Three Belarusian activists have reportedly been subjected to criminal prosecution for their role in a peaceful student protest on December 2, 2015.
Student protesters, demonstrating against the introduction of new fees by Belarus State University in Minsk, marched from the city’s Mikhailauski Park to the university’s main building, where they demanded a meeting with the rector. According to reports, authorities recorded the names of several protesters, leading to disciplinary action by the university against several students for their absence from class during the protest.
Following the march, three protesters, Pavel Siarhei, Yauhen Amialkou and Hleb Vaikul, were reportedly charged with participation in an unauthorized mass event or related crimes. A Minsk court found Siarhei guilty on December 23, fining him 4.5 Million Belarusian Rubles (about $250 U.S. Dollars). As of this report, the charges against Amialkou and Vaikul remain pending.
Scholars at Risk is concerned about prosecution of student activists, apparently as a result of nonviolent expression and association – conduct which is expressly protected under international human rights instruments including the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. State officials have a responsibility not to interfere with the rights to freedom of expression and association, so long as such rights are exercised peacefully and responsibly. Prosecution aimed at limiting expression and association undermine academic freedom and democratic society generally. State officials have an obligation to comply with internationally recognized standards of free expression and freedom of association, due process and fair trial.
On December 30, a Minsk court reportedly fined Vaikul 3.24 Million Belarusian Rubles (about $175 U.S. Dollars). Another student protester, Maxim Vinarski was later fined 10.71 Million Belarusian Rubles (about $570 U.S. Dollars).