REVIEW OF HUMAN RIGHTS VIOLATIONS IN BELARUS FOR APRIL 2005
In April police often detained people for political reasons. Among the detained there were citizens of Belarus, Russia and the Ukraine. The sitting of the ministers of foreign affairs of the EU countries in Luxembourg decisively condemned the situation in Belarus and characterized the ongoing events there as “dictatorship”.
The authorities violated the liberty of association. The Ministry of Justice prolonged the term of transfer of all organizational units of parties and public associations to non-residential premises till 1 June. The order was signed on 5 April by the justice minister Viktar Halavanau. Before that, the deadline for it was 1 February. A number of parties were warned for the failure to execute the demand of the Ministry of Justice by this term. They complained against the warnings to the Supreme Court, but none of the suits were satisfied. Belarusian officials still consider as undesirable residence of Adrian Severin in Belarus as the special reporter on Belarus pf the UN Commission for Human Rights.
1. Limitation of the liberty of association
On 7 and 14 May the Supreme Court left in force the warnings to the Party of Communists of Belarus (PCB) and Belarusian People’s Front (BPF) issued to them by the Ministry of Justice for the non-fulfillment of its demand to transfer all of their organizational units to non-residential premises by 1 February. In its warnings and during the trial the ministry referred to the Housing Code of Belarus that was enforced in 1999. None of the political parties managed to execute these demand and received warnings as a result. Meanwhile, two warnings for a year can result in liquidation of a party by court.
On 14 April the Supreme Court of Belarus liquidated the largest sociological institute, public association “Independent Institute for Socio-Economic Research”. IISEPS head Alieh Manaieu stated:
-- The authorities want to prevent the society from receiving objective information about Belarusian realities.
2. Limitation of the liberty of peaceful assemblies
On 26 April the democratic society held the traditional action “Chernobyl Way” to commemorate the anniversary of Chernobyl tragedy. This year the organizational committee of the action decided to change its format to escape clashes with the police. It was planned that at 6 p.m. some citizens would gather near the presidential administration and would pass there the request to reveal the real consequences of Chernobyl accident, stop producing food-staffs from the plants and animals grown on polluted territory and sending young professionals for working on these territories. According to the Law of the Republic of Belarus “About applications of citizens” filing of petitions can’t be considered as a mass action. This year Belarusian citizens treated ordinary citizens quite violently. It’s worth mentioning that during previous years participants of “Chernobyl Way” were repressed quite rarely, most often the law machinery punished only its organizers.
This time the police detained 14 citizens of Russia, 5 citizens of the Ukraine and 13 citizens of Belarus.
3. Administrative arrests for participation in peaceful street actions
On 7 April Mikalai Statkievich, former chair of Belarusian Social Democratic Party (Narodnaia Hramada) was judged for his speech at the unauthorized meeting of businessmen on 1 March. He was fined 150 minimal wages for participation in the meeting and 5 more for disrespect to the court (the total sum is about 4 million rubles).
In April Minsk police detained seven activists of Zubr movement for handing out Vybor newspaper – Paviel Baranouski, Paviel Iukhnievich, Iahor Krasnik, Dzmitry Papok, Aliaksiei Shydlouski, Vasil Zharykau and Iauhien (surname unknown). In Mahiliou the police detained Zubr activist Maxim Dvaretski. Reports for violation of part 3 of Article #172 of the Code of Administrative Violations (distribution of printed editions without issue data) were composed against all of the detainees.
On 26 April the detained participants of Chernobyl Way action were taken to police stations of Minsk. The police drew on them reports for violation of Article #167-1 of the Code of Administrative Offences (violation of the order of organization and holding of mass actions).
Citizens of Russia and the Ukraine were also punished for violation of the rules of stay of foreign citizens on the territory of Belarus. At night all of them were taken to the detention center in Akrestsin Street. It is worth mentioning that Belarusian legislation allows defense lawyers to defend citizens only at trial. Before trial people can’t receive food-staffs and clothes. Of course, no meetings with prisoners are allowed.
In the morning of 27 April all detainees were taken to Minsk Leninski borough court. The authorities significantly limited access of defense lawyers, journalists and human rights activists to the trial. It’s worth mentioning that in Belarus almost at all administrative trials judges don’t familiarize defendants with their rights (including the right to use the services of a defense lawyer). As a result defendants often don’t even know they can apply for advocatory services and the trials become a mere formality. The witnesses there are usually riot squad policemen. Court verdicts are final and can’t be complained against for cassation. That’s how 14 citizens of Russia, 5 citizens of the Ukraine and 8 citizens of Belarus were sentenced to 10-15 days of jail. Among the prisoners there are two Russian journalists, representing Moskovskiy Komsomolets and Newsweek in Russia newspapers. Belarusian legislation doesn’t consider presence of journalists at mass actions as participation, but in this case the journalists had no accreditations at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Belarus and as a result were sentenced to arrest.
