21 January 2018, Sunday, 17:28

Thanking party for summer

Andrzej Paczobut is finally free.

He was freed from serving a sentence once the postponement of the verdict’s execution expired.

The OSCE Representative on Freedom of the Media Dunja Mijatovic welcomed the decision of the Hrodna court. But there was actually nothing to welcome. Dunja Mijatovic made a mistake in the main thing: she claimed she welcomed “the court’s decision, lifting all the charges from Paczobut”. But no one lifted anything.

Paczobut was only not sent to a penal colony, because the verdict’s postponement expired. But the very court’s verdict – the one of two years ago, that had found him guilty – was not cancelled. Andrzej is still a criminal. Just like Dzima Dashkievich, who have been released only because he sent the whole time of imprisonment behind bars and almost a whole another year more.

I know perfectly well that Dunja Mijatovic sincerely worried for Paczobut, for me, for Natalia Radzina. But one should not confuse the notions and welcome a sunrise or sunset. This is just the flow of time. A day passed – the sun went down. A night passed – the sun rises. A prison term has ended – a person goes at large. A postponement expires – a person gets freed from serving a prison term, if he was not rowdyish in public places. One should not link a clock’s ticking with political processes.

In these two years Andrzej Paczobut went to prison for the second time on different charges and then, being convicted, was a suspect for over half a year. All the limitations in rights like the necessity to register himself at a police station and ban on going abroad were supplemented with a recognizance not to leave the city. He is now legally free, but he understands perfectly that he may get arrested at any moment, and should that happened, the formally cleared criminal record will remind of itself. Been there. When we were being tried with Paviel Sieviaryniec, the verdict “in the name of the Republic of Belarus” as of 2005 was carefully attached to Pasha’s case. It was done for the court to know that it was dealing with an inveterate criminal. And the prosecutor pointed at that old verdict with pleasure in order for the judge not to suddenly forget to take it into account when passing a new one.

The verdict for the Square manifestation may also be requested at any moment and attached to new cases. They will without a doubt considered in case of new trials. Some participants of the Square manifestation have already experienced that themselves, others only have it coming. All of us, the people arrested and sentenced after 19 December, know that. That is why these are exclusively the political prisoners themselves and their relatives who have been lately demanding the exoneration of political prisoners, while human rights activists have been with one voice reiterating that exoneration should not be demanded since it is legally impossible. There is no law on exoneration in Belarus, which means there will not be any, and it is already good if they do release the people, let it be with preventive supervision, but home from torture chambers.

Of course, at home it is better than in prison. It is better under preventive supervision than in a prison cell. It is better to go register yourself at a police station than to be locked up in a penal cell. It is better to open the door for inspectors in the uniform several times throughout the night and feel indignation that they were not letting to take a bath before going to sleep, than going shower once a week with convoy. What is there to say – of course, it is better to be healthy and rich than poor and sick. But not to demand the exoneration of political prisoners equates recognizing their guilt.

I do not accept the argument of the absence of an exoneration law. There was none in the USSR either, but hundreds thousands political prisoners were exonerated in the 50-ies. Without any law whatsoever. Nikita Khrushchev simply set them free from prison camps and exonerated. They did not get any apologies from the Soviet authorities – just certificates with a stamp and the restoration in their rights. But the repressed ones did not expect an apology. We do not need apologies from the current regime either. A certificate with a stamp and the restoration in right would suffice. And no cops at night. It is too much of an honor for them to accept their apologies. They’ll live.

And one more thing why it is silly to refer to the absence of a law on exoneration. This argument could have been valid, had other existing laws been followed. But if not a single law works, why be bothered with the absence of an exoneration law?

I know, an objection can me made: once the laws do not work, an exoneration certificate will not be an obstacle for imprisoning any dissident again. Of course, it will not. But why give them the right to establish preventive supervision, eight years long criminal record, limitation in rights? Why make their life simpler? They should practice their fantasy, botchers.

So far we can only welcome the start of October. It would, of course, not have come without the joint efforts of Belarusian civil society and international democratic forces.

Iryna Khalip specially for charter97.org