Review of Human Rights Violations in Belarus for April 2003
PUBLIC ASSOCIATION “HUMAN RIGHTS CENTER “VIASNA”
Review of Human Rights Violations in Belarus for April 2003
In April 2003 the Ministry of Justice started liquidation of influential public organizations disloyal to the authorities. At the same time, new organizations aren’t registered. The Commission on registration (reregistration) of public organizations, established by A. Lukashenka in 1999, doesn’t register the organizations that (in the opinion of its members) are oppositional and can pose danger to the existing power. The powers of this body and the regulations for its works can’t be found in any legislative act of Belarus. The authorities pressurize human rights organizations, limiting possibilities for participation in trials. In April arrests of Lukashenka’s opponents were going on, independent mass media were persecuted, freedom of consciousness were violated.
1. Campaign of State Persecution against Public Organizations
April 2003 was defined by a new assault of the State on structures of civic society. During one week three suits for liquidation of large public organizations were filed.
Hrodna regional public association “Ratusha” is being liquidated for nonpermitted editorial activity. The Public Association “Agency of Regional Development “Varuta” (Baranavichy) is being liquidated for usage of shortened organization name in its internal documentation. The PA “Youth Christian Social Union” (Minsk) is being liquidated for the activity that allegedly contradicted to its statute (for instance, support to refugees) and nonpresentation of the list of members to the Ministry of Justice.
It’s evident that the real reasons for liquidation of these organizations is their activity which the State can’t control.
2. Pressurization of Human Rights Organizations
On 15 April President of Belarus Aliaksandr Lukashenka signed Decree No. 15 “About certain questions of civil proceedings” that limits direction of representatives by human rights public associations (organizations) to trials at general courts.
In April 2003 the consequences of the Decree started to show up. On 28 April in Mahiliow Barys Bukhel, activist of Human Rights Center “Viasna” wasn’t allowed to represent interests of a person in a civil trial due to his membership in “Viasna”, despite his acting as a private person. It’s worth mentioning that the institute of representation still exists, this right is guaranteed by Article No. 62 of the Constitution and also by norms of the Civil Process Code.
3. Politically Natured Criminal Persecution
On 4 April Minsk Tsentralny Borough Court sentenced Aksana Novikava to two years of conditional imprisonment.
On 17 October 2002 29yearsold Aksana Novikava, mother of 2yearold child, was detained in the underground pedestrian crossing of "Kastrychnitskaya" tube station while handing out to passersby the selfmade flysheets, where she accused President Aliaksandr Lukashenka of a number of crimes: complicity in nonConstitutional seizure or retainer of the State power, i.e. the crime, considered by part 2 of Article No. 357 of the Criminal Code of the Republic of Belarus; complicity in murder of 2 and more persons, accompanied with abduction of a person, i.e. the crime, considered by points 1 and 2 of part 2 of Article No. 139 of the Criminal Code; complicity in smuggling with a group of persons, with usage of official powers, i.e. the crime, considered by part 3 of Article No. 228 of the Criminal Code; complicity in evasion from payment of custom duties by a group of persons, i.e. the crime, considered by part 2 of Article No. 231 of the Criminal Code; complicity in legalization of the material values, acquired in a criminal way, i.e. the crime, considered by Article No. 235 of the Criminal Code.
Leaders of the United Civil Party Anaol Liabedzka and Aliaksandr Dabravolski testified at the trial. “I think that at the trial the defense managed to prove that the facts, mentioned in the flysheets, were real”, said Novikava’s advocate Pavel Sapelka.
4. Administrative Arrests for Participation in Peaceful Street Actions
On 2 April Valery Levanewski, Head of the Strike Committee of Businessmen of the Republic of Belarus, was sentenced to 15 days of administrative imprisonment for participation in the social action People’s March “For Better Life!”. Valery Levanewski was accused of violation of Article No. 1671, clause 2, of the Administrative Code. Judge Ruslan Kazadayew found him guilty of repeated violation of the order for holding of street actions within the year’s period and sentenced him to 15 days of jail.
5. Problem of Disappearances of Public Activists in Belarus
Wives of the missing urged the UNO Human Rights Commission to adopt the USAinitiated resolution with the claim of the full investigation of the four political disappearances in Belarus, including kidnaps of their husbands.
6. Violation of Freedom of Consciousness
Vaishnaves of Belarus, representatives of the ancient tradition of Hinduism, expressed their protest against the information of the 11th grade textbook “Man, Society, State”, book IV “Man in Culture World”, edited by Yu.A. Kharyn. Let’s quote from pages 112 and 118: “The technology of zombifying is widely applied. Man’s mind is turned off by endless rhythmical repetition of a phrase. Krishna believers have to repeat their prayer 1728 times since 4 a.m., they have no time to think about anything else. Such believers are defined by the wish to constant communication with each other, they are afraid to leave the commune, they have no place to go as they have cut all contacts. In such cases they doubtlessly need support of psychiatrists who will help these people to return to normal human life.” The International Association of Krishna Consciousness in Belarus is considered as a sect, which is a negative term here, as in the case if some religious organization is treated as a sect, it is liquidated.
In this very book, the same part 4, “Man in the world of culture”, gospel Christians were described as a sect as well. A wave of protest rose in Brest region. Believers initiated revocation of their children from schools because of this book. They qualified this fact as fomenting of religious enmity. The content of the book was discussed by four protestant unions. Son of Aliaksandr Sakovich, one of the union Heads, is learning in the 11th form and has this book. This information is on page 111, column “useful to know”: “Though every religion pretends to the right of possessing the ultimate truth”, the best conditions for fanaticism exists in sects. Sects are groups that deviate from certain directions and stand in opposition to them. Sects exist in all religious directions. Sects are characterized with pretensions to their exceptional role, doctrine and principles, the closest relation to God and isolationism. Such sects as Baptist Christians, Gospel Christians, Pentecostals, Seven’s Day Adventists and Jehovah witnesses are the most spread on the territory of Belarus. This school book was allowed for publication by the Ministry of Education of the Republic of Belarus. The author is E.A. Fonatava, the book was edited under supervision of the doctor of philosophy, professor Yu. A. Kharyn. The circulation of this book is 147 200 copies, the order for edition was signed on 10 December 2002.
7. Interference of Authorities in Activity of Mass Media and Realization of Liberty of Word
Decision of Smarhon District Court makes actually impossible to continue edition of the nonState newspaper “Novaya Gazeta Smorgoni”. On 25 April the court found the Unitarian enterprise “Kolas” guilty of violation of Article No. 154 of the Code of Administrative Violations “violation of the rules of business activity”, fined the firm 266 000 Belarusian rubles and also exacted all profit from realization of the newspaper. According to M. Slizh “the authorities disliked the newspaper because of its resolved position”.