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Statement on recognizing Ihar Karnei as political prisoner

2024 2024-03-25T16:24:14+0300 2024-03-25T16:24:36+0300 en The Human Rights Center “Viasna” The Human Rights Center “Viasna”
The Human Rights Center “Viasna”
Ihar Karnei

Ihar Karnei

Joint statement by the Belarusian human rights community

March 25, 2024

On 17 July 2023, journalist Ihar Karnei was detained in Minsk. Later, it was revealed that he was sentenced to 10 days of administrative arrest and his house was searched.

On July 28, 2023, he was transferred to a pre-trial detention center and a criminal case was brought against him.

On March 19, 2024, the Minsk City Court began considering the criminal case against Ihar Karnei. He was charged under Part 3 of Article 361-1 of the Criminal Code for being a member of an extremist group with the intention of committing an extremist offense. According to state media SB.BY, Karnei’s charge is related to his work with the Belarusian Association of Journalists, which is recognized in Belarus as an 'extremist group.' Ihar is accused of writing journalistic materials for the BAJ, in which he allegedly insulted Lukashenka and representatives of the authorities and reported false information about the economic, social, military, and international situation of the Republic of Belarus.

On March 22, 2024, journalist Ihar Karnei was found guilty under Part 3 of Article 361-1 of the Criminal Code and sentenced to three years’ imprisonment.

Ihar Karnei, a Belarusian journalist, previously worked as a freelance correspondent for Radyo Svaboda. In November 2020, he was detained while covering protests. In recent years, Karnei has worked as a freelance journalist.

We, the undersigned organizations, believe that these actions against Ihar Karnei are part of a deliberate policy by the authorities to limit the dissemination of uncensored information in the country and an attack on freedom of expression. Following the 2020 presidential election, numerous socio-political and media websites were blocked in Belarus. Additionally, several print publications were forced to cease publication, and journalists and media employees in Belarus have been imprisoned.

Given these circumstances, we conclude that the criminal prosecution of Ihar Karnei is politically motivated. The aim is to stop or alter the nature of his legitimate public activities related to the non-violent exercise of freedom of expression and dissemination of information.

In accordance with p. 2.1 and 3.1 of the Guidelines for defining the notion of a 'political prisoner' adopted at the Third Belarusian Human Rights Forum, we, as representatives of Belarusian human rights organizations, declare that Ihar Karnei is a political prisoner and demand to:

  • release Ihar Karnei immediately and terminate any ongoing criminal proceedings against him;

  • stop using criminal prosecution as a tool to suppress freedom of expression or other rights and freedoms;

  • immediately cease repression and release all political prisoners.

Belarusian Association of Journalists;

Viasna Human Rights Center;

PEN Belarus;

Legal Initiative.

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