A. Lukashenka) for comments on the Internet, including criticism of the military invasion of Ukraine;

Anton Shybut detained under Part 3 of Article 361-1, Part 1 of Article 368, Article 369 (insulting a representative of the authorities) for statements on the Internet;

Ruslan Rabkavets detained under Article 361-4 of the Criminal Code for transmitting data (video of Russian military equipment) to a protest Telegram channel.
We, representatives of the Belarusian human rights community, also demand to stop the persecution of legitimate forms of expression and once again confirm our repeatedly expressed demands for the decriminalization of all forms of expression acceptable from the point of view of Belarus' international obligations (joint statement of December 22, 2020). In this regard, we consider it unacceptable to detain Volha Brytsikava, Aliaksandr Kukharonak, and Aliaksandr Balonkin, accused under Article 361 of the Criminal Code (calls for restrictive measures (sanctions), other actions aimed at harming the national security of the Republic of Belarus).
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 Dzmitryi Makeyeu, Anton Khadkevich, Dzmitryi Hudzeyeu, Artsiom Karatkevich, Valiantsin Shtermer, Anton Shybut, Ruslan Rabkavets, Volha Brytsikava, Aliaksandr Kukharonak, and Aliaksandr Balonkin, immediately release all political prisoners and stop political repression against citizens of the country.

Human Rights Center Viasna

Legal initiative

Human Constanta;

Belarusian Association of Journalists;

Barys Zvozskau Belarusian Human Rights House

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