Pavel Sapelka: “There are legal mechanisms to release Statkevich”
According to Pavel Sapelka, lawyer at the Human Rights Center "Viasna", political prisoner Mikalai Statkevich cannot be amnestied, however, saying that Statkevich has to write a petition so that Lukashenka could release him is wrong, because according to the existing legislation, Mikalai Statkevich can not only be released without any petitions but also returned to political life.
“Mikalai Statkevich was sentenced on 26 May 2011 by the court of the Lieninski district of Minsk to 6 years’ imprisonment in a maximum-security penal colony under Par. 1, Art. 293 of the Criminal Code. On May 4 this year, the Škloŭ District Court granted a request of the penal colony administration and sent Mikalai Statkevich to serve the rest of his sentence in prison.
In accordance with the Criminal Code, the crime of which the politician was convicted is classified as very serious. Persons convicted of crimes of this kind cannot be exempted from punishment in connection with the adoption of the Law “On amnesty in connection with the 70th anniversary of the Victory in the Great Patriotic War of 1941-1945” of 05/28/2015. Article 293 of the Criminal Code entered into the list of articles that do not provide for reducing the sentence by one year. Thus, an amnesty law cannot become a tool of the political prisoner’s release. Two aspects should be emphasized: the said amnesty is the third over the period of his stay in detention facilities, and none of them has been applied to him; a rule disabling the reduction of the sentence by one year for persons convicted under Article 293 of the Criminal Code appeared in the laws of amnesty only after December 2010.
The fact that Mikalai Statkevich has the status of a convict maliciously violating the established order at the time of serving the sentence is not essential when discussing the application of the amnesty law, but assessing the possibility of early commutation or parole. Such a status deprives the political prisoner of even a theoretical chance to be released on these grounds.
The only instrument of his release before the end of the sentence can be an act of mercy. The pardon is granted by the President of the Republic of Belarus; by an act of pardon a person convicted of a crime may be fully or partially exempted from punishment or exempted from punishment conditionally, or the unserved part of punishment can be replaced with a softer punishment, or the prisoner’s conviction may be expunged. Since the provisions of the Criminal Code do not mention any indication or reference to the order established by other regulations, the pardon may be carried out without complying with any pre-conditions or formalities of the prisoner’s request, recognizing his guilt, remorse, etc.
Conviction expunged by the act of pardon may remove obstacles to participation in political activities, including in the elections."