According to available information, on January 12, Andrei Aliaksandrau, a journalist and media manager, was detained in Minsk by officers of the Ministry of Internal Affairs. Together with him, Iryna Zlobina was detained.
On January 15, in an official statement, Deputy Minister of Internal Affairs Henadz Kazakevich said that Aliaksandrau and Zlobina had been detained “on suspicion of financing protest activities”. According to the official, since August 2020, Aliaksandrau and Zlobina had been "financing persons who took part in the protests in Minsk, including by paying fines and reimbursing the costs of imprisonment in the detention facilities of Minsk.”
According to the Ministry of Internal Affairs, Aliaksandrau paid 250 fines between August 22 and November 9. The lists of beneficiaries and the funds to pay fines were transferred to Aliaksandrau by the BY_help foundation.
At the moment, it is known that Aliaksandrau and Zlobina are suspected of committing crimes under Part 2 of Article 342 of the Criminal Code (training or other preparation of persons to participate in group actions which gravely violate public order, as well as financing and other support for such activities).
Taking into account the fact that detention was chosen as a pre-trial restriction in respect of both suspects (pre-trial detention cannot be imposed on persons facing charges under Part 2 of Article 342 of the Criminal Code alone), we have grounds to assume that both suspect will soon face additional charges.
In this regard, we, representatives of Belarusian human rights organizations, note the following:
Collecting voluntary donations from individuals and foreign nationals, as well as arranging the payment of fines imposed on persons brought to administrative responsibility only for participating in peaceful assemblies and exercising the freedoms of peaceful assembly and expression guaranteed by the Constitution of Belarus and international human rights law has nothing to do with financing any illegal activity and, accordingly, is not a crime.
In this context, the activities of Andrei Aliaksandrau and Iryna Zlobina constitute voluntary and charitable work to help victims of mass political repression and are essentially human rights activities.
According to article 1 of the Declaration on the Right and Responsibility of Individuals, Groups and Organs of Society to Promote and Protect Universally Recognized Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms (adopted by UN General Assembly resolution 53/144 of December 9, 1998) , 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.
According to article 13 of this Declaration, everyone has the right, individually and in association with others, to solicit, receive and utilize resources for the express purpose of promoting and protecting human rights and fundamental freedoms through peaceful means, in accordance with article 3 of the present Declaration.
Moreover, we strongly believe that the qualification of such actions as a criminal offense under Part 2 of Art. 342 of the Criminal Code is clearly far-fetched and manipulative.
The arrangement of payment of fines imposed on persons brought to administrative responsibility under Art. 23.34 of the Administrative Code and the costs of their imprisonment in detention facilities have nothing to do with the financing of mass riots or other group actions that grossly violate public order: the suspects did not pay for any criminal acts, did not promise advance payments to persons on the conditions of committing actions covered by Articles 342 or 293 of the Criminal Code, did not participate in their preparation (training or other material support).
We note once again that the mass protests in Belarus were peaceful in nature and were caused by the falsifications of the results of the presidential elections in favor of the head of state Aliaksandr Lukashenka.
Based on this, we consider the prosecution of Andrei Aliaksandrau and Iryna Zlobina by the authorities to be politically motivated, as it is aimed at stopping their activities of providing assistance to the victims of political repression. Aliaksandrau and Zlobina are therefore political prisoners, according to paragraph 3.1(b) of the Guidelines on the Definition of Political Prisoners.
In this regard, we, representatives of human rights organizations of Belarus, call to:
- immediately and unconditionally release Andrei Aliaksandrau and Iryna Zlobina and drop the criminal charges they are facing;
- immediately release all political prisoners and put an end to political repression in the country.
Human Rights Center “Viasna”
Belarusian Helsinki Committee
Center for Legal Transformation “Lawtrend”
Belarusian Documentation Center
Belarusian Association of Journalists
Identity and Law