We consider the persecution and imprisonment Stanislau Paulinkovich, Valery Loza, Yury Karnilovich, Pavel Berasniou and Vital Zaradzei to be politically motivated, as they are linked to their peaceful exercise of freedom of expression. The convicts are therefore political prisoners. // 09.04.2021
According to the Guidelines for the Definition of Political Prisoners, violence provoked by the initial disproportionate use of physical force, police equipment or weapons, provided that the actions of the accused were not intended to cause non-symbolic material damage or harm, gives grounds to consider persons in question as political prisoners.
In addition, monitoring of these trials proved that the courts handed down excessively harsh (disproportionate to the offense) sentences, as compared to similar sentences pronounced in the same categories of trials outside the political context.
The duration or conditions of imprisonment under the sentences handed down to protesters are clearly disproportionate to the offenses of which they were found guilty.
In a number of cases, court hearings were held behind closed doors, as members of the public, human rights defenders and the media were not allowed to attend. Moreover, the courts’ orders to classify the hearings were not conditioned by the need to protect state secrets or personal information of the participants in the trials, which could be considered as undesirable for public distribution. // 08.04.2021
Ales Pushkin’s portrait of Yauhen Zhykhar, a member of the anti-Soviet post-war guerrilla underground, is in no way a justification for the ideology and practice of Nazism. Nor is it an endorsement of crimes against peace and security committed by the Nazis, including war crimes, recognized as criminal by the verdicts of the International Military Tribunal in Nuremberg or judgments of other courts based on the verdicts of the International Military Tribunal.
The post-World War II anti-Soviet resistance on the territory of Belarus targeted the totalitarian and extremely repressive Stalinist communist regime and constitutes a chapter in the history of our country. By describing the portrayed person, Ales Pushkin did not incite enmity on national, racial, religious or other grounds, did not propagandize war, did not call for any violent actions. Accordingly, his actions do not constitute a crime under Art. 130 of the Criminal Code. // 07.04.2021
According to the Declaration on Human Rights Defenders (Article 1), “everyone has the right, individually and in association with others, to promote and to strive for the protection and realization of human rights and fundamental freedoms at the national and international levels.”
At the same time, the state must take all necessary measures to ensure the protection, through the competent authorities, of any person acting individually and jointly with others, from any violence, threats, revenge, negative de facto or de jure discrimination, pressure or any other arbitrary act in connection with the lawful exercise of his or her rights mentioned in the Declaration on Human Rights Defenders.
Thus, harassment and pressure for legitimate human rights activities, organization of educational activities or provision of free legal aid to citizens is absolutely unacceptable. // 07.04.2021
Volha Zalatar’s persecution comes amid massive post-election repression and a profound human rights crisis in the country. Recently, in order to combat dissent and protest activity of citizens, the authorities are increasingly resorting to the application of so-called anti-extremist legislation. The Belarusian human rights community has previously drawn attention to its flaws and incompatibility with international human rights standards. Now, after the Prosecutor General's Office of Belarus submitted amendments to the law, we note that the real purpose of these amendments is to combat dissent in the country in the worst traditions of the Soviet era.
Viewing local social chats as extremist, and their creators and moderators as creators of extremist organizations, the purpose of which is to “hold unauthorized gatherings in the form of tea parties, walks and concerts”, is an extremely dangerous trend and grossly encroaches on fundamental freedoms – freedom of peaceful assembly, expression and freedom of association. // 03.04.2021