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HRDs demand rehabilitation of 46 convicted participants of peaceful assemblies

2024 2024-03-28T17:11:49+0300 2024-04-02T09:53:25+0300 en The Human Rights Center “Viasna” The Human Rights Center “Viasna”
The Human Rights Center “Viasna”

Joint statement of the Belarusian human rights community

28 March 2024

As representatives of the Belarusian human rights community, we have received, collected, and analyzed information regarding the criminal prosecution of peaceful assembly participants by Belarusian authorities during and after the 2020 presidential election. We have also examined the practice of passing and executing sentences against them, as well as the legal situation of those convicted under the so-called 'extremism-related' articles of the Criminal Code. Based on our analysis, we note the following:

  • Article 21 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights guarantees the freedom of peaceful assembly. This freedom may only be restricted by law and when necessary in a democratic society to protect national security, public safety, public order, public health and morals, or the rights and freedoms of others;

  • The Belarusian authorities have arbitrarily detained, convicted, and continue to prosecute peaceful protesters. The facts of this politically motivated persecution often only become known on the eve or after the release of yet another victim of repression. As a result, the human rights community has not yet recognized them as political prisoners;

  • The authorities fail to acknowledge their responsibility for arbitrarily depriving citizens of their liberty in connection with the exercise of their rights and freedoms, as provided for by international treaties binding on Belarus. They continue to persecute those who have been repressed, even after their release, by adding them to the List of Citizens of the Republic of Belarus, Foreign Nationals, or Stateless Persons Involved in Extremist Activities;

  • During the period in question, the human rights community recognized over 1,000 peaceful protesters as political prisoners who were deprived of their liberty. Additionally, we gathered information on more than 2,000 individuals who received custodial or non-custodial sentences, many of whom were placed in custody or under house arrest.

The human rights community's Guidelines for the Definition of a Political Prisoner state that 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 solely because of their political, religious, or other beliefs, as well as the non-violent exercise of freedom of thought, conscience, and religion, freedom of expression and information, freedom of peaceful assembly and association, and other rights and freedoms guaranteed by the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) or the European Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms (ECHR);

b) the detention has been imposed solely for activities aimed at defending human rights and fundamental freedoms;

c) the detention has been imposed solely based on gender, race, color, language, religion; national, ethnic, social or class origin; birth, nationality, sexual orientation and gender identity, property or other status, or other basis, or due to their firm links with communities united on this basis.

Those who were imprisoned solely for participating in peaceful protests met all of the above criteria fully and unconditionally during their imprisonment. After being released from custody, home confinement arrest, or serving their sentences, questions remain regarding the review of their sentences for complete reversal, rehabilitation, and reparation for the harm caused by their arbitrary conviction.

We have information about the individuals who were unlawfully detained as a consequence of exercising their right to peaceful assembly. They were either remanded, sentenced to deprivation or restriction of liberty, arrested, served their sentences, and have since been released without any form of rehabilitation or compensation:

Dzmitry Abdulmanau, Aliaksandr Artsybashau, Kiryl Akhremchyk, Anton Belich, Volha Balonkina, Uladzislau Bandarenka, Andrei Barushka, Illia Bulye, Yauhen Butaikis, Artsiom Vaskin, Maryia Valadkovich, Anton Zhalniarasa, Dzmitry Zaremba, Mikita Kavaleuski, Uladzimir Kanaplitski, Liudmila Kaliada, Dzmitry Kaspiarovich, Pavel Kastrykin, Andrei Kastsiuchuk, Lizaveta Klianitskaya, Dzmitry Klianitski, Ivan Klimchuk, Uladzislau Korzun, Ihar Kotau, Yauhen Kurtsevich, Andrei Labanok, Yauheniya Labanok, Mikita Limant, Ulyana Meliukh, Artsiom Milashevich, Anton Nikitsin, Maksim Ausiannikau, Siarhei Alshuk, Aliaksei Asipchuk, Vital Paulau, Ruslan Pratasenia, Anastasiya Rusetskaya, Andrei Savin, Uladzislau Sachko, Uladzislau Sauchyk, Viktar Sutormin, Andrei Fiodarau, Artur Filipau, Mikalai Khalayeu, Katsiaryna Shabetnik, Aliaksandr Ioksha. 

In its August 10, 2020 statement, the Belarusian human rights community condemned the actions of law enforcement agencies in brutally suppressing peaceful protests. The community places all responsibility for the events of August 2020 on the authorities of the Republic of Belarus. Further protests were also peaceful, the assemblies and their participants were to be protected by the law.

We consider the detention and charging of the individuals mentioned above, who were accused of participating in group actions that severely violate public order, to be politically motivated persecution. This is due to their exercise of the freedom of peaceful assembly and expression of their opinions regarding the announced results of the presidential election of the Republic of Belarus and other socially significant events.

Regarding the aforementioned former political prisoners, we demand a review of their criminal cases to overturn their sentences, fully exonerate them, and compensate for all harm caused by their arbitrary conviction and imprisonment.

In this regard, we demand that the authorities of Belarus:

  • overturn the unjust sentences against the individuals listed in the statement, fully exonerate them, and provide compensation for the harm caused by the wrongful criminal prosecution;

  • immediately release all political prisoners and individuals detained for exercising their right to peaceful assembly during the post-election period and cease political repression of the country's citizens.

Viasna Human Rights Center;

Belarusian Helsinki Committee;

Human Constanta;

Barys Zvozskau Belarusian Human Rights House;

Belarusian Association of Journalists;

Office for the Rights of People with Disabilities;


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