Somebody Was Dying from Fear, Somebody Was Seeking the Truth… and Found It, or Human Rights In Smarhon, Year 2003

2003 2003-12-17T10:00:00+0200 1970-01-01T03:00:00+0300 en The Human Rights Center “Viasna” The Human Rights Center “Viasna”
The Human Rights Center “Viasna”

Aliaksandr Dzerhachow

I often have to read and hear in the State mass media that human rights violations in our country are invented by Western politicians, because in our country all people are satisfied with the electoral process, the situation with the liberty of word and the state of social and economical rights.

I won’t speak about the whole Belarus, but will rather develop on the situation in my district.

In the beginning of the year its citizens faced with the threat to be left without “Novaya Gazeta Smorgoni”. On the eve of the New Year Smarhon District Executive Committee sued to the economic court for the liquidation of the business activity of the newspaper founder Ramuald Ulan. They seem to have thought that this will deprive him of the possibility to issue the newspaper.

Those who don’t agree with my opinion can say that human rights have no relation to it. Ulan violated the working law and the law on fire security, and liquidation of the business activity is provided for repeated violation.

It is really so, but there is the question: “Why the founder of the newspaper seems to be the only man in Belarus whose activity has been stopped for this reason this year? According to the control bodies, there are dozens of the economy subjects that have violated the legislation more than twice. Why only activity of businessmen, not enterprises, can be stopped for such violations?

At the same time, Belarus, according to one of the Constitution articles, declared itself a constitutional State. However, the authorities don’t pay any attention to the sense of this phrase. In private it means that legal punishment can be applied to all violators, not only some of them, for instance, those who disagree with the “general course”.

At the economic trial we solicited for presentation of the list of the economy subjects that violated the law more than once, as in this case one could have concluded whether R. Ulan was the most dangerous for the society.

It is clear that the representative of Smarhon “vertical” categorically objected to it and the solicitation wasn’t satisfied. It seems that they have something to keep to hide.

In the theory of human rights there is an axiom that in a constitutional state punishment must be inescapable for violator. If the State is unable to provide punishment to all violators, it is to change the law. Otherwise it can’t be considered as a constitutional State.

Being of the opinion that the present authorities don’t provide functioning of the State as a legal State I think that their actions towards Ramuald Ulan are discrimination, connected with edition of the newspaper.

My arguments may seem unconvincing. Then we proceed to the following fact. In order to provide edition of the newspaper after the businessman activity of R. Ulan was stopped, his wife Volha Kuniawskaya decided to register as a businessman and filed the appropriate application to Smarhon District Executive Committee, which, having kept the application for more than two months, refused to register her.

Volha Kuniawskaya tried to appeal to the conscience of workers of the executive committee. In the second application she wrote that they were violating the law and asked to set aside the illegal decision. However, predictably enough, this appeal didn’t move souls of the officials. Appeals to the Ministry of Justice and the Committee on Economy of Hrodna Regional Executive Committee were also fruitless.

The next instance was Hrodna Regional Economical Court. It found the decision of Smarhon DEC illegal. In its verdict of 21 May 2003 on case #124-7 it stated:

“… it ensues that the reason to deny Kuniawskaya V.I. registration in the capacity of individual businessman was the opinion of the executive committee that Smarhon district post department distributed enough periodical editions.

It means that workers of the executive committee consciously took the decision that limits liberty of word and the civil right of Volha Kuniawskaya to run business.

By the way, when denying Volha Kuniawskaya registration in the capacity of private businessman, the district executive committee recommended to the regional executive committee not to register the private venture “Region-press”, which Volha Kuniawskaya also tried to register in order to save the edition which many of the district’s citizens liked to read. The refusal was issued “by voting”, as it was pointed out in its text. It’s clear that the regional executive committee listened to the recommendation. Soon it will also stand trials as Volha complained against this ruling as well. One can guess what decision will be taken.

You think that Volha Kuniawskaya’s sufferings are over? Not right. A week ago Smarhon DEC was again summoned to Hrodna Regional Economical Court as a defendant. Volha Kuniawskaya’s complaint against the registration of the supplements to the kinds of activity in her certificate of businessman was considered. She had asked the committee to introduce three supplements, including edition of newspapers.

This time the court also decided in favor of the plaintiff. It ruled:
“to find illegal the decision of Smarhon District Executive Committee of 9 September 2003 #807 since its issue in the part of refusal to register the supplements in the registration certificate of the individual businessman Kuniawskaya Volha Ivanawna, citizen of the town of Smarhon”.

To my mind, the culmination in the struggle against the liberty of word was in June, when the journalist Alina Suravets was evicted from the sitting of Smarhon District Deputy Soviet by voting of the Soviet. This decision was also quite far from meeting the standards of human rights.

I think that the district Deputy Soviet is responsible also for absence of measures that guaranteed the constitutional right of Smarhon citizens to take part in the governing of the country.

You can judge by the facts. As it is known, as a result of the election to the district Deputy Soviet that took place in the first half of the year, 8 deputies were not elected. That’s why about 10 000 electors of the town had no deputy to represent them. The district electoral commission was to have taken the decision to appoint repeated election in 8 circuits, but, strangely enough, didn’t do it. The district Deputy Soviet seems not interested in the violation of the rights of Smarhon citizens on this issue.

To be fair I should point out that the district authorities has done much good to the town. Citizens enjoy walking by causeways and the town looks really nice. However, our life is varied. That’s the fact that we are in dirt up to our ankles in the field of human rights instead of walking by causeways doesn’t please me. That’s why workers of Smarhon DEC and deputies of Smarhon District Deputy Soviets have much things not to cast down their eyes when meeting with Smarhon citizens. Please, turn around, possessors of the power. Look at the streets. The 21st century is walking there. Let’s go with the times and not die of fear when seeing free words in the pages of mass media.

“Novaya Gazeta Smorgoni”