People of Word (32)

Human rights defenders call to release nine new political prisoners

Joint statement by the Belarusian human rights community

In response to the indictment, pre-trial detention and sentencing of the following individuals:

  • Vital Barysevich charged under Part 2 of Art. 293 of the Criminal Code (“Mass riots”);
  • Mikita Audzik, Stanislau Blashko, Ihar Tokarau, Anastasiya Vaitovich charged under Part 1 of Art. 342 of the Criminal Code (“Group actions grossly violating public order”);
  • Ihar Siamykin, Aliaksandr Zhuk, Artsiom Laski sent to the penitentiary to serve their sentence in the form of restricted freedom under Part 1 of Art. 342 of the Criminal Code, as well as Daniil Dzitkouski convicted in the frames of the Brest “dancing protest” case under Part 2 of Art. 339 of the Criminal Code (“Hooliganism”) for participation in a mass event, damaging property in the amount of 171 rubles, as well as applying protest inscriptions.

We, reaffirming the position set out in the joint statement by the human rights community of August 10, 2020, 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, 2020, 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 also consider it necessary to note that the demonstrators did not commit any of the actions covered by Art. 293 of the Criminal Code and cannot be qualified as mass riots, accordingly. The protesters did not set fires, destroy property or put up armed resistance to law enforcement agencies.

Individual cases of violence performed by demonstrators against police officers require a separate legal qualification, taking into account the context and circumstances of the use of violence, including self-defense against actions of police officers known to be disproportionate.

We assess the persecution of the above mentioned individuals who were imprisoned and accused of group actions, grossly violating public order, and riots as politically motivated, as it is related solely to their exercise of freedom of peaceful assembly and expression in the post-election period and recognize them as political prisoners.

In this regard, we call on the Belarusian authorities to:

  • immediately release political prisonersVital Barysevich, Mikita Audzik, Stanislau Blashko, Ihar Tokarau, Anastasiya Vaitovich, Ihar Siamykin, Aliaksandr Zhuk, Artsiom Laski and Daniil Dzitkouski and stop their criminal prosecution;
  • immediately release all political prisoners, as well as other individuals detained due to their exercise of freedom of peaceful assembly in the post-election period, and stop political repression in the country.

Human Rights Center “Viasna”

Belarusian Helsinki Committee

Barys Zvozskau Belarusian Human Rights House

 “Legal initiative”

PEN Belarus


Human Constanta