Minsk – December 18, 2020
On November 19, TUT.BY journalist Katsiaryna Barysevich and Artsiom Sarokin, a doctor at Minsk emergency care hospital, were arrested following an order by the Prosecutor General’s Office. Both were later charged under Part 3 of Art. 178 of the Criminal Code for disclosing a medical secret, which allegedly led to serious consequences in connection with the publication of medical documents concerning the death of Raman Bandarenka.
The information contained in these documents refutes the statements of officials alleging that Raman Bandarenka was drunk at the time of the beating, after which he was taken to the police station. At the same time, Bandarenka’s family do not consider themselves victims because of their publication and confirm their authenticity.
Thus, the publication of medical information was aimed at protecting the reputation of Raman Bandarenka and refuting false information about the actions of government officials that may have been linked to his death.
According to international human rights standards, whistleblowers and journalists who report confidential information, the disclosure of which can lead to the effective detection and investigation of crimes, act in the public interest and should be protected from liability. As far as we know, there is yet no criminal investigation into Raman Bandarenka’s death.
On November 24, Amnesty International called journalist Katsiaryna Barysevich and doctor Artsiom Sarokin prisoners of conscience because they are being prosecuted and imprisoned simply for exercising their right to freedom of expression.
We, representatives of Belarusian human rights organizations, sharing the opinion of international human rights activists, also believe that the criminal prosecution of Artsiom Sarokin has a clear political motive associated with the authorities of the Republic of Belarus.
In this regard, in accordance with paragraph 3.1 (a) of the Guidelines on the Definition of Political Prisoners, we call to:
- immediately release and stop the criminal prosecution of Artsiom Sarokin as a person who exercised his right to freedom of expression by disseminating information in the public interest;
- launch an effective and impartial investigation into the death of Raman Bandarenka.
Human Rights Center "Viasna"
Belarusian Helsinki Committee
Belarusian Documentation Center
Barys Zvozskau Belarusian Human Rights House
Belarusian Association of Journalists
*Foto is from Artsiom's facebook page.