The arrested persons are kept in cells, 6-12 persons in each one. Prisoners who are arrested for violation of Article 167 have no right to walks and aren’t drawn to any kind of work. They are fed two times a day. The cells are cold and wet.
4. Torturing participants of peaceful actions
Riot squad police violently dispersed Chernobyl Way action with the use of special means. During the detention they broke a wrist to the minor Danila Barysievich.
5. Politically motivated criminal cases
On 22 April Andrei Klimau, former deputy of the Supreme Soviet of the 13th Convocation was arrested. He was detained for the organization of the “revolutionary” action on 25 March. The criminal case upon article #342 of the Criminal Code (organization or active participation in the group actions that violate the public order) was brought against him. In the text of the accusation it is stated that “on 25 March he organized and took active part in the group actions that grossly violated the public order and were accompanied with evident disobedience to the legal demands which resulted in interruption of the work of public transport and institutions”.
We should remind that A. Klimau is also charged with defamation of president (part 2 of article #367 of the Criminal Code) for different sayings in his articles and books. The trial of Klimau was to have continued on 25 April, but was transferred to 19 May because he didn’t appear in the court hall.
On 27 the criminal case against Opposition activist Paviel Sieviaryniets and Mikalai Statkievich, charged with organization of mass riot on 18-19 October 2004 in Minsk, was passed to court. The criminal case against them is brought upon article #342 of the Criminal Code (organization or active participation in the group actions that violate the public order). As a result they can be sentenced to up to three years of jail.
The conditions for keeping of Iury Bandazheuski in colony-settlement #26 became worse. The authorities suspect he has stomach cancer. Though the administration of the colony knows about it, they don’t allow repeated medical examination. In 2001 the professor-radiologist Iury Bandazheuski was sentenced to eight years of jail for alleged bribery.
6. Violations of the liberty of word
In April the Ministry of Information warned the editorial boards of the non-state newspapers Narodnaia Volia, Borisovskiye Novosti and Volnaie Hlybokaie.
The warning to Narodnaia Volia dated 13 April was signed by the information minister Uladzimir Rusakievich as a result of two articles that were published in March. The Ministry of Information considered that in his article “Virtual war of granddaughter with grandmother” published materials of a court case before the verdict and without the written agreement of the judge. On 31 March the newspaper published the appeal of Alieh Volchak, chair of Iury Zakharanka movement “Defenders of Homeland” to veterans of the war in Afghanistan. The ministry considered it to be distribution of information on behalf of unregistered association. Both cases are characterized as “violation of Article 5 of the Law on press and other mass media”.
The non-state newspaper Borisovskiye Novosti was charged with change of the territory of distribution, publication of ads without confirmation of the right to this licensed activity, mistakes in the issue data and usage of non-standard fonts. The same pretensions stand in the grounding of the warning, issued on 15 April to the editor of the newspaper Volnaie Hlybokaie.
In the beginning of April the ideology department of Barysau City Executive Committee submitted to enterprises and organizations of the city a letter with prohibition to subscribe to the non-state editions Kurier iz Borisova and Borisovskiye Novosti.
In Minsk 30 bookshops refused to accept for trading such editions as Belorusskaya Delovaya Gazeta, Belorusskaya Gazeta and Salidarnasts.
Minsk Aktsiabrski borough court partially satisfied the suit of the US citizen Alexander Mar to the vice-editor of Belorusskaya Delovaya Gazeta Iryna Khalip and the private Unitarian enterprise Marat. Iryna Khalip was sentenced to pay 10 million Belarusian rubles (4 500 US dollars) to Alexander Mar as compensation, Marat was sentenced to pay 50 million rubles (about 23 000 US dollars). At the trial the judge didn’t satisfy a single petition of the defense. Iryna Khalip is sure that Mikalai Charhiniets, chair of the regular commission of the Soviet of the Republic of the National Assembly of the Republic of Belarus on international affairs and national security, and Alieh Praliaskouski, deputy chair of Lukashenka’s administration were real inspirers of the legal lynching. The journalists critical expression towards Alexander Mar were caused by the scandal that resulted from the interview he took from Aliaksandr Lukashenka.
7. Disappearance of the regime’s opponents in Belarus
On 7 April the Procurator’s Office of Belarus informed the journalist’s mother Volha Zavadskaia that “the preliminary investigation of criminal case #980159 brought on the case of disappearance of your son Dzmitry Zavadski on 7 July 2000 was renewed on 4 April 2005 because of the necessity of investigative measures on this case”.
8. Manifestations of anti-Semitism
On 26 April in Lida (Hrodna region) an act of vandalism was committed at one of the three memorials established in the place of mass murders of Jews during World War II. The unknown persons broke the fence and covered with litter the territory that was cleaned by the Jewish community of Lida on 17 April. Acts of vandalism at this memorial where about 6 700 Jews were killed take place almost every year on the eve of the measures, devoted to the Victory Day and commemoration of Holocaust victims.