At least five Belarusians have been prosecuted for negative statements about Dzmitry Balaba since autumn 2020.
According to the press service of the Internal Affairs Ministry, a 51-year-old resident of Maladzechna and a 39-year-old man from Luninets were detained by law enforcers for leaving negative comments in protest telegram channels under the picture of the Minsk riot police head Dzmitry Balaba. Criminal cases were initiated for “insulting a representative of the authorities.” The maximum penalty under this article is a restriction of liberty for up to three years.
This is not the first time law enforcement officers have prosecuted those who spoke negatively about Dzmitry Balaba:
In November 2020, Ilya Tananka, a 19-year-old MSLU student, was punished with 1.5 years of freedom restriction for allegedly insulting Dzmitry Balaba. The guy was accused of writing “Balaba the Killer” on the wall of the house on Skripnikava Street, where the head of the Minsk riot police lives;
In December 2020, law enforcement officers arrested a 19-year-old resident of Vorsha, who had sent angry messages to the commander of Minsk riot police in August-September. A criminal case was opened against the man under Article 364 (Violence or threat of violence against an employee of law enforcement agencies) of the Criminal Code;
In April 2021, law enforcement officers detained a 36-year-old resident of Vitsebsk, Vadzim Yermalovich, near the state border with Lithuania. The police filed a criminal case against Vitsebsk resident because he had allegedly insulted Dzmitry Balaba in the Telegram-chat “Vitebsk_Yug.”
According to human rights defenders, Belarus has been the ground for the most massive repression in its modern history since the summer of 2020. The Investigative Committee claims that more than 2,400 criminal cases related to protests have been opened since August. The Prosecutor General’s Office claims that more than 3,000 such “crimes” have been registered during this period. However, the exact number of “political” criminal cases remains unknown.
As many as 460 people were recognized as political prisoners on June 3. In addition, thousands of protesters across the country were victims of targeted torture, and more than 33,000 people were held in administrative detention. According to various estimates, between 4 and 15 people died due to the actions of the security forces. However, no one has been prosecuted for torture or murder.