We, representatives of the Belarusian human rights community, note with deep concern that administrative harassment is used by the authorities to suppress freedom of expression, including the freedom to seek, receive and impart information and ideas of all kinds, regardless of state borders, orally, in writing or through the press or artistic forms of expression, or in other media of their choice.
Siarhei Krupenich and Anastasiya Krupenich-Kandratsiyeva were detained in mid-July 2021 and were sentenced to seven consecutive terms of administrative imprisonment exchanging messages in a private conversation on the Telegram messaging application. The messages originated from several channels, which the authorities earlier outlawed as “extremist”. On October 8 and 11, the Lieninski District Court of Minsk convicted them under Art. 19.11 of the Administrative Code (dissemination of information products containing calls for extremist activities or propagandizing such activities), sentencing Krupenin to another 15 days, and Krupenich-Kandratsiyeva to 14 days in prison. Thus, they will spend more than three months in detention.
It should be noted that domestic legislation on countering extremism is arbitrarily used by the Belarusian authorities in order to combat dissent and freedom of expression, which is unacceptable in a democratic society, since it pursues other goals than the admissible restrictions on the right to freedom of expression recognized by the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.
The authorities have repeatedly used repeated sentencing in administrative trials for the purpose of politically motivated pressure. In particular, in 2020, Pavel Seviarynets served 90 consecutive days of administrative imprisonment in Minsk, and eventually faced criminal charges. In another case, Yan Salanovich spent about three months in prison.
In accordance with para. 3.1 of the Guidelines on the Definition of Political Prisoners, approved by the Belarusian human rights community at the III Human Rights Forum, imprisonment (including administrative detention) in connection with the non-violent exercise of freedoms guaranteed by international human rights law, is the basis for recognizing such a person as a political prisoner and demanding their immediate release.
These criteria fully apply to all persons imprisoned on administrative charges for the exercise of their civil rights and freedoms. Accordingly, all those subjected to terms of administrative imprisonment for the exercise of their internationally recognized rights and freedoms, including Siarhei Krupenich and Anastasiya Krupenich-Kandratsiyeva, should be considered political prisoners for the period of their detention.
We, representatives of Belarusian human rights organizations, express our protest against the political persecution and detention of Siarhei Krupenich and Anastasiya Krupenich-Kandratsiyeva and call to:
- reverse all court rulings issued against Siarhei Krupenich and Anastasiya Krupenich-Kandratsiyeva under Article 19.11 of the Administrative Code and close all current administrative proceedings against them;
- put an end to repression against dissidents and participants in peaceful assemblies;
- release all persons imprisoned on administrative charges for the exercise of their civil rights and freedoms;
- immediately release all political prisoners and end political repression in the country.
Human Rights Center “Viasna”
Belarusian Helsinki Committee
Barys Zvozskau Belarusian Human Rights House
Belarusian Association of Journalists