In response to the pre-trial detention, indictment and sentencing of Dzianis Liakhar, Aliaksei Hameza, Kiryl Zhohaleu, Aliaksei Siankou, Castro e Silva Sergio and Yauhen Kuzmiankou under Part 1 of Article 342 of the Criminal Code (group actions grossly violating public order), reaffirming the position set out in the joint statement by the human rights community of August 10, 2020, we 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 for the purposes of national and public security, public order, public health and morals, or the protection of the rights and freedoms of others.
The post-election protests were spontaneous, self-organized, and were caused by distrust of the results of the August 9 presidential election, which was marred by numerous violations and fraud, and was not recognized by the international community as democratic, fair and free.
The meetings were peaceful and did not pose a threat to national or public security. Despite this, the demonstrators were attacked by special units of the Ministry of Internal Affairs who used disproportionate violence, riot gear and non-lethal weapons.
For the first time in the history of Belarus, rubber bullets and water cannons were used against peaceful demonstrators. A particularly large amount of damage was inflicted by the use of stun grenades.
In its statement of August 10, the Belarusian human rights community condemned the actions of law enforcement agencies and placed all responsibility for what happened on August 9 and 10 on the authorities of Belarus.
We assess the persecution of the above individuals as politically motivated, as it is related solely to their exercise of freedom of peaceful assembly and expression and recognize them as political prisoners.
In this regard, we call on the Belarusian authorities to:
- immediately release political prisoners Dzianis Liakhar, Aliaksei Hameza, Kiryl Zhohaleu, Aliaksei Siankou, Castro e Silva Sergio and Yauhen Kuzmiankou and stop their criminal prosecution;
- immediately release all political prisoners, as well as other individuals detained in connection with their exercise of freedom of peaceful assembly in the post-election period, and end political repression in the country.
Human Rights Center “Viasna”
Belarusian Helsinki Committee
Barys Zvozskau Belarusian Human Rights House
Belarusian Association of Journalists