Statement on the recognition of six new political prisoners
Statement by the human rights community of Belarus
November 28 , 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:
Leanid Raichonak, sentenced under Part 2 of Article 361-3 of the Criminal Code to six years of imprisonment in a penal colony for donations to Belarusian volunteers fighting on the side of Ukraine;
Dzmitryi Mastavy, sentenced under Part 1 of Article 356 of the Criminal Code to 10 years of imprisonment in a penal colony on a fabricated charge of treason against the state and under Part 1 of Article 361-4 of the Criminal Code for transmitting data to a Belarusian protest information resource;
Yury Yurenia, sentenced under Article 361-2 of the Criminal Code to five years in prison for donations to protest initiatives recognized by the authorities as extremist formations;
Vital Sanko, held in custody in a pre-trial detention centre under Articles 361-2 and 361-4 of the Criminal Code for donations to protest initiatives recognized by the authorities as extremist formations;
Uladzimir Fishman, held in custody in a pre-trial detention facility under Article 361-4 of the Criminal Code for registration in a protest Telegram group declared an extremist formation by the authorities;
Anatol Starasvetski, held in custody in a pre-trial detention centre under Parts 1 and 2 of Articles 361-4 of the Criminal Code.
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 Leanid Raichonak, Dzmitryi Mastavy, Yury Yurenia, Vital Sanko, Uladzimir Fishman, Anatol Starasvetski,
immediately release all political prisoners and stop political repression.
Human Rights Center Viasna;
Belarusian Association of Journalists;
Barys Zvozskau Belarusian Human Rights House;
Belarusian Helsinki Committee;
Office for the Rights of Persons with Disabilities;