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The statement on the recognition of 10 people as political prisoners

2024 2024-03-13T12:01:56+0300 2024-03-15T11:33:47+0300 en The Human Rights Center “Viasna” The Human Rights Center “Viasna”
The Human Rights Center “Viasna”

Statement by the human rights community of Belarus

March 12, 2024

We, representatives of the human rights community of Belarus, note that criminal liability for “incitement of hatred” under Article 130 of the Criminal Code has been selectively and discriminatorily applied by both the investigators and courts in an apparent attempt to protect the state bodies. Moreover, it seems unreasonable to label government officials, police officers, military personnel, etc., as separate social groups under protection in this context.

We insist that it is unacceptable to apply a law aimed to protect government officials, law enforcement officers, and judges from threats in connection with the lawful performance of their duties to punish those citizens who have spoken out in connection with the clear violation of the Constitution and law by state institutions, the involvement of government officials, prosecutors and judges in torture and in creating a climate of impunity for torture and other human rights violations, often showing signs of crimes against humanity.

Accoding to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, in the determination of any criminal charge against him, everyone shall be entitled to a fair and public hearing by a competent, independent and impartial tribunal established by law. All or part of the public may be excluded from a trial for reasons of morals, public order or national security in a democratic society, or when the interest of the private lives of the parties so requires, or to the extent strictly necessary in the opinion of the court in special circumstances where publicity would prejudice the interests of justice. In the absence of such exceptional circumstances, the proceedings should be open to the general public, including representatives of the media, and should not, for example, be limited to a certain category of persons. Even in cases where the public is denied access to the hearing, the court decision, including the main conclusions, evidence, and legal arguments, should be made public. The court did not fulfill these requirements in the case of the persons mentioned, which could determine the attitude of human rights defenders to the hearing results.

We are aware of the conviction of:

  • Dzianis Krasko under Article 130 of the Criminal Code on charges of inciting other social hatred for comments on social media; he was sentenced to three years of imprisonment in a penal colony;

  • Dzmitry Shcharbin under Article 130 of the Criminal Code on charges of inciting other social hatred for comments on social media; he was sentenced to one year of imprisonment in a penal colony;

  • Yauhen Kislou under Part 1 of Article 293 of the Criminal Code (Organization of mass riots), Article 369 of the Criminal Code (Insulting a representative of authorities), Article 368 of the Criminal Code (insulting Lukashenka), Article 130 (inciting other social hatred), Article 361-1 of the Criminal Code (Creation of an extremist formation or participation in it), Article 361-4 of the Criminal Code (promotion of extremist activities); he was sentenced to five years of imprisonment in a penal colony.

In addition, as the human rights community previously noted, the authorities abuse criminal legislation and apply excessively harsh penalties to protesters and dissidents consisting of long-term imprisonment for committing actions that did not entail serious consequences and were not deliberately aimed at causing them. In particular, the labeling of the protesters' actions as terrorism clearly does not correspond to how international organizations believe this term should be understood.

According to Security Council resolution 1566 (2004) 2004, actions that must be prevented and punished, regardless of whether they are justifiable by considerations of a political, philosophical, ideological, racial, ethnic, religious or other similar nature, have three distinctive features:

  • are committed, including against civilians, with the intent to cause death or serious bodily injury, or taking of hostages;

  • are committed with the purpose to provoke a state of terror in the general public or in a group of persons or particular persons, intimidate a population or compel a government or an international organization to do or to abstain from doing any act,

  • constitute offences within the scope of and as defined in the international conventions and protocols relating to terrorism.

We are confident that in the absence of these signs, illegal actions do not have a truly terrorist character and can be categorized as crimes corresponding to the gravity and public danger of what has been committed.

In many cases, the authorities use an excessively broad and vague definition of treason and other crimes against the state to arbitrarily prosecute dissenters, as well as for countering Russian aggression in Ukraine.

