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7 June 2005

The Special Rapporteur of the United Nations Commission on Human Rights on the situation of human rights in Belarus, Adrian Severin, issued the following statement today in Geneva:

The Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Belarus, Adrian Severin, expresses deep concern and strong condemnation over the sentencing of Paval Sevyarynets, one of the leaders of the youth wing of the Belarusian Popular Front, and Mikola Statkevich, a leader of the Social Democratic Party (Narodnaya Hramada).

Paval Sevyarynets and Mikola Statkevich were charged under Article 342 of the Criminal Code with organizing peaceful mass protests against what they called the rigged results of the last parliamentary elections and referendum in 2004, and sentenced to three years of restricted freedom. However, due to the Amnesty Law on the occasion of the sixtieth Anniversary of Victory in the Second World War, the sentence has been reduced to two years.

The Special Rapporteur also expresses his deep concern for the other Belarusian political prisoners, namely Alyaxandr Vasil'eu, Valery Levaneuski, Mikhail Marynich, Andrei Klinau and Syarhei Skrabets, and appeals to the Government of Belarus to take all necessary steps to secure their right to freedom of opinion and expression in accordance with fundamental principles as set forth in article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and reiterated in article 19 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. These articles provide that, "Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers".

For use of the information media; not an official record