Statement on Administrative Proceedings Against Participants of Pro-Independence Protests

The Board of the Belarusian PEN Centre is deeply concerned over the administrative arrests and fines applied to the participants of peaceful rallies in defence of the independence of Belarus.

On December 7-8 and December 20-21, mass rallies to defend the sovereignty of Belarus took place in Belarus.

Throughout the last two weeks, the Belarus authorities have started administrative proceedings against the participants of the above-mentioned peaceful rallies. The protesters were tried under Article 23.34 of the Belarus Code of Administrative offences for participation in unauthorized mass gatherings. As a result, most of them were either fined or put under administrative arrests for 5-10 days.

Paviel Sieviaryniec, a writer and civic activist, was sentenced to 15 days in jail and a fine of BYN1275 (equivalent to $610).

The trials against members of the Belarusian PEN Centre writers Uladzimir Niaklaeu and Uladzimir Arlou will take place on December 30.

Police has drawn up a report on the honorary Chairman of the Belarusian PEN Centre, a renowned translator, editor and linguist Liavon Barsceuski.

The Board of the Belarusian PEN Centre condemns violations of the right to freedom of expression, as participants get fined for informing citizens on rallies on social media.

For instance, Aliaksei Prokharau from Viciebsk got a BYN127.5 ($60.5 USD) fine for the violation of Article 23.34 (1) of the Belarus Code of Administrative offences by appealing to people on social media to participate in the “live chain” protest. In Homiel, YouTube vlogger Siarhei Cikhanouski who is known for his “Country Where One Can Leave” (Strana dlya zhizni) channel got 15 days in jail for the “participation in an unauthorized gathering.” In Minsk, blogger Uladzimir Cyhanovic (also known under his pen name MozgON) was detained.

The Board of the Belarusian PEN Centre reiterates that the sovereignty of Belarus is the Constitutionally guaranteed pillar of the Belarusian state. We support the participants of peaceful rallies and call upon the Belarusian authorities to refrain from unlawful measures and bring the implementation of laws on peaceful gathering and freedom of expression in line with the international standards.

December 28, 2019