Minsk – 10 August 2016
According to information received by human rights defenders, on 14 June 2016, Uladzimir Kondrus, a resident of the town of Rudziensk, was taken into custody in jail No. 1 in Minsk. As later confirmed by the Investigative Committee, he is facing charges under Part 2, Art. 293 of the Criminal Code (‘rioting’).
The criminal case was opened following the events of 19 December 2010 in Minsk, when hundreds of people were detained and subjected to administrative arrest and prosecution as a result of the disproportionately violent dispersal of a peaceful demonstration in Independence Square. These included seven candidates running in the 2010 presidential election. As a result, 44 participants were sentenced to various punishments, including imprisonment. To date, all the convicts in this case have either completely served their sentences or have been released early from prison as a result of a pardon.
The Belarusian human rights organizations were unanimous in assessing the events: the demonstration of 19 December 2010 in Minsk was peaceful, while the protesters exercised their right to freedom of peaceful assembly and expression.
Certain illegal actions by separate protesters should have been stopped by law enforcement officers in a timely manner. These actions could not be described as rioting, and therefore could not be a pretext for the use of violence against other peaceful demonstrators, as well as further escalation of repression against political opponents, civil society, human rights defenders and independent media. All the persons convicted under Art. 293 of the Criminal Code were recognized by the Belarusian human rights defenders and the international community as political prisoners. There have been no new grounds for changes in estimates of the events on our part.
The requirement for the immediate release of all prisoners convicted of involvement in the events on the Election Day and the after the elections was reflected in the resolutions of the European Parliament on the situation in Belarus of 21 January 2011, and the PACE Resolution of 27 January 2011.
It was the release of all political prisoners, including those convicted of their involvement in the events of 19 December 2010, that became a major step forward in the relations between Belarus, the EU and the US, which eventually resulted in a freeze and then a full withdrawal of sanctions imposed after the post-election events.
In our opinion, the detention of Uladzimir Kondrus on charges under Art. 293 of the Criminal Code is one of the repressive actions of the authorities, which should have been left in the past.
The very fact of criminal prosecution as part of the case on the events of 19 December 2010 poses a danger of arrest of other participants in those events, who may still be wanted by the police.
We reaffirm our position, which is that the actions of Uladzimir Kondrus cannot be categorized under Art. 293 of the Criminal Code, while the statute of limitations of other articles of the Criminal Code, under which they could have been qualified, has already expired.
In this regard, we declare that we regard the prosecution of Uladzimir Kondrus as politically motivated, and view Kondrus as a political prisoner.
We urge the Belarusian authorities to:
– put an end to the criminal prosecution of Uladzimir Kondrus under Art. 293 of the Criminal Code and to immediately release him from custody;
– fully close the criminal case on the events of 19 December 2010, creating the conditions for a general amnesty for all participants in the protest, including for those who are still forced to stay abroad because of the possible threat of criminal prosecution;
– take concrete measures to rehabilitate previously convicted political prisoners.
Human Rights Center “Viasna”
Belarusian Helsinki Committee
Center for Legal Transformation
Barys Zvozskau Belarusian Human Rights House
Belarusian Documentation Center
Committee for the Protection of the Repressed “Salidarnasts”
The Belarusian Association of Journalists