Memorial Human Rights Centre considers the Belarusian activist Andrei Kazimirau a political prisoner in accordance with international guidelines. We believe Kazimirau is being prosecuted for exercising his rights to freedom of expression and peaceful assembly. We consider the criminal case against him is politically motivated.
We demand the immediate release of Andrei Kazimirau from custody. We demand the Russian authorities fulfil their international obligations under the 1951 Refugee Convention. The request for Kazimirau’s extradition to Belarus must be rejected and he must be granted temporary asylum.
- Who is Andrei Kazimirau and why is he being prosecuted?
Andrei Kazimirau, 21, is an activist from the city of Brest in Belarus. After the announcement of the results of the presidential election in Belarus on 10 August 2020, Kazimirau took part in a protest against election fraud. Despite the peaceful nature of the protest, the Belarusian security forces used rubber bullets, stun grenades, and tear gas against the demonstrators. Trying to defend themselves from the security forces, the protesters built shelters out of rubbish bins. According to Kazimirau, he also helped to move one of the rubbish bins. However, he was shot in the leg with a rubber bullet, after which he went home.
On 13 August Kazimirau was arrested. At a police station, like other detainees, he was beaten and told to say who paid him to take part in the protests. After being held for two days at the police station, Kazimirau was released without charges. He left Belarus for Russia in September 2020.
In November Belarusian investigators announced charges against Kazimirau for taking part in riots (Article 293, Part 2, of the Belarusian Criminal Code) and put him on a wanted list. According to the investigators, Kazimirau had ’taken part in rioting that were accompanied by violence against persons, pogroms and the destruction of property’. However, the materials of the case contain no description of the actual circumstances of the crime with which Kazimirau has been charged.
On 14 January 2021 Kazimirau was arrested in Moscow at the request of the Belarusian authorities. The next day in court he was remanded in custody. At present, Andrei Kazimirau is being held in Moscow pre-trial detention centre No. 4.
On 28 February 2021 Kazimirau filed an application for temporary asylum in Russia. If deported to Belarus, Kazimirau faces up to eight years in prison.
- Why does Memorial consider Kazimirau a political prisoner?
Memorial Human Rights Centre has studied the materials of Andrei Kazimirau’s case and concluded that Kazimirau has not been charged with using violence at the protests. The protests themselves, in our view, cannot be classified as riots. The demonstrators did not commit arson or pogroms and did not give armed resistance to the security and law enforcement forces. It was the law enforcement agencies of Belarus, and not the demonstrators, who used violence at the protests.
We believe the Belarusian authorities are using the charges laid against Kazimirau to criminalize all participation in peaceful protests.
It is important to note that the documents we have studied contain no reference to specific actions by Kazimirau. Accordingly, there is no evidence of a crime having been committed by him in terms of Russian law. This means there are no grounds to extradite him to Belarus.
A more detailed description of the case and the position of Memorial Human Rights Centre are set out
on our website.
Recognition of an individual as a political prisoner does not imply Memorial Human Rights Centre agrees with, or approves of, their views, statements, or actions.