Statement on detention of Dzmitry Paliyenka
The Human Rights Center "Viasna" believes that the detention of civil society activist Dzmitry Paliyenka is a disproportionate measure applied as part of his prosecution over involvement in the events of April 29. Based on the information gathered from public sources, a survey of participants in the incident and guided by the international human rights standards, we state the following:
The monthly events of the Critical Mass cycling movement is a form of expression and should be viewed as peaceful assemblies in the context of articles 19 and 21 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, including the event of 29 April 2016. According to OSCE’s Guidelines on Freedom of Peaceful Assembly, the authorities bear the positive obligation to promote the exercise of these rights, including the protection of peaceful protesters (para. 2.2), even if these protests interfere with traffic (para. 20). In this case, the police officers were present at the place of gathering and during the movement of the cyclists, but instead of protecting and facilitating the event, resorted to a disproportionately violent dispersal of the event. As a result, six persons faced administrative charges, including one observer. The protesters suffered injuries during the brutal detention by traffic police officers and riot policemen.
The incident, which occurred on April 29 in Minsk, requires a detailed study and an unbiased legal assessment of both the protesters’ actions and the reaction by the police. The criminal charges under Article 364 of the Criminal Code of Belarus (“violence or threats of violence against a police officer”) brought against Stanislau Kanavalau and Dzmitry Paliyenka should not be a provoked form of persecution of participants in the peaceful demonstration. We also stress that, according to the international standards, detention in custody is the extreme measure for the implementation of the investigation, applied only when the suspect may pose a danger to society or may escape investigation. The nature of Dzmitry Paliyenka’s actions and the severity of punishment provided by Article 364 of the Criminal Code cannot be grounds for his detention during the investigation.
Based on these facts, we view the prosecution of the two protesters as the result of expressing their opinions, and a restriction on their right to peaceful assembly. We also stress the excessive violence used by the police while dispersing the event and detaining its participants.
We demand to release Dzmitry Paliyenka until the end of the investigation, as well as to stop the persecution of peaceful protesters and observers.
Minsk, 6 May 2016