The authorities unreasonably use detention in the absence of sufficient grounds for the use of the preventive measure, which restricts personal freedom: as the UN Human Rights Committee notes, "remand in custody on criminal charges must be reasonable and necessary in all the circumstances." “Detention in custody of persons awaiting trial shall be the exception rather than the rule. […] release from such custody may be subject to guarantees of appearance, including appearance for trial, appearance at any other stage of the judicial proceedings and (should occasion arise) appearance for execution of the judgment. This suggestion concerns persons awaiting trial on criminal charges, that is, after the indictment, but a similar requirement, covering the period before the indictment, follows from the prohibition of arbitrary arrest... It should not be the general practice to subject defendants to pretrial detention. Detention should be based on a case-by-case decision that it is justified and necessary, taking into account all the circumstances, for purposes such as preventing escape, interfering with the process of collecting evidence or recidivism of the crime... The relevant factors should be spelled out in the law and should not contain vague and broad standards such as "public danger"... Pre-trial detention should be applied not on the basis of a possible sentence, but on the basis of determining the need for this measure of restraint."

Thus, we are aware of the prolonged detention of:

  • Katsiaryna Novikava under Article 203-1 Part 3 of the Criminal Code on charges of illegal actions with respect to personal data and under Article 130 Part 3 of the Criminal Code on charges of inciting social hatred or hostility for transferring data of civil servants to protest media;

  • Anton Charamnykh on charges of inciting social hatred and treason against the state; the criminal case is being considered in closed session;

  • Raman Haluza on charges of treason against the state;

  • Andrei Shmai, a citizen of Ukraine, on charges of espionage;

  • Ivan Sukhamerau on charges of participating in an armed formation or armed conflict on the territory of a foreign state, military operations, recruiting or preparing persons for such participation under Part 1 of Article 361-3 of the Criminal Code, defamation of Lukashenka under Part 2 of Article 367 of the Criminal Code, financing extremist activities under Parts 1 and 2 of Article 361-2 of the Criminal Code, discrediting the Republic of Belarus 369-1 of the Criminal Code, creation of an extremist formation or participation in it under Part 3 of Article 361-1 of the Criminal Code, promotion of extremist activities under Parts 1 and 2 of Article 361-4 of the Criminal Code, abuse of state symbols under Article 370 of the Criminal Code, calls for restrictive measures (sanctions), other actions aimed at harming the national security of the Republic of Belarus under Part 3 of Article 361 of the Criminal Code, treason under Part 1 of Article 356 of the Criminal Code, organization of the activities of a terrorist organization and participation in the activities of such an organization according to Part 2 of Article 290-5 of the Criminal Code, the case is being considered in closed session;

  • Natallia Zakharanka, a citizen of Ukraine, on charges of espionage; the case is being considered in closed session;

  • Aliaksei Kulikou on charges of espionage under Articles 358-1 of the Criminal Code, preparation for an act of terrorism under Article 289 of the Criminal Code, and an act of international terrorism under Article 126 of the Criminal Code; the case is being considered in closed session;

Having studied these criminal prosecution cases, we concluded that all of them are politically motivated.
According to the Guidelines on the Definition of Political Prisoners, a person deprived of liberty is to be regarded as a political prisoner, if at least one of the following criteria is observed:

  • a) the detention has been imposed in violation of the right to a fair trial, 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;

  • d) the person has been detained in a discriminatory manner as compared to other persons.

We, representatives of the Belarusian human rights community, declare that the further imprisonment of Dzianis Krasko, Katsiaryna Novikava, Yauhen Kislou, Dzmitry Shcharbin, Anton Charamnykh, Raman Haluza, Andrei Shmai, Ivan Sukhamerau, Natallia Zakharanka, Aliaksei Kulikou is politically motivated, and they themselves are political prisoners. We demand from the Belarusian authorities:

  • review the sentences and preventive measures imposed on these political prisoners, while ensuring the right to a fair trial and eliminating the factors that affected the categorizing of actions, the type and severity of punishment;

  • release the mentioned political prisoners by taking other measures to ensure their appearance in court;

  • immediately release all political prisoners, review politically motivated sentences and end political repression against citizens.

Human Rights Center Viasna;


Human Constanta;

Legal initiative;

Barys Zvozskau Belarusian Human Rights House.

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