Minsk, 5 April 2017
Joint statement by the Belarusian human rights organizations
On 28 March, it was reported that activist Viachaslau Kasinerau, who was then serving a 15-day administrative detention for his participation in a demonstration on February 17 in Minsk, was charged with a crime under Part 1, Article 339 of the Criminal Code (hooliganism). The accused was taken into custody and transferred to the Interior Ministry’s detention center in Minsk, where he is held to this day.
The charge stemmed from an action staged by Kasinerau on March 12 outside the Interior Ministry’s headquarters in Minsk, when the activist threw a noose on the statue of a Russian Empire policeman, which was recently erected by order of the Minister of Internal Affairs to celebrate the centennial of the Belarusian police in February 2017. By doing this, the activist is said to have expressed his public protest against police brutality and persecution of anarchist activists for their involvement in peaceful protests.
In this regard, we, representatives of human rights organizations in Belarus, note the following:
Viachaslau Kasinerau’s actions do not explicitly constitute criminal hooliganism, do not carry a public threat, which is a prerequisite to the crime (See Expert analysis of the prosecution of Viachaslau Kasinerau). They do not involve the use of violence or threat of violence, destruction or damage to property, are not characterized by a particular cynicism, lack a vandalistic motive, and are in essence an expression of opinion, which includes freedom, inter alia, to impart information and ideas, including in the form of art, or other media of their choice. Although this right is not absolute, its limitation in this case is clearly disproportionate, as it is not based on the universally recognized principles of restrictions on freedom of expression, but is a threat to the very exercise of this right.
In these circumstances, the classification of acts committed by Kasinerau as intentionally committed hooliganism, his pre-trial detention and possible further restriction of freedom are excessive and aimed at isolating the activist. This criminal prosecution, like the previous one, in August 2015, is due to the activist’s involvement in the anarchist movement, and is also a retaliation by the law enforcement agencies. Therefore, the prosecution of Viachaslau Kasinerau is politically motivated.
Considering his deprivation of liberty on such grounds, we believe that Viachaslau Kasinerau is a political prisoner and urge the Belarusian authorities to drop the criminal charges against him and to immediately release the activist.
Human Rights Center "Viasna"
Belarusian Helsinki Committee
Belarusian Association of Journalists
Legal Transformation Center
Committee to Protect the Repressed "Solidarity"
Barys Zvozskau Belarusian Human Rights House
Belarusian Documentation Center
*Viachaslau Kasinerau. Photo: Yulia Darashkevich