Human Rights House Foundation

Belarus

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Eduard Palchys is a political prisoner. Joint statement by human rights organizations

Joint statement of the human rights organizations regarding the criminal prosecution of blogger Eduard Palchys.

Wednesday, 05 October 2016, by Belarusian HRH

Minsk, October 5, 2016

Eduard Palchys, editor of the 1863x.com website, is accused of committing crimes under Part 1 of Art. 130 (incitement to racial, national or religious enmity or discord) and Part 2 of Art. 343 (distribution of pornographic materials) of the Criminal Code of the Republic of Belarus.

In November 2015, Eduard Palchys was detained by KGB officers within the framework of the initiated proceedings and later released on recognizance, after which he moved to Ukraine. In January 2016, E. Palchys was detained in the Russian Federation, and in late May 2016 he was extradited to Belarus, where he was taken into custody.

On August 25, the court of Centralny district of Minsk examined the case on recognition of information products posted on the website 1863h.com as extremist. As a result, in a closed court session is has been concluded, that 9 articles that have been posted on this site are extremist.

Human rights defenders insisted on the need to conduct an independent analysis of the E. Palchys texts and did not rule out political motives for his criminal prosecution.

Representatives of the human rights organizations with the assistance of specialists in various fields of science analyzed the nine texts posted on the 1863x.com website, which have been recognized as extremist by the court, and which, according to the investigation, contain information that incites to racial, national or religious enmity or discord. As a result of this analysis, we note the following: As a result of this analysis, we note the following:

In accordance with Art. 19 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, everyone shall have the right to hold opinions without interference. Everyone shall have the right to freedom of expression; this right shall include freedom to seek, receive and impart information and ideas of all kinds, regardless of frontiers, either orally, in writing or in print, in the form of art, or through any other media of his choice.

The exercise of this right carries with it special duties and responsibilities. It may therefore be subject to certain restrictions, but these shall only be such as are provided by law and are necessary:

a) For respect of the rights or reputations of others;

b) For the protection of national security or of public order (ordre public), or of public health or morals.

In addition, the permissible restrictions on freedom of expression are contained in Article 20 of the Covenant, which prohibits any propaganda for war, as well as any advocacy of national, racial or religious hatred that constitutes incitement to discrimination, hostility or violence.

Given these established by the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights permissible restrictions on freedom of expression, the analysis of the texts, which were posted on the website 1863x.com, had to determine whether these materials fell under the permissible restrictions on freedom of expression.

As a result of the analysis, the researchers concluded that information in the nine articles does not contain evidence of incitement to war, violence or statements in favor of racial, national or religious hatred, nor does it pose a threat to national security, public order or public health or morals. The materials are nothing more than the author's views on certain historical events, facts, containing criticism of geopolitical concepts and the foreign policy of some states. are nothing more than the author's views on certain historical events, facts, contain criticisms of geopolitical concepts and the foreign policy of some states. The author did not have the purpose of humiliating representatives of any specific national, ethnic or racial groups.

It should be noted, that in this situation the analysis of the context [1] is extremely important in assessing whether a particular statement calls for discrimination, hostility or violence. A contextual analysis aims to put the statement in the social and political context that prevailed at the time when this statement was made or distributed.

In this regard, we believe that the publications authored by blogger Eduard Palchys, which were posted in the nine articles on the 1863x.com website, are a permissible form of expression and, accordingly, may not be prosecuted under the criminal law.

At the same time, we stress that the use of freedom of expression imposes special duties and responsibilities, including moral and social ones. The prohibition of dissemination of pornographic images and materials is a permissible restriction on freedom of expression, as it aims to protect public morals. However, we believe that the one-time use of an illustration featuring a pornographic image, which, according to E. Palchys, was to demonstrate to the users of 1863x.com unacceptable approaches to presenting information by some web resources, is short-sighted step, but should not result in a penalty of imprisonment. In this case, E. Palchys did not pursue any selfish or other evil purposes. An analysis of law enforcement in a number of similar cases shows that the punishment of imprisonment is never applied by the courts.

In our view, the court should take into account E. Palchys’s motives when considering the criminal charges brought against him.

We believe that the criminal prosecution of E. Palchys has a political motive of authorities, which aims to sanction his public activities, or force him to change its character.

In this regard, we state the following:

Eduard Palchys’s detention and politically motivated persecution by the Belarusian authorities allow us to call the blogger a political prisoner.

We demand to: 

- release E. Palchys from custody, since ensuring his appearance in court can be guaranteed by other preventive measures, which are not connected with the defendant’s isolation;

- drop the criminal charge against Palchys (under Part 1 of Art. 130 of the Criminal Code);

- ensure an open trial with all the guarantees of a fair trial.

 

Human Rights Center "Viasna"

Belarusian Association of Journalists

Center for Legal Transformation

Barys Zvozskau Belarusian Human Rights House

Belarusian Documentation Center

Committee for Protection of the Repressed "Solidarity"

 

[1] Rabat Plan of Action on the prohibition of advocacy of national, racial or religious hatred that constitutes incitement to discrimination, hostility or violence (Conclusions and recommendations emanating from the four regional expert workshops organized by OHCHR in 2011, and adopted by experts in Rabat, Morocco on 5 October 2012.

Belarusian HRH

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