Review of Human Rights Violations for June 2004
In June Belarusian authorities continued politically motivated persecution of citizens. Aksana Novikava was found guilty of libeling President Lukashenka and sentenced to 2,5 years of jail. There started the campaign on liquidation of political parties.
The civil right to peaceful assemblies was violated. People were detained for participation in peaceful street actions and handing out printed editions urging people to stand against the third term to A. Lukashenka.
1. Campaign on Liquidation of Public Associations and Parties
On 30 June 2004 the Chamber of Representatives of Belarusian Parliament adopted in the first reading amendments to the law “On public associations”. According to the justice minister Viktar Halavanaw, these amendment were meant to put the law into accordance with Presidential decrees No. 20 of 11 September 2003, No. 2 of 26 January 1999 “About certain measures on regulation of activity of political parties, trade unions and other public associations” and No. 11 of 16 March 1999 “About regulation of state registration and liquidation of economy subjects”.
The Ministry of Justice filed to the Supreme Court the suit for liquidation of Belarusian Labor Party. The party had allegedly violated the legislation on the issues of legal addresses of its structures in Vitsebsk, Hrodna, and other regions. The party is also accused of providing inaccurate data, ignoring the requests of the Ministry and other “gross violations”.
Belarusian Labor Party is a member of the People’s Coalition, according to the party authorities, could be a reason for its liquidation.
Four political parties in Vitsebsk and one public organization were officially ordered to move out of the offices they rented:
- Vitsebsk city organization of United Civil Party;
- Liberal-democratic Party;
- Belarusian Social-democratic Hramada;
- Belarusian Social-democratic Party “Narodnaya Hramada”;
- NGO “Self-government and Society”.
On 1 June Minsk Economic Court started the trial on the suit of Belarusian Helsinki Committee to the Minsk Maskowski Borough Tax Inspection which claimed from BHC 75 000 USD fine.
The court abolished all the financial sanctions that had been imposed on BHC for alleged non-payment of the tax from the grant means, received on TACIS program. All court expenses were exacted from the tax inspection. The organization members said that the principled position of international institutes, first of all, the European Commission, had much impact on the trial results.
On 22 June Hrodna Regional Economic Court started the trial on the complaint of the public association “Will for Development” to the tax inspection. The PA demanded to set aside the decision of the inspection to exact from the organization the means that were received within the limits of the TACIS technical support. At the trial it was found that KGB had direct relation to the “TACIS case”. Judge Aleh Kadach declined the petition to attach documents of the BHC case that was considered by Minsk Economic Court to the case of “Will for Development”.
2. Politically Motivated Criminal Prosecution
Minsk Kastrychnitski Borough Court sentenced thirty-year-old Aksana Novikava to 2,5 years at open prison for having handed out fly-sheets on 5 April, which was considered to be violation of part 2 of article 367 of the Criminal Code of Belarus (defamation of President of Belarus). Amnesty International declared Aksana Novikava prisoner of conscience.
On 14 June Minsk Prosecutor’s Office interrogated the UCP leader Anatol Liabedzka again. Liabedzka is charged with defamation of President. The authorities brought the criminal action against Liabedzka after he had given an interview to a Russian TV channel. In his interview to “Zerkalo” show Liabedzka criticized Lukashenka for creation of the shadow budget, for concealment of the truth about the disappeared politicians and for harboring money from selling weapons. In the case the prosecutor’s office initiates criminal case and brings it to court Liabedzka will face up to 5 years of prison under Art 367 of the Criminal Code.
On 26 June two months passed since the moment when the former minister, deputy of the Supreme Soviet, Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary Ambassador of Belarus Mikhail Marynich was detained on suspicion in violation of part 2 of Article 295 of the Criminal Code of Belarus, “Illegal actions connected with firearms, armaments and explosives”. If found guilty, Marynich can face up to two years of corrective labor or up to 6 years or jail with or without property confiscation.
The head of the strike committee of private entrepreneurs Valery Levanewski has been kept in Hrodna investigative ward since 19 May under the charge of production and distribution of the fly-sheet with insults to Aliaksandr Lukashenka.
Former rector of Homel Medical University Yury Bandazhewski was transferred from Minsk colony to the village of Gizgaly in Dziatlaw district for free settlement till the end of his prison term.
3. Violation of the civil right to peaceful associatin
In the evening of 9 June (about 9.20 p.m.) police of Bialynichy town (Mahilow region) detained heads of regional Five Plus coalition:
Ryhor Kastusiow (BPF);
Uladzimir Shantsaw (UCP);
Halina Lisitsyna (Labor Party);
Anatol Zawyalaw (Communist Party).
