International League for Human Rights letter to Lukashenka
July 21, 2004
Dear Mr. Lukashenko:
The International League for Human Rights, an international non-governmental organization with special consultative status at UN ECOSOC, is profoundly distressed by the most recent attack on freedom of assembly, free speech and other fundamental human rights in Belarus after the abuse and detention of protesters by the police in Minsk.
On July 21, protestors and opposition leaders gathered in Minsk at a rally to protest 10 years of the current administration’s rule. As people began to gather, police forces blocked the entrance to Yakub Kolas Square. Demonstrators, journalists and civilians were forcibly pushed out of the square and began to gather on Skaryna Avenue. At this time riot police arrived and after initial skirmishes about 50 people were beaten and then detained in police buses. Riot police then blocked all access to the street as more protestors continued to arrive, confiscating posters and signs and destroying them.
Among those detained were Charter’97 coordinator Dmitry Bondarenko, Zubr activists Evgeny Afnagel, Pavel Yugnevich and Andrei Asmalovsky, and free-lance journalist Fyodor Pavlychenko. There are also reports that many of those detained were badly beaten and in need of medical attention.
At the same time, the League is deeply concerned about the attempt by the Belarusian Interior Ministry to disaccredit Dmitri Petrov, a reporter for Russian State Television and Radio. Mr. Petrov has been accused of “gross distortion” of information for his coverage of the rally. Mr. Petrov, along with numerous other sources, reported that 2000-5000 people participated in the demonstration, while the Interior Ministry claims that only 150 people were in attendance.
The League believes that the recent attack on peaceful protestors and the disaccreditation proceedings against Dmitri Petrov are a continuation of targeted attempts by state authorities to stifle all dissenting, independent voices in Belarus. The League calls on you to end this wholesale assault on civil society and free speech. We insist that you and your officials begin to respect the Belarusian citizens’ fundamental human rights, and cease your assault on democratic civil society in Belarus immediately.
Thank you for your attention. We await your response.