Amnesty for one political prisoner only in Belarus?


The draft law on amnesty in 2014 has been tabled with the House of Representatives of Belarus' National Assembly but access to the document is yet to be granted. Taking into account that a new legislation is developed every time the amnesty bill is passed, Euroradio makes a comparision between the 2009, 2010 and 2012 amnesties to try to figure out what could be expected this year. The first lines suggest that all of the three laws are identical.

There are some minor differences, though. Some provisions were copied and pasted into different sections of the law, but the wording remained the same. The first article lists the persons who fall under amnesty if they did not commit grave crimes: underage; pregnant women; pensioners; people with disabilities; war and combat veterans; citizens affected by the 1986 Chernobyl nuclear disaster; parents of underage children and diabled children.

Those who are not mentioned in the first article but committed less severe crimes are freed if they have completed at least one forth of their total prison term. This article is identical in all of the three previous laws.

"Usuually, the amnesty law has a provision that it does not apply to malicious violators of prison rules and procedures," says Aleh Hulak.

Indeed, such provision is  set out in all of the three amnesty laws. The list of persons who do not qualify for amnesty is also similar, so there are no big differences in the laws.

Given that, one can assume that the 2014 amnesty legislation will not differ significantly.

As of today, human rights defenders recognize as political prisoners the folloiwing nine people in Belarus: Mikalai Statkevich, Eduard Lobau, Ales Bialiatski, Mikalai Dziadok, Ihar Alinevich, Yauhen Vaskovich, Artsiom Prakapenka, Andrei Haidukou and Vasil Parfiankou. Can anyone of them hope to be amnestied this year?

IN the view of lawyer Pavel Sapelka, only one political prisoner may be released and only on condition that his term in prison does not end before amnesty is announced.

"Apart from Haidukou who has only two weeks in prison remaining, amnesty will not apply to all other political prisoners, because all of them were described by prison administrations as violators of prison rules and procedures."

Did political prisoners fall under amnesty in Belarus before? Human rights defenders recall just several examples. In 1996, Uladzimir Salavei was amnestied due to age. In 2010, Ales Charnyshou was the only one amnestied out of 14 people who were sentenced in the "case of 14" associated with the 2006 presidential elections.

In 2005, Pavel Seviarynets and Mikalai Statkevich were amnestied after their prison term had been reduced by one year. Amnesty was applied in the courtroom. They were sentenced to three years but the sentence was immediately reduced to two years.

"Aliaksei Shydlouski was amnestied 3 days before the end of his term. Therefore, he does not qualify for another amnesty next time," adds Pavel Sevyarynets.