According to Ryhor Kastusiow, they were detained in the yard of the apartment building where they talked to Bialynichy residents. They just arrived there and only managed to hand out several Chas newspaper issues and Five Plus leaflets when the police detained them. The police officers detained Mahilow activists and took them to a police station “to identify their persons”.
On 11 June in Minsk the police detained the leader of the public association “Perspective” for handing out fly-sheets that urged businessmen to strike in support of the deputies and political activists who were on hunger-strike. The police drew a report for distribution of printed production without issue data (Article 172 of the Code of Administrative Violations).
On 10 and 11 June in Vitsebsk the police detained Barys Khamaida while A. Lukashenka was taking part in a seminar for the local authorities. The detentions were plainly groundless. The police didn’t even compose any reports for violation of public order.
On 28 June Malaryta District Court warned the deputy of Malaryta District Deputy Soviet, lawyer of HRC “Viasna” Uladzimir Maley for holding an electoral meeting against securing of radioactive wastes near the village of Struha.
4. Violation of the right to liberty of speech
On 6 June 2004 journalists of the Russian TV channel REN-TV were detained in the center of Minsk while interviewing 2 members of “Zubr” youth group. BAJ press-service reports, the reporters were detained by special police officers in civil clothes who claimed the camera crew needed permission of the presidential security service for filming in the center of Minsk.
On 21 June the journalist of the “Vremya” newspaper, Ukrainian citizen Mikhail Padaliak was detained by the police and KGB and deported from Belarus. The decision was taken by KGB. The journalist is forbidden to enter the country for five years. The KGB center of information and public relations stated that the reason for this action was the elucidation of social and political climate of Belarus in “Vremya” newspaper.
“The materials that were published in the newspaper contained insulting insinuations about the real situation in the country and subversive urges”, -- was said in the KGB press release.
On 3 June the Information Ministry signed the order for three-month cessation of the issue of “Rabochaya Solidarnosts” non-state newspaper due to the absence of juridical address.
5. Disappearance of public activists in Belarus
On 17-18 June the international public hearings on effective defense of citizens from forced disappearances were held in Kiev by the Committee on organized crimes and corruption of the Supreme Soviet of the Ukraine and Vinnitsya human rights group. The forum was attended by human rights activists from Belarus, Russia and the Ukraine, representatives of the Council of Europe and the Supreme Soviet of the Ukraine. Belarusian delegation included the wives of the missing politicians Volha Zakharanka, Zinaida Hanchar, Zmitser Zavadski’s mother Volha Zavadskaya. The PACE deputy Christos Pourgourides emphasized the political nature of this issue. He stated that two countries (which he refused to call) had already received appeals to start juridical action against Belarusian authorities in accordance with the principles of universal jurisdiction. As a result of the Parliamentary hearings there were adopted the recommendations to the Parliaments of Belarus, Russia and the Ukraine to adopt legal acts aimed at strengthening of Parliamentary control over the activity of the law machinery and secret services.
6. Facts of violent and inhumane treatment
On 27 June the police captain Ivan Zhebit beat the 16-year-old activist of the “Zubr” movement Zmitser Kuchynski who was detained for handing out “Zubr” newspaper. When Kuchynski asked the policeman to compose the report of personal search that was executed, Zhebit hit him several times across in the head and in the legs.
7. Political hunger-strike
On 3 June the deputies of Belarusian Parliament Uladzimir Parfianovich, Valery Fralow and Siarhey Skrabets went on hunger-strike. Seven more people joined them:
- 4 June – members of the UCP and the BPF Maryna Bahdanovich and Henadz Ananich;
- 5 June – Uladzimir Chyrvonenka;
- 6 June – Yury Istomin;
- 7 June – Uladzimir Radzivonchyk;
- 8 June – Viktar Ivashkevich;
- 10 June – Uladzimir Tsybulski.
The action was aimed against the prolongation of the Presidential term to Aliaksandr Lukashenka and introduction of changes to the electoral legislation (admission of representatives of political parties to electoral commissions, extension of observers’ rights, abolishment of early voting) and release of former minister, Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary Ambassador of Belarus Mikhail Marynich. On 21 the hunger-strike was over.
8. Unsanctioned Search
On 30 June the police detained the coordinator of the youth “Zubr” movement Yawhen Afnahel in Minsk, forcibly took the keys from his flat, burst into it and conducted there an unsanctioned route. During the search they kept Afnahel in hand-cuffs.
Information Department of HRC “Viasna”