On December 22, riot police detained Siarhei Hardziyevich, a journalist of the online media outlet “Pieršy Rehijon”. His apartment in Brest was later searched, and he was detained as a suspect in a criminal case under Art. 368 of the Criminal Code (insulting the President of the Republic of Belarus).
On December 25, Siarhei Hardziyevich was placed under house arrest.
On December 4, Dzmitry Kulakouski was detained while trying to leave the Republic of Belarus. He was later remanded in the Žodzina pre-trial detention center as part of a criminal case under Art. 369 of the Criminal Code (insulting a government official).
Dzmitry Kulakouski is former head of the criminal investigation department of the Zavodski District Police Department of Minsk. He resigned after the presidential election due to his disagreement with the authorities’ violent policies. In October, he was detained by the Interior Ministry’s internal security service and spent almost a month in a pre-trial detention center on charges of allegedly disobeying an official. During his stay in the pre-trial detention center, he was repeatedly subjected to torture and ill-treatment, according to his lawyer’s repeated complaints and media reports.
In this regard, based on our earlier statement of December 22 demanding the decriminalization of defamation, cessation of the persecution and release of all political prisoners convicted of defamation or insult of officials, public officials and the President, as well as the insult to state symbols, and given that Siarhei Hardziyevich and Dzmitry Kulakouski were isolated (imprisoned) before the court, we consider their persecution to be politically motivated, and Siarhei Hardziyevich and Dzmitry Kulakouski themselves as 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 Hardziyevich and Dzmitry Kulakouski;
- take measures aimed at decriminalizing defamation offenses and repealing articles of the Criminal Code that provide for liability for insulting the state and state symbols, namely Articles 188, 189, 367, 368, 369, 369-1, 370, and stop all previously initiated criminal cases under these articles;
- immediately release all political prisoners and end political repression in the country.
Human Rights Center "Viasna"
Center for Legal Transformation “Lawtrend”
Advisory center on contemporary international practices and their legal implementation “Human Constanta”
Belarusian Documentation Center
Office for the Rights of Persons with Disabilities
Belarusian Association of Journalists
Belarusian Helsinki Committee
Barys Zvozskau Belarusian Human Rights House