Review of Human Rights Violations in Belarus for April 2004
On 15 April the UN Commission on Human Rights in Geneva adopted the Resolution that condemns human rights violations in Belarus and introduced the position of special reporter on human rights violations in the country who is to study the situation and present a report at the next session.
In April three politically motivated criminal cases were brought and four public organizations were liquidated. The right of citizens to peaceful assemblies was violated and people were arrested for participation in peaceful street actions.
1. Campaign on liquidation and non-registration of public associations
On 13 April the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH) offered to the UN Commission on Human Rights to demand from Belarusian government to return the legal status to the NGOs that were judicially liquidated in 2003 and respect the role of NGOs and human rights activists in public life.
On 16 April the Supreme Court liquidated Republican public association “New Group” that dealt with voluntary activity and represented in Belarus the world organization “International Civil Service”.
The Justice Board of Homel Regional Executive Committee refused to register new regional public association “Civil Alternative”. It was founded by 200 citizens of the region. Most of them are members of the liquidated “Civil Initiatives”.
The UN Committee on Human Rights accepted for consideration the complaint of the liquidated public association “Civil Initiatives”. The government has to give an answer to the committee within 6-months’ term.
On 22 April the Supreme Court liquidated Belarusian Center for Constitutionalism and Comparative Legal Studies and International Institute for Political Studies.
The Supreme Court also decided to liquidate Belarusian Association of Young Politicians.
2. Prohibition of activity of human rights organizations
Human Rights Center “Viasna” prepared a complaint to the UN Commission on Human Rights against the decision of the Supreme Court to liquidate the organization that was issued on 28 October 2003.
2. Violation of freedom of conscience
On 17 April groups of Evangelic Baptist Christians from Mazyr, Brest and Malaryta congratulated visitors and patients of Mazyr hospital with Easter. The police detained them, interrogated, composed violation reports and let go, except for Leanid Martynovich, Mikalay Krints and Vasil Bilas. Mazyr Court fined them 20 basic values each (about $570) for alleged unauthorized meeting.
4. Politically motivated criminal persecution
On 6 April Minsk Transport Prosecutor’s Office brought a criminal case upon part 2 of article 367 of the Criminal Code of the Republic of Belarus – defamation of president, against Aksana Novikava who handed out fly-sheets about relation of the highest-level Belarusian officials to disappearances of politicians in Belarus.
At night between 26 and 27 April the former minister of foreign economic relations of Belarus, former Ambassador of Belarus in Latvia, Estonia and Finland, the leader of the public organization “Business Initiative” Mikhail Marynich was detained on suspicion in a crime commitment.
The head of the Republican public association “Belarusian Helsinki Committee” Tatsiana Protska had to undertake not to leave the precincts of Minsk due to the fact that on 17 March the Department of financial investigations of the State Control Committee initiated a criminal case against the head of Belarusian Helsinki Committee Tatsiana Protska and the organization accountant Tatsiana Rudkevich. They were charged with having not paid 78 million rubles tax (about $180 000) for 2000-2003 on the technical support project of TACIS by which especially large-scale harm to the state was inflicted.
A criminal case was brought against the head of the public association “Will for Development” (the city of Slonim, Hrodna region) Mikhal Varanets. The reason for the case initiation was also alleged violation in the use of the means received on TACIS program in 2003. The criminal case was brought on part 1 of article 243 of the Criminal Code of Belarus which provides up to 3 years of jail.
5. Violation of the civil right to peaceful assembly
On 6 April Uladzimir Levanewski, son of the head of the nationwide strike committee of Belarus Valery Levanewski was detained for distribution of fly-sheets and “Predprinimatel” bulletin at “Karona” market.
On 12 April Polatsk City Court considered the case of “Zubr” activists upon article 167-10 (activity on behalf of unregistered organization). As a result, Mikita Sasim was fined 10 basic values. Yawhen Afnahel and Anastasiya Vasilenka were warned.
On 14 April Minsk Tsentralny Borough Court tried the activist of the “Zubr” movement Darya Maldavanava, detained for the poster “He must retire!”. Judge Natalya Vaytsiakhovich found the detainee guilty of violation of article 167.1 of the Administrative Code of Belarus (violation of the order of organization and holding of mass actions) and fined her 20 basic values.
