News for 21 Jan 2009

21.01.2009 Visiting secretary general of International Trade Union Confederation meets with Belarusian unionists

Guy Rider, secretary general of the International Trade Union Confederation, met with representatives of the pro-government Federation of Trade Unions of Belarus and two independent trade unions in Minsk on Tuesday.

The meeting focused on the need for unity among the country's trade unions, Yaraslaw Yarashuk, chairman of the Belarusian Congress of Trade Unions, told BelaPAN.

21.01.2009 Amnesty International: No positive changes in freedom of speech in Belarus

There were no positive changes in human rights in the last six months in Belarus, the Secretary-General of Amnesty International’s German Section thinks.

Barbara Lochbihler commented on the situation with human rights in Belarus in an interview to Deutsche Welle.

21.01.2009 In search of efficient means to protect Kurapaty memorial forest from vandals

According to BelaPAN, at a special press-conference on 21 January, head of the Belarusian Society for the Protection of Monuments Anton Astapovich suggested creating a public committee for the protection of the Kurapaty memorial forest, located on the outskirts of Minsk. Mr.Astapovich said the committee will have to coordinate its activity with the official custodian of the memorial Maya Kliashtornaya.

21.01.2009 General prosecutor admits possibility of abolition of capital punishment

At a press-conference on 21 January, the General Prosecutor of Belarus Ryhor Vasilevich said death penalty may be abolished after Belarus joins the Council of Europe. ‘This is a requirement by the Council of Europe, this is a rule. If we join it – we have to obey the existing rules. They say when in Rome do as the Romans do,’ said Mr.Vasilevich. Meanwhile, he said that at present ‘the sentence can exist as a precaution measure’. Mr.Vasilevich also said only one death sentence was passed in Belarus in 2008 – it was a man who had raped and murdered an 8-year-old boy in Homel.

21.01.2009 Activists convicted for phantom action

Minsk Regional Court has affirmed the sentence passed by Kletsk Town Court fixing a penalty of BYR 1,500,000 roubles to Siarhei Panamarou for organizing an unsanctioned mass action. The action, as it turned out, never actually took place. The activist says he is going to appeal the decision at the Supreme Court of Belarus.

21.01.2009 Hrodna NGOs and opposition interrogated in connection with bomb threat

A number of Hrodna NGOs and political parties have received letters from the town police department urging to provide explanations concerning the 20 May 2007 bomb threat, the day when the For Freedom constituent assembly and an activity organized by Poland’s General Consulate in Hrodna, the latter having caused a diplomatic scandal, were stopped by the police due to ‘a phone bomb threat’. Captain Kalemeitsau demands to inform the police of the events that took place on 20 May, 2007 and to provide a list of persons that took part in those activities.

21.01.2009 Will BAJ Baranavichy office be registered by authorities?

On 20 January Baranavichy town executive committee considered the case of the Belarusian Association of Journalists’ local office, which had twice been denied registration in 2008. The results of the consideration are not yet clear enough. Now the founders of the office are waiting for an official reply from the local authorities.

21.01.2009 Brestskaya viasna applies for registration

As a result of a constituent assembly of the newly founded human rights public association Brestskaya viasna held in Brest on 15 January, Uladzimir Vialichkin was elected its head. Uladzimir Malei was elected vice-head of the organization. The founders are now applying for registration to Brest city authorities. The aim of the organization is providing legal assistance, protecting the rights of Belarusian citizens in court and maintaining HR education projects.

21.01.2009 Major Belarusian tut.by portal introduces censorship for forum content

According to Yury Ziser, manager of Belarus’ largest Internet resource www.tut.by, having over 160,000 users, the so called premoderation will applied to the tut.by forum posts. Mr.Ziser said the new policy will only deal with themed news discussions, and will not affect any other forums active in the framework of the portal.

21.01.2009 Belarusian-language schools to become extinct in 5 years

According to the data, provided by the Ministry of Statistics, only 1.9% of Belarusian first formers go to Belarusian-language schools, which is 30 times less than in 1993. In total, there are 18.4% of Belarusian-speaking schoolchildren, the urban schools having as little as 1.9% Belarusian-language pupils.

21.01.2009 Youth activist forced to join army

Ihar Salavei, an activist of the For Freedom movement, is going to join the army in spite of a heart problem, says www.milinkevich.org. The activist says his political activities are well-known to the military registration and enlistment office. This seems to be another case when a young activist is forced to join the army despite objective reasons for draft deferment or ineligibility for military service.

21.01.2009 BCD to hold seminar on freedom of conscience

Today, on 21 January, Minsk will host a round table discussion on the freedom of conscience in Belarus, organized by the Belarusian Christian Democracy movement. The seminar will cover the issues of the New Life church and the deportation of foreign priests, as well as the pros and cons of the law ‘On the Freedom of Conscience and Religious Organizations’. The event will be attended by representatives of various churches, human rights experts, politicians, diplomats and journalists.

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