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Penitential videos now at universities in Belarus

A law student of the Belarusian State University was forced to confess on camera to discrediting the BRSM primary school. The video was published in the official account of the faculty

The official Instagram account of BSU Law School published a "repentant" video with a student. In it he allegedly confesses to spreading information that defames the administration and BRSM of the faculty.

On camera, the young man gave his name, surname, and course, as well as voiced the claims that the "activists" had against him.

A student who was forced to apologize on camera for discrediting the BRSM primary school
A student who was forced to apologize on camera for discrediting the BRSM primary. Screenshot of the video

— I allowed myself to publicly disseminate discrediting information about the administration of the Faculty of Law, as well as information discrediting the image of the BRSM of the Faculty of Law. I confess my guilt in full, I repent. Based on my mistakes, I recommend young people to carefully monitor what they say, to whom and in what situations, as well as to work for the benefit of our country, said the third-year student.

Belarusians have long been familiar with this genre - after 2020, security forces have published dozens of confession videos, recorded under duress. But the news is that Belarusian universities are now resorting to such methods, not hesitating to publish these materials in their social networks.

After the media coverage and comments from lawyers, the student was forced to record another video - with an appeal not to draw attention to this situation.

Why are such videos a violation of the law and torture?

Maria Kolesova-Gudilina
Maria Kolesova-Gudilina Source:

As Maria Kolesova-Gudilina noted:

This is a direct violation of the presumption of innocence, when a person is forced to confess in a non-procedural form to committing a prohibited act. Such a video violates the right not to be subjected to cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment or torture. Those who force such videos can be prosecuted under Article 426 of the Criminal Cod

The lawyer of "Viasna" Pavel Sapelko notes that the recording of such "penitential" videos violates several constitutional and international norms at once:

Павел Сапелко
Павел Сапелко Источник:

— The very process of filming and the use of video recordings of this kind violate several norms of the Constitution of the Republic of Belarus and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR). First of all - a set of rights of a person detained on suspicion of committing a crime, because such people, as a rule, become victims of forced filming. Their rights are enshrined in Article 14 of the ICCPR and include the rights to be represented by a defender, not to testify against themselves, to know what the person is accused of, to be brought before a court as soon as possible.

In addition, being forced to participate in such reels is a direct violation of the presumption of innocence, when a person is forced in a non-procedural form to confess to committing a prohibited act or to incriminate himself for committing a crime. Perhaps, from the criminal procedural point of view, it would not be so important if we had a fair and independent court. But, unfortunately, these videos are recognized as evidence and are used to justify convictions, even though they were obtained in a non-procedural manner.

Being forced to take part in such videos violates freedom of expression, because this right includes not only expressing one's opinion, but also not expressing it, refusing to speak out about certain issues of social and political nature. But very often people are forced to speak out not only about their actions, the actions of relatives and friends, but also in general - about the actions of certain socio-political groups. Moreover, such recordings directly interfere with the privacy of one's private life, because people are forced to reveal non-public aspects of their life: professional issues, financial situation, sexual orientation, and so on.

The videos also violate the right not to be subjected to cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment or torture. After all, even if a person has no visible marks or has not been subjected to cruel measures or torture, we and the people who are forced to be filmed are well aware that refusing to be filmed could entail this.

It is particularly cynical that it is the law school that has resorted to such methods. The place where laws are supposed to be taught is now practicing their violation. In the past academic year alone, activists know of at least 10 cases of political repression at the faculty.

These violations of the law will clearly not be investigated under the current regime. But at least a fraction of justice can be returned by disseminating information about those involved in the crime:

The Honest University Project asks: if you know anything about this incident, please write to the chatbot @honestuniver on Telegram(app).

The University of Integrity will seek to have those involved in the crackdown on the law school placed on sanctions lists and punished legally for their actions in the future.

Sources of publication: Honest People and


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