On 26 April in Vitsebsk the police detained 11 participants of the action, devoted to anniversary of Chernobyl tragedy. Among the detainees there were the head of the BPF party Ulad Tokaraw, Kastus Smolikaw, Siarhey Shapira and Ales Yanushkevich, the head of Vitsbesk UCP organization Alena Zaleskaya, UCP members Ella Kanavalava and Uladzimir Semianchukow, the pensioner Roza Pushkarova, the correspondent of the radio “Paloniya” Yury Stsiapanaw, the head of the Conservative Christian Party BPF Yan Tawpyha and the student of Vitsebsk Medical Institute Kanstantsin Kuzniatsow.
On 27 April Minsk police arrested participants of the “Chrnobyl Way” action. The vice-head of the BPF party Ales Mikhalevich was found guilty of violation of article 167-1 of the Code of Administrative Violations (violation of the order of organization of mass actions) and sentenced to 10 days of jail by Judge of Minsk Savetski Borough Court Aksana Reliava. The member of the UCP political council Liudmila Hraznova was fined 225 basic values (4 275 000 rubles, about $ 1 900) for violation of the same article by Judge of Minsk Savetski Borough Court Ruslan Kazadayew. Judge Natalya Skukharava sentenced the participant of “Chernobyl Way” Andrey Kozel to 7 days of administrative arrest.
6. Violation of liberty of word
On 5 April the Ministry of Information warned the independent newspaper “Mestnaya Gazeta” for alleged violation of articles 11 and 26 of the Law on press and the failure to execute a number of demands to the newspaper layout. However, the main pretension of the ministry to the newspaper is the non-informing about the change in the periodicity of the newspaper issue.
At 5.00-8.30 in Belarus the Russian TV-channel “Rossiya” was disconnected, most probably due to the fact that “Zerkalo” and “Vesti Nedeli” programs with discussion of Belarusian politics were shown.
On 17 April the Prosecutor of Baranavichy (Brest region) Aliaksandr Smal issued warnings to the chief-editor of the political weekly “Intex-press” Uladzimir Yanukevich and its correspondent Maryna Kulikova for the article “Scandal in Noble Family” (No. 11 of 11 March 2004). In the article it was told that one of the primary units of the official Belarusian Republican Youth Union joined the unregistered oppositional movement “Zubr”.
7. Disappearances of people in Belarus
On 2 April relatives of the missing sued to Minsk Tsentralny Borough Court against the head of Belarusian KGB Leanid Yeryn, asking to punish him for concealment of crimes by non-investigation of crimes against Yury Zakharanka, Viktar Hanchar, Anatol Krasowski and Zmitser Zavadski.
On 15 April relatives of the missing passed a letter to the UN Commission on Human Rights. There it was said: “We ask you to use all possible means within the limits of your competence to pressurize Belarusian authorities in order to make them execute their undertakings to citizens of the country and the international commitments of the Republic of Belarus. We are grateful to you for understanding of the situation of our families and believe that your actions will help to find the truth about what happened to our relatives”.
In the resolutions, adopted by majority votes at PACE session, Parliamentarians demanded from Belarusian authorities retirement of the Prosecutor General and “really independent investigations” of the disappearances of people”.
8. Persecution of trade union activists
On 9 April Polatsk City Court warned the head of Navapolatsk-Polatsk regional organization of Independent Trade Union of Belarus Uladzinir Antanovich and the head of the primary unit of workers of “Shklovalakno” enterprise Viktar Stukaw for violation of part 1 of article 167.1 of the Code of Administrative Violations (participation in the action, held by activists of the Independent Trade Union of Belarus at the check-point of the enterprise to support Viktar Stukaw, who was fired).
10. Activation of work of secret services.
On 14 April a vice-dean of Belarusian Agrarian Technical University came up to the student Siarhey Semianiuk and took him to the dean’s office, where two KGB workers wanted to talk to the student about the activity of Belarusian Student Association, about its authorities and foreign partners. S. Semianiuk refused to answer these questions.