Review of Human Rights Violations in Belarus for August 2004
The beginning of the pre-electoral campaign influenced the general situation of human rights – the pressurization of activists of political parties and public organizations increased. The control of mass media became stronger. During checking of registration documents by members of circuit electoral commissions and executive authorities members of the initiative groups were pressurized.
Liquidation of the most influential oppositional political parties has begun. It can possibly result in liquidation of democratic opposition. The process of liquidation keeps to the scheme, elaborated during liquidation of public associations. The authorities use Article 57 of the Civil Code that allows to liquidate organizations without warning in the case they commit “rude and systematic” law violations. The Ministry of Justice warned that of five oppositional parties continue statements on behalf of “People’s coalition “5+”, it will be considered as gross law violation, which is sufficient for their liquidation.
In its final press-conference on results of its two-week visit to Belarus UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detentions expressed its concern with usage of preliminary administrative detention towards opponents of Belarusian regime.
1. Liquidation of political parties and pressurization of political activists
On 2 August the Supreme Court of the Republic of Belarus liquidated Belarusian Labor Party. The Ministry of Justice accused the party of having had no juridical address for a long time and untimely registration of a number of its regional structures. The leader of the Labor Party Aliaksandr Bukhvostaw said: “I think it is political order – beginning of liquidation of oppositional political parties”.
In August four political parties – Party of Communists of Belarus, Belarusian People’s Front, United Civil Party and Belarusian Social Democratic Hramada complained against the warning that was issued to them in the beginning of July by the Ministry of Justice for participation in the unregistered “People’s coalition 5+” and urges to take part in the unauthorized action of solidarity with the newspaper “Narodnaya Volia”. On 25 August the Supreme Court of Belarus left in force the warning to BPF, on 26 August – to UCP, on 27 August – to BSDH. On 31 August there started the consideration of PCB complaint. Now the Ministry of Justice urges the parties to execute its demands of 1 July 2004: to register People’s coalition “5+” or stop participation in it. Otherwise the ministry is going to “take adequate measures for maintaining of order and democratic lawfulness in the republic”.
2. Pressurization of public organizations
Persecution of Belarusian Helsinki Committee is going on. The inspection of the Ministry of Dues and Taxes charged BHC with non-payment of taxes from the means, received on TACIS program. On 23 July the Economic Court of Belarus justified BHC. On 29 July the cassation instance declined the complaint of the tax inspection. Then the decision of the court came into legal force. Despite this, the Department of financial investigation of the State Control Committee decided to continue the criminal case against BHC head Tatsiana Protska and the accountant Tatsiana Rutkevich on the charges that weren’t accepted by the court. If found guilty, Tatsiana Protska and Tatsiana Rutkevich can receive up to seven years of jail with confiscation of asset.
At 11 a.m. the head of Homel Regional State Control Committee, police captain L. Ivanow and the workers of Homeal regional tax inspection L. Lewshunow and I. Dowhal came to the office of Homel branch of the public association “Legal Initiative” in order to check the financial discipline.
On 20 August in Homel the public association of women “Intsyiatyva” was liquidated.
3. Administrative punishment for participation in peaceful street actions
On 3 August about 20 activists of BPF protested against activity of Russsian radiolocation station in the town of Hantsavichy. They distributed printed materials with explanations of the harm of the station. All participants of the action were detained by the police and taken to Kletsk District Board of Internal Affairs.
The commission on affairs of minors of Barysaw City Board of Internal Affairs considered the detention reports on two participants of the action of 21 July, devoted to the end of the 10-year term of Aliaksandr Lukashenka’s rule. Aliaksandr Mawchanaw and Ivan Shutko were detained and beaten by special police forces. On 25 August the commission warned them and put into special list of problem children.
On 31 August Zhlobin District Court fined vice-head of Homel UCP branch Uladzimir Katsora about $270. Katsora was found guilty in activity on behalf of the unregistered public initiative “People’s coalition “5+”. Katsora was detained by road police on the way from Minsk to Homel. In his car there were fly-sheets with the program of the coalition “Five steps to better life”.
4. Problem of disappearances of public activists in Belarus
Greece denied entrance to the minister of sport and tourism Yury Sivakow who was to have headed Belarusian delegation at the Olympics in Athens. The reason for this step was the report of the PACE special rapporteur Christos Pourgourides where possible relation of Yury Sivakow to disappearances of well-known people was mentioned.
Volha Zavadskaya, mother of the ORT cameraman Zmitser Zavadski who disappeared in July 2000, filed to the Prosecutor’s Office of the Republic of Belarus demand to renew the investigation of the case, brought on disappearance of her son in connection with new circumstances and interrogate A. Lukashenka as a witness.
