Salihorsk district court sentenced Pavel Krashakou, Kiryl Ramashko, Daniil Basiak to 2.5 years of imprisonment, and Ihnat Ihnatsenia to 3 years of imprisonment in a criminal case against the participants of the politically driven protest actions for resisting to the use of violence against an employee of the Internal affairs bodies under Part 1 of Art. 342 and Part of 2 Art. 363 of the Criminal Code. In this regard, reaffirming our position set out in the Joint statement of human rights organizations of January 16, 2021, we note the following:
Citizens’ peaceful assemblies should be protected by the state, and the police should not take actions to forcibly stop them, even if they take place in violation of the procedures for their organization and holding. Violent dispersal of assemblies and the use of physical force, let alone special weapons against protesters should be carried out only as an extreme measure, in cases when the behavior of assembly participants becomes violent and poses a real threat to national and public security, life and health of citizens.
Disproportionate brutal actions of the police aimed at suppressing peaceful assemblies cannot be considered as a legitimate activity for the protection and preservation of public order, and in cases of violence used by protesters who were provoked by the same police officers, these actions should be considered based on the severity of the injury and intent to cause such harm, as well as seen as justifiable or necessary defence carried out to protect oneself from clearly unlawful actions of law enforcement officers who had followed unlawful orders.
Apart from that, we note that in the politically motivated cases, the authorities apply imprisonment in violation of the right to a fair trial, as well as other rights and freedoms guaranteed by the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, discriminating the defendants in comparison with defendants of other analogous cases. In particular, the presumption of innocence was repeatedly violated with respect in regard to the abovementioned defendants and information was published that defamed them and created an image of them as socially dangerous persons.
We also note the lack of a proper legal assessment of the actions of law enforcement officers throughout Belarus in the aftermath of the August 2020 presidential election. Acts of torture and other forms of ill-treatment against participants in peaceful assemblies and other residents who violated the law during protests have not been fully investigated. This gives the prosecution of those who have violated the law during protests the traits of selectivity.
According to the Guidelines on the Definition of Political Prisoners, violence that was provoked by the initial disproportionate use of physical force means of restraint, and if there was no intent to cause non-symbolic material damage or harm to anyone in the actions of the accused, provides grounds to hold these individuals to be political prisoners.
In addition, monitoring of these trials has shown that the courts impose disproportionately harsh (inadequate) sentences for the offense with which the individuals are charged, compared to sentences imposed in the same categories of cases outside the political context.
The duration or conditions of imprisonment under such sentences are clearly disproportionate (inadequate) to the offenses of which the defendants were found guilty.
All these circumstances give grounds to claim that the persecution of these persons is politically motivated, and the individuals themselves are political prisoners.
Based on this and guided by para. 3.2 (a, b, c, d) of the Guidelines on the Definition of Political Prisoners, we recognize Pavel Krashakou, Kiryl Ramashko, Daniil Basiak and Ihnat Ihnatsenia as political prisoners.
In this regard, we call on the Belarusian authorities to:
- review the sentences passed against these political prisoners, respect their right to a fair trial, eliminate the factors that influenced the decision to sentence these individuals to imprisonment and release them, having ensured their appearance in court by other means;
- release all political prisoners.
Human Rights Center Viasna
Barys Zvozskau Belarusian Human Rights House