HRDs demand immediate release of political prisoner Stsiapan Latypau
Minsk – September 25, 2020
On September 15, Stsiapan Latypau was detained by riot police outside his apartment in Minsk.
His detention was the result of many days of confrontation between the residents of his condominium and representatives of the Ministry of Internal Affairs stemming from a local mural depicting the iconic “DJs of change” (two youths who played a protest song at a government event on August 6), which was repeatedly painted over by law enforcement officers.
On September 15, police officers came to the yard once again. Several residents blocked the picture and thus prevented it from being ruined. When Stsiapan Latypau asked the officers to show their IDs, he was detained and his apartment was searched. Later it was reported that Latypau was detained as a suspect in a criminal case under Art. 293 of the Criminal Code (mass riots).
On September 19, several government-controlled TV channels aired a story about Latypau’s detention, alleging that Latypau was suspected of organizing an illegal channel of supply of dangerous chemicals and intended to use the poisonous substances against police officers. An anonymous GUBAZIK officer present in the footage also said that Latypau was “one of the active participants and coordinators of the riots in Minsk, since he organized unauthorized protests in the capital by putting prohibited symbols and murals on the facades of buildings.”
It should be noted that the accusations of Latypau’s alleged “subversive” activities voiced by the anonymous officer do not constitute a criminal offense, as they are not subject to criminalization under either national or international human rights law.
It should be reminded that according to the provisions of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, everyone is guaranteed the freedom of expression, including through the means of arts, and freedom of peaceful assembly.
Criticism of government officials, including the Interior Ministry, is an acceptable form of expression, even if it discredits them in public.
These freedoms are not subject to any restrictions other than those established by applicable law and necessary in a democratic society in order to protect national security, public order, life, health and morals of the population.
With regard to the accusations of plotting the poisoning of police officers, we note that these allegations do not stand up to any criticism, are not scientifically substantiated and are nothing but fantasies of GUBAZIK representatives.
Stsiapan Latypau is an arborist and heads a private company named “Belarbo”. This company cuts down dangerous trees in cemeteries, parks, squares, and also deals with the treatment of harmful plants. Due to the specifics of his professional activity, he possesses legal chemicals.
It is necessary to pay special attention to the facts of violation of Latypau’s legal rights, namely violation of the principle of presumption of innocence. The TV stories bore a clear accusatory bias, alleging Latypau’s illegal actions, and created the image of an extremely dangerous person for society. Meanwhile, these facts have not yet been proved by the investigating authorities, or by a final court verdict. Violation of the presumption of innocence is a violation of the principle of a fair trial established by Article 14.2 of the ICCPR.
All these facts, taken together, in our opinion, indicate the trumped-up and politically motivated nature of this criminal case.
Based on this, guided by paragraphs 2.1, 3.1 a) of the Guidelines on the Definition of Political Prisoners, adopted at the 3rd Belarusian Human Rights Forum, we, representatives of Belarusian human rights organizations, consider Stsiapan Latypau to be a political prisoner and demand to:
- Immediately release Stsiapan Latypau from custody and stop his criminal prosecution;
- Release all political prisoners, stop violence and repression against Belarusian citizens.
Human Rights Center "Viasna"
Belarusian Association of Journalists
Belarusian Helsinki Committee
Belarusian Documentation Center
Center for Legal Transformation “Lawtrend”
Advisory center on contemporary international practices and their legal implementation “Human Constanta”