News for 16 Jan 2009

16.01.2009 Soviet-Afghan war veterans to refuse state award

On 8 January president Lukashenka decreed to found a new medal commemorating the 20th anniversary of the total withdrawal of Soviet troops from Afghanistan. At the same time, Kletsk district organization of Soviet-Afghan war veterans declared they intend to return the medals. The initiative was kept up by a number of veterans across Belarus. The wave of protest provoked by the deteriorating situation in the field of social protection of war veterans is likely to be supported by hundreds of veterans.

16.01.2009 State-owned publishing house cancels contract with independent newspaper

The state-owned Belarusian Publishing House has cancelled its contract with the Borisovskiye novosti newspaper, says editor-in-chief Anatol Bukas. The decision was attributed to ‘certain violations of printing schedule’. The newspaper has not been able to be published in its hometown of Barysau since 1996.

16.01.2009 American lawyers sure US citizen tortured in Belarusian prison

The Washington DC-based Patton Boggs law firm has addressed the UN Special Rapporteur on torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment with a request to investigate the facts of using torture against the American citizen Emmanuil Zeltzer. The firm claims that by detaining Mr.Zeltzer on 12 March 2008 Belarus violated the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. Belarusian authorities ‘have tortured Mr. Zeltser by subjecting him to substandard prison conditions and physical beatings, forcing him to undergo a psychiatric evaluation, and jeopardizing his health and life by depriving him of vital physician-prescribed medications and failing to attend to his critical medical needs’.

16.01.2009 No benefits for Chernobyl disaster fighters

The new law on social security for Chernobyl disaster fighters appears to be a mere compilation of previous legislative acts. On 14 January president Lukashenka approved the law ‘On the social protection of the Chernobyl disaster victims and other nuclear accidents’. The act is ‘to secure adequate level of social protection for the Chernobyl disaster victims’. However, the ‘adequate level’ lacks free public transport travel and other benefits lifted by the president’s decree in late 2007.

16.01.2009 Young activist Franak Viachorka to join army on 26 January

As we have reported before, today police using violence detained leader of BPF’s Youth Franak Viachorka. He was taken to Savetski borough military registration and enlistment office and told he was fit for military service. After that he was served call-up papers for 26 January and released. The police also detained his mother who tried to penetrate the military registration and enlistment office. The Human Rights Center Viasna states there are no real grounds for trusting any medical report drawn up under an apparent pressure by the KGB. The Human Rights Center Viasna considers such actions a politically-motivated harassment. We remind Belarusian authorities that such lawless attempts to persecute youth activists do not contribute to the situation in the field of human rights in Belarus.

16.01.2009 Mahiliou entrepreneurs to sue town authorities

Mahiliou Leninski borough court is due to try the case of ex-parliamentary candidate Ihar Kavalenka vs. Mahiliou town authorities. The plaintiff is trying to register an action group to hold a local referendum. Kavalenka claims he is representative of the group. On 30 December judge Tarasava obliged Kavalenka to secure appearance of all the members of the group.

16.01.2009 Opposition activist awarded default judgment

On 15 December Kalinkavichy district court executor in a special letter demanded that United Civic Party activist Dzianis Rabianok pay a BYR 1,500,000 fine awarded to him by Elsk district court for ‘violations of electoral legislation’ in absentia.

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