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We demand the rehabilitation of people convicted for exercising freedom of expression

2023 2023-10-26T14:20:39+0300 2023-10-26T14:20:58+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

October 25, 2023

We, representatives of the human rights community of the Republic of Belarus, having received, collected, and analyzed information about the criminal prosecution by the Belarusian authorities of citizens who exercised freedom of expression during and after the 2020 presidential elections, the practice of sentencing and executing their sentences, the legal status of those convicted under the so-called "extremist" articles of the Criminal Code, note the following:

Freedom of peaceful assembly is guaranteed by Article 19 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights; according to which everyone has the right to freely adhere to their opinions;

Everyone has the right to freedom of expression; this right includes freedom to seek, receive, and disseminate all kinds of information and ideas, regardless of state borders, orally, in writing, or through print or artistic forms of expression, or by other means of their choice; even such a form of expression is included in the scope of this paragraph which may be considered deeply offensive, but its use may be subject to restrictions;

This freedom is not subject to any restrictions other than those established by law and necessary in a democratic society for the sake of respect for the rights and reputation of others; for the protection of state security, public order, and public health or morals.

Nevertheless, if a state party to the Covenant imposes restrictions on the exercise of the right to freedom of expression, these restrictions should not jeopardize the very principle of this right [1].

However, the Belarusian authorities arbitrarily detained, convicted in violation of the rule of law, and now continue to prosecute criminally and administratively for exercising freedom of expression under various articles of the Criminal Code: for insulting A. Lukashenka, judges, officials, slander of A. Lukashenka and officials; for mockery of state symbols, hooliganism, and vandalism.

The facts of this politically motivated persecution often become known only right before or after the release of a victim of persecution, whom the human rights community had not recognized as political prisoners before;

The authorities do not recognize their responsibility for the arbitrary deprivation of liberty of citizens in connection with the exercise of their rights and freedoms provided for by international treaties binding on Belarus, continue to arbitrarily persecute the repressed even after their release, infringing their rights by including them in the list of citizens of the Republic of Belarus, foreign citizens or stateless persons involved in extremist activities;

During this period, the human rights community recognized many of the dissidents as political prisoners at the time when they were deprived of their liberty, and collected information about those sentenced to various types of punishment for this, related and unrelated to imprisonment, in respect of which a preventive measure was often chosen in the form of detention or house arrest;

in accordance with the guidelines adopted by the human rights community on the definition of "political prisoner", a political prisoner is a person deprived of liberty if at least one of the following factors occurs:

  • a) the deprivation of liberty was applied solely through his political, religious or other beliefs, as well as in connection with the non-violent exercise of freedom of thought, conscience and religion, freedom of expression and information, freedom of peaceful assembly and association, other rights and freedoms guaranteed by the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights or the European Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms;

  • b) the deprivation of liberty was applied solely because of non-violent activities aimed at protecting human rights and fundamental freedoms;

  • c) the deprivation of liberty was applied solely on the basis of sex, race, skin color, language, religion, national, ethnic, social or ancestral origin, birth, citizenship, sexual orientation and gender identity, property status or other grounds, or based on the existence of a stable connection with communities united by such grounds.

Those convicted solely for expressing an opinion without signs of direct calls to violence or non-symbolic destruction of property, not related to non-symbolic destruction and damage to property for the purpose of expressing an opinion, fully and unconditionally met the specified criteria during their imprisonment. Their release from custody, house arrest or after serving their sentence leaves unresolved questions about the revision of their sentences with the purpose of complete cancellation, their rehabilitation, and compensation for the damage caused by arbitrary conviction.

We know the names and circumstances of the cases of the following people who, as punishment for exercising the right to peaceful assembly, were deprived of their liberty: detained, sentenced to deprivation or restriction of liberty, arrested, and until now released without rehabilitation and compensation for the damage caused:

Barysava Alesia, Bondar Yuryi, Vadapyan Tatsiana, Hlivenka Siarhei, Hurtavy Dzmitryi, Davydau Yuryi, Dvoiryn Illia, Ivanova Katsiaryna, Kavaliou Anton, Kachan Viktoryia, Kozak Aliaksandr, Karneyeu Siarhei, Kushnir Ivan, Labunskaya Sviatlana, Lanhe Ivar, Liauliukh Andrei, Makaranka Pavel, Maslouski Ihar, Mitskovich Siarhei, Murashkin Daniil, Nikalayeva Larysa, Nikitsin Danila, Panasevich Yanina, Paramonau Vadzim, Patrebka Andrei, Pratasevich Andrei, Pshanko Uladzislau, Smaleuski Vadzim, Staliarchuk Alesia, Sianko Aliaksandr, Tachylin Mikalai, Khamichuk Maksim, Chykiliou Stsiapan, Shauchenka Aliaksandr, Shneiderau Ihar, Shumila Aliaksandr, Shylts Yuryi, Yudchyts Yuryi, Yakunin Aliaksandr.

In its statement of December 22, 2020, the Belarusian human rights community confirmed its repeatedly expressed demands for the decriminalization of defamation and the inadmissibility of imprisonment of citizens for insulting officials, the state, state bodies and symbols.

We assess the persecution of the above-mentioned persons who were deprived of their liberty and charged with various crimes of defamation, hooliganism, vandalism, calls for sanctions as politically motivated persecution in connection with their exercise of freedom of expression in relation to the announced results of the presidential elections of the Republic of Belarus, other socially significant events, illegal and immoral actions of officials persons and judges.

With regard to the listed former political prisoners, we demand a review of their criminal cases in order to cancel their sentences, ensure their full rehabilitation with compensation for all types of damage caused by arbitrary conviction and imprisonment.

In this regard, we demand that the Belarusian authorities:

  • to cancel arbitrary sentences against the persons listed in the statement, to ensure their full rehabilitation and to compensate them for the damage caused by arbitrary criminal prosecutions;

  • immediately release all political prisoners, as well as 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;

Belarusian Association of Journalists;

Barys Zvozskau Belarusian Human Rights House;


Legal initiative.

[1] The Human Rights Committee. General comment No. 34. Article 19: Freedom of opinion and expression

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