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18 Belarusians recognized as political prisoners


Joint statement by the Belarusian human rights community

In response to an increase in the number of cases of conviction and imprisonment of individuals under a number of defamatory articles of the Criminal Code, as well as for insulting state symbols of the Republic of Belarus, and other actions aimed at the lawful exercising of freedom of expression we, representatives of the Belarusian human rights community demand to put the end to the persecution for legitimate expression of views and, reaffirming our repeated calls to decriminalize defamation and to refrain from imposing terms of imprisonment for insulting officials, the state, government agencies and symbols (as mentioned in the Joint statement of December 22, 2020), note the following:

At the moment we know about the following persons imprisoned for insulting A. Lukashenka, police officers, judges, as well as insulting state symbols:

  1. Vladimir Bolyunov, sentenced to 12 months in a penal colony under Part 1 of Article 367 of the Criminal Code for slandering A. Lukashenka;
  2. Svetlana Ostrovinskaya, sentenced to 12 months in a penal colony under Part 1 of Article 368 of the Criminal Code for insulting A. Lukashenka;
  3. Victor Rysinsky, sentenced to 12 months in a penal colony under Article 370 of the Criminal Code for desecrating state symbols;
  4. Igor Gelakhov, sentenced to 3 years in a penal colony under article 340 and part 1 of article 368 of the Criminal Code for knowingly providing false information about danger and insulting A. Lukashenka;
  5. Aliaksandr Pleskatsevich, sentenced to 24 months of restricted freedom in an open-type correctional facility under Part 1 and Part 2 of Article 339 of the Criminal Code (Hooliganism) for red and white graffiti and inscription with a declaration of love to Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya;
  6. Alexander Avdeyuk, sentenced to 24 months of restricted freedom in a penal colony under Part 1 of Article 367 and Part 1 of Article 368 of the Criminal Code for slander against A. Lukashenka and insulting A. Lukashenka;
  7. Pavel Pernikov, sentenced to 24 months in a penal colony under Art 369-1 of the Criminal Code (Discrediting the Republic of Belarus) for editing an article on Wikipedia about the murder of the journalist Veranika Charkasava and Henadz Shutau, and an article on the website of a German human rights organization about torture and murder of Belarusians during the protests;
  8. Tsimur Bykhavets, sentenced to 2 years and 6 months of restricted freedom in an open penitentiary under Art. 369 of the Criminal Code for insulting a police officer; sent to serve his sentence;
  9. Aliaksandr Nestsiarenka, sentenced to 3 years of restricted freedom in an open penitentiary under Article 369 of the Criminal Code; sent to serve his sentence;
  10. Yuryi Paliukhovich, sentenced to freedom restriction restricted in an open penitentiary under Article 369 of the Criminal Code; sent to serve his sentence;
  11. Raman Labanau, taken into custody on charges under Article 191 of the Criminal Code (Obstruction of the exercise of electoral rights or the work of election commissions) for mailing letters to the members of election commissions before the referendum with an appeal to honestly perform their duties;
  12. Siarhei Paulovich was taken into custody on charges under Art. 369 of the Criminal Code for insulting a government official;
  13. Maryna Kisialevich was taken into custody on charges under Art. 369 of the Criminal Code for insulting a government official;
  14. Iryna Aliabovich, taken into custody on charges under Art. 369 of the Criminal Code for insulting a government official;
  15. Liudmila Ramanovich, taken into custody on charges under Art. 368 of the Criminal Code for insulting A. Lukashenka;
  16. Krystsina Charankova, taken into custody on charges under Article 130 of the Criminal Code for a peaceful expression on social networks of her opinion;
  17. Zinaida Mikhniuk, taken into custody on charges under Art. 368 of the Criminal Code for insulting A. Lukashenka;
  18. Siarhei Litviakou, sentenced to 18 months in a penal colony under Part 1 of Article 367 and Article 368 of the Criminal Code for slandering A. Lukashenka;

In this regard, we consider the persecution and imprisonment of the persons listed above as politically motivated in connection with the peaceful exercise of their views, and the convicts as political prisoners in accordance with paragraph 3.1 (a) of the Guidelines on the Definition of Political Prisoners. We, therefore, call on the Belarusian authorities to:

  1. Immediately release political prisoners Uladzimir Baliunou, Sviatlana Astravinskaya, Viktar Rysinski, Ihar Helakhau, Aliaksandr Pleskatsevich, Aliaksandr Audzeyuk, Pavel Pernikau, Tsimur Bykhavets, Aliaksandr Nestsiarenka, Yuryi Paliukhovich, Raman Labanau, Siarhei Paulovich, Maryna Kisialevich, Iryna Aliabovich, Liudmila Ramanovich, Krystsina Charankova, Zinaida Mikhniuk, Siarhei Litviakou and stop the criminal prosecution against them.
  2. decriminalize defamation offenses and abolish articles of the Criminal Code that provide for liability for insulting the state and state symbols, namely Articles 188, 189, 367, 368, 369, 369-1, 370 and 391 of the Criminal Code, and stop all ongoing criminal cases under these articles;
  3. immediately release all political prisoners and stop political repression.

Human Rights Center Viasna

Legal initiative

Belarusian Association of Journalists

Lawtrend

PEN Belarus

Barys Zvozskau Belarusian Human Rights House