At the press conference of 20 July 2004 President of the Republic of Belarus A.G. Lukashenko made a statement concerning the criminal cases, brought on the facts of disappearances of citizens of the Republic of Belarus: “What surprises me: if the relatives worry so much, why don’t you come to me. One person came to me, woman, you know the reason why I can’t call her surname. She came to me, I accepted her. She asked me about one man, I again don’t call his surname. I was impressed by this woman. She’s brave. I spoke with her for three hours and showed to her certain documents. If I gave publicity to them now, Zavadskiy’s case would turn into “anti-case”. By the way, it’s my only pain – Dima Zavadskiy. I am also very interested to find about the fate of this man.”
On August 4 the appeal was accepted to the Prosecutor’s Office of the Republic of Belarus and registered by the state prosecutor Barys Zhyldzetski.
Zmitser Pawlichenka, suspected of abduction and possible murder of Lukashenka’s political opponents, was awarded with the order of the Russian Orthodox Church. Families of the disappeared are indignant about the award.
According to Minsk diocesan board of the church that colonel Pawlichenka was rewarded for active participation in construction of a church on the territory of the military unit he commanded. Archbishop Filaret interceded with Alexei II, Patriarch of Moscow and All Russia, for Pawlichenka to get the award.
5. Politically Motivated Criminal Cases
On 27 August there started the criminal trial of the street vendors Valery Levanewski and Aliaksandr Vasilyew. The former is the head of the strike committee of entrepreneurs and the latter is its vice-head. They are charged with distribution of fly-sheets with the poem that allegedly contained insult to president Lukashenka, article 368/2 of the Criminal Code. Vasilyew is also charged with organization of unauthorized meeting on 1 May.
On 25 August representatives of the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detentions were denied meeting with Belarusian political prisoner Mikhail Marynich.
6. Interference of the authorities with activity of mass media and realization of liberty of speech
On 2 August officers of Minsk Leninski Borough Court attached the property of the editorial office of the “Narodnaya Volia” newspaper on the sum of 59 million rubles for execution of two court verdicts on compensation of moral harm: on the suit of the entrepreneur Siarhey Atroshchanka (15 million rubles) and the suit of former head of Belarusian TV Yahor Rybakow (50 million rubles).
The editorial office of the independent newspaper “Narodnaya Volia” received a letter from the printing house “Chyrvonaya Zorka” where it was stated that the printing house would have no possibility to execute the agreement concerning printing of the newspaper till the court officers had no pretensions to the newspaper.
It was prohibited to the director of the printing house “Chyrvonaya Zorka” to print “Narodnaya Volia” till the newspaper completely pays off the financial compensation for moral harm to the entrepreneur Siarhey Atroshchanka and the former head of the National TV and Radio Company Yahor Rybakow.
The minister of information signed the order to suspend the independent editions “Novaya Gazeta Smorgoni” and “Navinki” for three months. Editor of “Novaya Gazeta Smorgoni” Ramuald Ulan in charged with violation of articles 10 and 20 of the law “About press and other mass media”. According to the editor, it is purely political step, aimed at exclusion of the newspaper from the informational field ahead of the Parliamentary election. “Navinki”, in its turn, was also charged with violation of several articles of the law “About press and other mass media”. The editorial staff allegedly untimely informed the Ministry of Information about the change of its juridical address and didn’t send newspaper numbers to it.
7. Violation of the right for education
On 23 August the Supreme Court of Belarus turned down the suit of European Humanities University concerning the decision of the Ministry of Education to annul the license for educational activity. EHU authorities intend to sue the Main economic board of Presidential Administration for the illegal break of the rent agreement, as a result of which EHU was deprived of the rented premises.
8. Violation of the right of citizens who take part in the pre-electoral campaign
In Barysaw, in the night of 23 August strangers robbed the office of Zmitser Barodka, one of democratic parliamentary candidates. Strangers broke the office doors open, and stole a computer, a printer, and a fax machine. Police investigate the burglary.
Zmitser Barodka was also deprived of the possibility to go abroad. Vice-head of Barysaw city passport board Liudmila Haladok said that the head of the KGB board of Minsk and Minsk region Mikalay Novik advised to her not to put the seal that allowed going abroad into Barodka’s passport.
The member of the initiative group of the pretender to candidates to the Parliament Siarhey Salash Halina Bashkova was visited by representatives of circuit election commission together with the administration of the enterprise where she worked. They demanded from her to refuse from participation in the initiative group and compose the appropriate application. Otherwise they threatened not to conclude with her working agreement in future. Such pressurization by members of election commission violates article 5 of the Electoral Code of the Republic of Belarus.
On 26 August in Rechytsa armed policemen searched members of the initiative group of one of the leaders of the public association “Perspektyva”, potential candidate to deputies Leanid Nevar. They burst into the house where the initiative group gathered. Police lieutenant-colonel Pavel Ryzhko directed this operation. They searched all buildings, bags and pockets of the present persons. Even vice-head of Belarusian Helsinki Committee Hary Pahaniayla and “Perspektyva” head Anatol Shumchanka underwent this humiliating procedure.