Mikhail Lapunou recognized as political prisoner
Joint statement of the Belarusian human-rights community
25 September 2023
As representatives of the human rights community, we express deep concern regarding the use of administrative proceedings by the authorities to harass individuals in order to stifle their freedom of expression and hinder their ability to seek, receive, and share information and ideas without restriction.
Some detainees in cases involving administrative offenses are repeatedly punished with administrative detention, which makes their cumulative detention time as long as a comparable criminal punishment.
Based on paragraph 3.1 of the Guidelines on Definition of Political Prisoner as approved by the Belarusian Human Rights Community at the III Human Rights Forum, detaining an individual (even if it is an administrative arrest) due to the non-violent exercise of freedoms that are protected by international human rights law is considered grounds to classify them as a political prisoner that is entitled to be released immediately.
These standards apply to all individuals who have been administratively detained for exercising their civil rights and freedoms. Thus, individuals who have been administratively detained for the exercise of their internationally recognized rights and freedoms are political prisoners during their incarceration period. Statements that distinguish some individuals as political prisoners serve to highlight specific instances of severe punishment for the exercise of their rights and freedoms.
Thus, Mikhail Lapunou, father of political prisoner Mikita Zalatarou, has already spent 45 days in a detention facility. He was detained three times for violating Article 19.11, Part 1 of the Code of Administrative Offenses of the Republic of Belarus, which prohibits the distribution, manufacturing, publishing, storage, or transportation of extremist materials included in the national list.
On 22 September 2023, just before his release after serving his third consecutive administrative detention, he was found guilty once again and sent to prison for the fourth time.
The Belarusian authorities have previously used the practice of convicting individuals for multiple consecutive administrative arrests as a means of politically motivated pressure.
As representatives of Belarusian human rights organizations, we strongly oppose the political persecution and arrest of Mikhail Lapunou and demand that the authorities
- Revoke court rulings against the political prisoner and release him immediately.
- Cease repressive measures against dissidents and participants in peaceful assemblies. Release all individuals administratively detained for exercising their civil rights and freedoms.
- Release all political prisoners immediately and refrain from repressing citizens of the country politically.
Viasna Human Rights Center
Belarusian Association of Journalists
Belarusian Helsinki Committee