In response to the new cases of conviction and imprisonment on defamatory charges and in connection with insulting state symbols of the Republic of Belarus, we, representatives of the Belarusian human rights community, once again reaffirming our repeated demands to decriminalize defamation and refrain from imprisoning individuals for insulting officials, the state, government agencies and symbols (joint statement of December 22, 2020), note the following:
We received information about the following persons imprisoned for insulting the president, government officials (police officers), judges and insulting state symbols:
Siarhei Skok – sentenced to three years of imprisonment under Part 2 of Art. 339 (hooliganism) and Art. 368 of the Criminal Code (insulting the president);
Volha Klimkova – sentenced to three and a half years of imprisonment under Part 2 of Art. 339 (hooliganism) and Art. 368 of the Criminal Code (insulting the president);
Maksim Siarheyenka – sentenced to three and a half years of imprisonment under Part 2 of Art. 339 (hooliganism) and Art. 368 of the Criminal Code (insulting the president).
In this regard, we consider the persecution and imprisonment of Siarhei Skok, Volha Klimkova, and Maksim Siarheyenka to be politically motivated, as they are related to the peaceful exercise of freedom expression. The convicts are therefore political prisoners, in accordance with paragraph 3.1 (a) of the Guidelines on the Definition of Political Prisoners.
We call on the Belarusian authorities to:
- immediately release political prisoners Siarhei Skok, Volha Klimkova, and Maksim Siarheyenka and stop the criminal prosecution against them;
- take measures aimed at decriminalizing defamation offenses and repealing articles of the Criminal Code that provide for liability for insulting the state, state symbols and officials, namely Art. 188, 189, 367, 368, 369, 369-1, 370, 391 of the Criminal Code of the Republic of Belarus, and to terminate all previously initiated criminal cases under these articles;
- immediately release all political prisoners and end political repression against the country’s citizens.
Human Rights Center "Viasna"
Center for Legal Transformation (Lawtrend)
Belarusian Documentation Center
Belarusian Helsinki Committee
Belarusian Association of Journalists