Joint statement of human rights and other civil society organizations of Belarus
Minsk - July 10, 2020
On July 8, the Saviecki District Court of Minsk ruled to sentence Pavel Seviarynets to 15 days of administrative detention. According to the court ruling, Seviarynets called to join an unauthorized mass event near the Kamarouski market in Minsk on June 7, which violated the rules of organizing and holding assemblies established by the Law “On Mass Events” and accordingly committed an offense under Art 23.34 of the Code of Administrative Offenses.
Pavel Seviarynets was earlier sentenced to 15 days of administrative detention for participating in the same event. He was arrested by police on June 7. After that, the activist was sentenced to at least three terms of administrative detention, 15 days each (a total of 60 days in prison).
It has been a month since Pavel Seviarynets was confined to the pre-trial detention center in Minsk. He is also expected to serve 30 more days in prison for participating in the anti-integration protests held in December and January. Thus, the total duration of the activist’s sentence is at least 105 days, which exceeds the maximum term (three months) of arrest imposed on criminal convicts.
We note once again that the practice of applying the rules of the Code of Administrative Offenses is deeply flawed, as it has a politically motivated nature and is used to exert pressure, sanction public activity and isolate Pavel Seviarynets for the entire period of the election campaign.
In addition, we remind that freedom of peaceful assembly and expression is guaranteed to the citizens of Belarus both by the current Constitution and international human rights standards, the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, in particular. Imprisonment in connection with the exercise of these freedoms is unacceptable in a democratic society.
Of extreme concern are the reports of Pavel Seviarynets being subjected to cruel and inhuman treatment while in detention.
The activist has been repeatedly placed in a punishment cell without warm clothes and personal belongings, where he could not sleep at night due to low temperatures, and during the day, when the bunks were raised and fixed to the wall, he was forced to sit on a small stool. He is not taken out for walks and cannot take a shower. Seviarynets has not been allowed to receive parcels from his family, and his lawyer is still not allowed to visit him.
In this regard, we recall that freedom from torture and ill-treatment is an absolute right, and that such treatment is prohibited by both existing national and international human rights law.
We also remind that the right to legal assistance is guaranteed by Art. 62 of the Constitution of the Republic of Belarus, and any obstacles to the provision of such assistance are prohibited.
According to paragraph 3.1 of the Guidelines on Definition of Political Prisoners, approved by the Belarusian human rights community at the 3rd Human Rights Forum, imprisonment (including administrative detention) of a person in connection with the non-violent exercise of freedoms guaranteed by international human rights law is grounds for recognizing such a person a political prisoner and demanding their immediate release.
These demands fully apply to all those sentenced to terms of administrative detention for participating and organizing peaceful rallies and calling to join the protests, as we have repeatedly stated, including in a statement on the arrest of blogger Dzmitry Kazlou of January 21, 2020.
Thus, we, representatives of the Belarusian human rights community, once again note that we consider all those held in administrative detention for the peaceful exercise of freedom of peaceful assembly and expression, including Pavel Seviarynets, as political prisoners.
In this regard, we, representatives of Belarusian human rights organizations, protest against the political persecution and detention of political prisoner Pavel Seviarynets and demand to:
-revoke all administrative sentences imposed on Pavel Seviarynets for organizing or participating in peaceful assemblies and to immediately release the activist;
-immediately release all political prisoners serving terms of administrative detention for exercising their freedom of peaceful assembly and expression;
-conduct an investigation and bring to justice all those involved in torture and cruel, inhuman treatment of Pavel Seviarynets and other detainees.
We also call on the Government of Belarus to comply with all voluntarily undertaken international human rights obligations, including zero tolerance to torture and other cruel and inhuman treatment.
Human Rights Center "Viasna"
Belarusian Helsinki Committee
Belarusian Association of Journalists
Belarusian Documentation Center
Office for the Rights of Persons with Disabilities
Center for Legal Transformation “Lawtrend”
Initiative Group “Identity and Law”
Advisory center on contemporary international practices and their legal implementation ”Human Constanta”
Assembly of Non-Governmental Democratic Organizations
Barys Zvozskau Belarusian Human Rights House