Student expelled over participation in peaceful protest

Posted May 12, 2017

On March 22, 2017, Mogilev State A. Kuleshov University’s faculty council voted to expel Alena Kisel, a student of pedagogy and child psychology, apparently in retaliation for her participation in a peaceful protest.

Demonstrations were held across Belarus on March 15 to protest a presidential decree that reportedly instituted a tax against individuals who work fewer than 183 days per year. In Mogilev, as many as 500 people attended one of these demonstrations, which included speeches, poetry readings, and a march through the city. Although the demonstration was reportedly peaceful, police arrested at least seven participants, including Ms. Kisel. The next day, Ms. Kisel appeared in court and was fined 345 rubles (approximately $6 USD) for participating in an unauthorized protest.

On March 17, Ms. Kisel was summoned to the dean’s office, where she was reportedly questioned and asked to provide a written statement about her participation in the March 15 demonstration. She reportedly refused, but did agree to provide the dean with a written statement about her alleged recent truancy.

On March 22, the university’s faculty council informed Ms. Kisel that they voted to expel her for missing too many classes. The next day, the rector rejected an appeal by Ms. Kisel, who was expected to graduate in three months.

Scholars at Risk is concerned about the expulsion of a student in apparent retaliation for the the peaceful exercise of the rights to freedom of expression and association — conduct which is expressly protected by international human rights instruments including the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, to which Belarus is a party. University authorities have a responsibility to refrain from disciplinary actions that seek to limit the exercise of such rights. In addition to the harm to the immediate victim, such incidents have a chilling effect on academic freedom and undermine democratic society generally.