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We demand the rehabilitation of 14 convicted participants of peaceful assemblies

2024 2024-01-19T12:07:50+0300 2024-01-19T12:08:05+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

January 17, 2024

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 21 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights; this freedom is not subject to any restrictions other than those established by law and necessary in a democratic society in the interests of state or public security, public order, public health and morals, or the protection of the rights and freedoms of others;

  • the Belarusian authorities have arbitrarily detained, convicted in violation of the rule of law and now continue to prosecute participants in peaceful protests; the facts of this politically motivated persecution often become known only on the eve or after the release of another victim of repression, which explains why the human rights community did not issue a statement recognizing them as political prisoners;

  • 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 more than 1,000 participants in peaceful protests as political prisoners at a time when they were deprived of their liberty, and collected information about almost 2,000 people sentenced to various types of punishment, 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:

  • the deprivation of liberty was applied solely through their 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;

  • the deprivation of liberty was applied solely because of nonviolent activities aimed at protecting human rights and fundamental freedoms;

  • 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 participating in peaceful protest actions 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 were arbitrarily deprived of their liberty as punishment for exercising the right to peaceful assembly: they were detained, sentenced to imprisonment or restriction of liberty, arrested, and served their sentences, and have so far been released without rehabilitation and compensation for the damage caused:

Mikhail Bahutski, Vasil Damarad, Dziyana Laurynovich, Mikhail Kupreyenka, Uladzislau Lahutsenka, Illia Lubianau, Volha Malinouskaya, Vadzim Mironchyk, Aliaksei Makhnach, Yauhen Neviarouski, Yauhen Auchynnikau, Raman Rafeyenka, Iryna Serazhonak, Aliaksei Tsyhanou.

In our statement of August 10, 2020, the Belarusian human rights community condemned the actions of law enforcement agencies and placed all responsibility for what happened on August 9 and 10 on the authorities of Belarus. Further protest actions were peaceful; meetings and their participants had to be protected by law.

We assess the persecution of the above-mentioned persons who were imprisoned and accused of group actions grossly violating public order as politically motivated persecution in connection with their exercise of freedom of peaceful assembly and expression of their opinion regarding the announced results of the presidential elections and other socially significant events.

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;

Legal initiative;

Belarusian Association of Journalists;

Barys Zvozskau Belarusian Human Rights House;

PEN Belarus;

Belarusian Helsinki Committee;


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