Number of political prisoners in Belarus reaches 290

Another four names have been added to the list being updated by Belarusian human rights defenders since the summer of 2020.

On Tuesday, nine human rights watchdogs issued a joint statement in the wake of imposing prison sentences on two Brest residents, Alyaksei Artsetski and Dzmitry Bunevich, who were accused of ‘group actions which grossly violate public order’ (Article 342-1 of the Criminal Code). They also condemned the authorities’ charging Dzyanis Ivanets (‘organising mass riots’) and Raman Sidzyuk (‘participating in mass riots’, ‘group actions which grossly violate public order’). The both men were taken into custody.

The human rights activists assessed the persecution of the citizens mentioned above as politically motivated, as it is solely connected with the exercise of their freedom of peaceful assembly and expression, and recognised them as political prisoners.

“The meetings were peaceful and did not pose a threat to national or public security. Despite this, the demonstrators were attacked by special units of the Ministry of Internal Affairs who used disproportionate violence, riot gear and non-lethal weapons,” the statement reads.

The country’s human rights community calls on the authorities to immediately release all the political prisoners and stop their criminal prosecution. As of 17 March, 290 persons have been recognised as prisoners of conscience in Belarus.

Students who shaved heads in solidarity with political prisoners put on authorities’ bad books