UN experts call on Belarusian authorities to release elderly prisoners

Эксперты ООН призвали власти Беларуси освободить пожилых заключенных

Protest march in Minsk in November 2020. UN experts call on Belarusian authorities to release elderly prisoners Human rights

UN experts called on the Belarusian authorities to pardon or commute the sentences of all elderly people imprisoned on political charges.

Independent experts received a list of 63 people over the age of 60, including 15 women, who are imprisoned in Belarus for real or perceived membership in the political opposition. Most are serving prison sentences of up to 25 years, while others are held in pre-trial detention centers or subjected to forced psychiatric treatment. Some prisoners suffer from chronic illnesses or disabilities. Three prisoners over the age of 60 are reportedly being held incommunicado.

Some of these elderly people are also included in official lists of extremists or terrorists. “These lists are notorious for including members of the political opposition and human rights defenders,” the experts noted. “According to various sources, prisoners included in these lists are subjected to various forms of ill-treatment, including incommunicado detention and denial of timely and adequate medical care, as well as restrictions on correspondence and money transfers. One of the detainees, aged 67, has been held incommunicado since February 2023 and may be a victim of enforced disappearance.”

On June 2024, the Belarusian parliament adopted a law proposing an amnesty for individuals who have reached retirement age (63 for men and 58 for women). However, the amnesty will not apply to prisoners convicted of crimes such as gross violation of public order, actions aimed at harming national security, creating and participating in an extremist group, slandering the president, or discrediting Belarus. Such charges are often used for politically motivated prosecutions. The amnesty will also not apply to prisoners included in lists of persons involved in terrorist and extremist activities.

“We again call on Belarus to bring its legislation into line with its international obligations and release all persons unjustly convicted for fully exercising their human rights, such as freedom of speech, association and assembly,” the experts said, calling for a ban on discrimination based on political opinion and for the amnesty to be extended to all older people imprisoned on political charges.

The experts are not UN employees and do not receive a salary for their work. They are independent of any government or organization and act in an individual capacity.


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