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We demand the rehabilitation of 26 former political prisoners

2024 2024-05-06T14:55:32+0300 2024-05-10T17:14:59+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

May 3, 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;

Since the summer of 2020, the human rights community recognized more than 1,500 participants in peaceful protests as political prisoners (including former political prisoners who became known after their release) and collected information about almost 2,500 people sentenced to various types of punishment, related and unrelated to imprisonment, in respect of whom a preventive measure was often chosen in the form of detention or house arrest;

We also note that the Interior Ministry and the KGB, arbitrarily and out-of-court, keep recognizing 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 for participating in them and supporting them as a disproportionate measure restricting the right to association and freedom of expression.

The names of some of the accused and those convicted on the relevant charges also become known to human rights defenders after their release.

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:

  1. a) 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;

  2. b) the deprivation of liberty was applied solely because of non-violent activities aimed at protecting human rights and fundamental freedoms;

  3. c) 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 and/or for involvement in the activities of entities arbitrarily recognized as extremist formations 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, as punishment for exercising the right to peaceful assembly, the right to association and freedom of expression, deprived of their liberty (detained, sentenced to imprisonment or restriction of liberty in a correctional facility, arrested and served their sentence), and have so far been released without rehabilitation and compensation for the damage caused:

Andrei Androsenkau, Aliaksandr Struhalski, Eduard Misiuk, Sviatlana Dziaruzhkova, Siarhei Chyzh, Aliaksei Yankouski, Anton Padashulia, Hanna Valadzko, Aleh Charadnik, Tatsiana Mukhina, Artsiom Paprauka, Vadzim Kaziuchyts, Kiryl Turau, Aliaksandr Samailovich, Liudmila Krauchanka, Vital Shychko, Yauhen Palchyk, Uladzimir Mikulich, Siarhei Buvaka, Vadzim Piatrouski, Vadzim Asayonak, Uladzislau Tamasheuski, Sviatlana Piatrouskaya, Uladzislau Nazdryn, Darya Roslik, Andrei Zadziran.

We assess the persecution of the above-mentioned persons as politically motivated persecution in connection with their exercise of freedom of peaceful assembly, the right to association and freedom of expression in relation to the announced results of the presidential elections of the Republic of Belarus and other socially significant events.

With regard to the listed former political prisoners, we demand that the Belarusian authorities immediately review their criminal cases in order to overturn their sentences, fully rehabilitate them with compensation for all types of harm caused by arbitrary conviction and imprisonment, and also demand the immediate release of all political prisoners and citizens detained in connection with the exercise of freedom of peaceful assembly in the post-election period, and to stop political repression against the citizens of the country.

Human Rights Center Viasna;

Legal initiative;

Belarusian Association of Journalists;

Barys Zvozskau Belarusian Human Rights House;

PEN Belarus;

Office for the Rights of Persons with Disabilities;

Belarusian Helsinki Committee;


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