Source: Viasna Belarus Human Rights Center in English
Aliaksei Ramanau. Photo: svaboda.org
The Chojniki District Court sentenced today a disabled resident of Homieĺ to 12 months in a penal colony for “publicly insulting the president” at an election rally on July 28.
A former volunteer in Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya’s campaign, Aliaksei Ramanau was found guilty under Art. 368 of the Criminal Code (“insult of the President of the Republic of Belarus”). According to the court ruling, the activist, “intending to publicly insult the President, deliberately uttered words and phrases in an obscene manner, which, according to an expert, contained a negative assessment of President Aliaksandr Lukashenka.”
“I did not insult the President. Because I do not consider Lukashenka to be president, he is illegitimate,” the convict said after the trial.
Judge Andrei Kardash chose to imprison Ramanau despite his disability caused by cancer. The sentence is not final and may be appealed to a higher court. However, the convict was taken into custody to await appeal hearings.
Human rights activists believe that Article 368 of the Criminal Code, together with several others, belongs to the so-called defamatory crimes.
International human rights organizations view defamation in the context of the right to freedom of expression. Decriminalization of defamation offenses is a standard set out and substantiated in the decisions of a number of international organizations.
In 1995, the international community, with the support of the human rights organization Article 19, adopted the Johannesburg Principles. They are intended to reinforce Article 19 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, according to which everyone has the right to hold their own views without hindrance.
According Principle 7, No one may be punished for criticizing or insulting the nation, the state or its symbols, the government, its agencies, or public officials, unless this criticism or insult is aimed at inciting violent actions or may lead to such actions.