We, the human rights community, note with deep concern that the authorities use administrative prosecution to suppress freedom of expression, including the freedom to seek, receive and impart information and ideas of all kinds, regardless of frontiers, either orally, in writing, in print, in the form of art, or through any other medium of one’s choice.
Human rights defender Ales Kaputski was detained on December 17, 2021, and subjected to three consecutive administrative arrests for publications in social networks, which the authorities recognized as extremist. To date, he has been in detention for more than 30 days.
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 this regard, the human rights community has issued several statements condemning such practices. We also associate the arrest of Ales Kaputski with the persecution of a prominent in his region human rights defender for his many years of activity to protect and promote human rights and fundamental freedoms.
In accordance with para. 3.1 of the Guidelines on the Definition of Political Prisoners, approved by the Belarusian human rights defenders at the III Human Rights Forum, a person deprived of liberty is to be regarded as a political prisoner and should be released immediately if their detention (including administrative arrest) has been imposed solely because of their non-violent exercise of freedoms guaranteed by the international human rights law.
These criteria fully apply to all persons arrested under administrative charges for exercising 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 Ales Kaputski, 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 arrest of Ales Kaputski and call on the Belarusian authorities to:
- reverse all court rulings issued against Ales Kaputski 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 stop political repression in the country.
Human Rights Center Viasna
Belarusian Helsinki Committee
Barys Zvozskau Belarusian Human Rights House