REVIEW OF HUMAN RIGHTS VIOLATIONS IN BELARUS IN MAY 2005
The repression of representatives of democratic opposition increased in May. Public and political activists are imprisoned. On 15 May 2005 the police arrested Siarhiei Skrabiets, former deputy of the Chamber of Representatives of the National Assembly, chair of the oppositional fraction Respublika, was arrested by the police and is kept in the investigative isolator of Brest. Valiery Lievanieuski and Aliaksandr Vasilieu who were imprisoned for insult of president are still in jail, the deputy of the Supreme Soviet of 12th Convocation Mikhail Marynich as well. Iury Bandazheuski, imprisoned for his public position on Chernobyl problems, is still in colony. The state of their health during the imprisonment became much worse, there’s real danger to their lives. Andrei Klimau, public and political activist, deputy of the Supreme Soviet of the 13th Convocation, is still kept in the investigative isolator of Minsk for organization of the peaceful action of protest on 25 March 2005.
Paviel Sieviaryniets and Mikalai Statkievich were sentenced to three days of personal restraint for protesting against the results of the non-constitutional and falsified referendum that was held on 17 October 2004. The state TV continues smearing the names of the regime’s opponents and escalates the atmosphere of fear and tension in the society, preparing the ground for future repressions. One of the latest provocative statements, distributed by the TV is that oppositional activists have relation to smuggling firearms and ammunition to Belarus.
1. Limitation of the liberty of association
According to the order of the justice minister Viktar Halavanau, the organizational structures of public associations and political parties must re-register their juridical addresses by 1 June. It means that the branches that won’t change their juridical address will be automatically liquidated. This blow is aimed at political parties and the most active NGOs. Analysts associate these measures with the political events of the upcoming year – the election of the country’s president.
The Ministry of Justice didn’t accept the results of the VIth assembly of the Union of Poles in Belarus. According to the ministry, the majority of the delegates to the assembly were elected with violations of the UPB charter as a result of which they couldn’t represent voices of other members of the organization while voting at the assembly. Besides, the ministry state that the order of the assembly was grossly violated, the persons who weren’t the assembly’s delegates interfered with it, the agenda wasn’t adopted and when the majority voted for decisions they had no quorum. UPB, in its turn, is not going to hold a repeated assembly. The chair of the Union of Poles Anzhalika Borys who was elected in March at the assembly that is not recognized by the ministry stated she was going to struggle for saving the organization outright.
The Supreme Court of Belarus decided to liquidate two borough branches of Belarusian People’s Front in the city of Hrodna because their juridical addresses were registered in residential premises.
2. Activation of secret services
The new edition of the law “About the organs of state security” was enforced in Belarus. According to it workers of secret services can enter any house without procurator’s sanction any time even if they’ll have to break the lock for it.
The first secretary of the Embassy of Poland Marek Bucko is declared persona non-grata by Belarusian authorities. M. Bucko maintained contacts with the Union of Poles in Belarus who is now pressurized by Belarusian officials.
3. Administrative arrests for participation in peaceful street actions
On 1 May in Hrodna the police detained for three hours the group of youngsters who called themselves “Lemon” movement. They were going to hand out lemon candies and portraits of president with the words “It won’t be sweet!”.
On 8 May 12 activists of Zubr movement were detained in the center of Mahiliou for a picket that was devoted to disappearance of the former minister of internal affairs Iury Zakharanka.
On 16 May in Hrodna Kastrychnitski Borough Court fined six participants of the Chain of Concerned People that was held on 7 May in the memory of the sixth anniversary of Iury Zakharanka’s disappearance. They were charged with active participation in unauthorized picket. Judge Zinaida Bartsevich fined Dzmitry Audzieichyk, Andrei Ianushkievich, Iury Istomin, Artur Smiatanin and Mikalai Voran about 37 US dollars and Raman Iurhiel – almost 2 000.
On 30 May Valliery Shchukin, human rights activist and leader of the civil initiative “Veterans for Democracy” was arrested in Minsk in the former Masherau Avenue that Lukashenka renamed into Conquerors’ Avenue. He stood there holding the portrait of the communist leader of Belarusian Soviet Socialist Republic Piatro Masherau (who did quite a lot for Belarus during the Soviet rule) and demanded to return his name to the avenue. The action was dispersed by riot squad police in plain clothes.
4. Tortures against participants of peaceful actions
On 24 May riot squad police detained and violently beat eight participants of the youth action of protest against the renaming of Frantsysk Skaryna Square to Independence Square. It was intended to hold the action in the form of a performance with the famous Belarusian pioneer of printing as the main character. The action participants managed to walk along the pavement in the center of Minsk for about 10 meters only. Then a bus with dark windows came near, about a dozen of riot squad policemen in camouflage ran out. They forcibly pulled all participants of the action (all of whom were under age) into the bus and drove away. According to one of the participants of the performance Franak Viachorka, the detainees were severely beaten. The police smashed the face of one girl o blood.
The oppositional activist Mikalai Statkievich was kept at the detention center in the same cell with a persons, ill with dysentery. Moreover, he wasn’t fed for a day after the detention, which he stated at the trial against him and one of the leaders of Young Front Paviel Sieviaryniets for organization of protest actions against falsification of the results of the election during the parliamentary election and the referendum in autumn 2004.
5. Politically motivated criminal cases
On 15 the former deputy of the Parliament Siarhiei Skrabiets was detained in Minsk, not far from his house in Uruchcha suburb. Then he was taken to Brest and now is kept there in the temporary isolator. The hour after the detention the police searched his flat and the flat of his parents. Brest City Procurator’s Office brought against him criminal cases on two articles – preparation to a crime and attempt of giving a bribe. According to the police, Siarhiei Skrabiets advised an unemployed citizen of the town of Biaroza to give 30 000 US dollars as a bribe to workers of the regional procurator’s office and court for justification to the citizen of the village of Halshany (Stolin district) who was sentenced to 24 years of jail for racketeering. Siarhiei Skrabiets went on hunger-strike to protest against his detention in the isolator. On 31 May the police detained Skrabiets’ younger brother Aliaksandr Siarhiets. Human Rights Center Viasna believes Siarhiei Skrabiets is persecuted for his public and political activity.
On 31 May Minsk Tsentralny Borough Court pronounced the verdict on the case of one of the leaders of Young Front Paviel Sieviaryniets and the former chair of Belarusian Social Democratic Party Narodnaia Hramada Mikola Statkievich. They were sentenced to three years of personal restraint. The amnesty reduced this term by a year. As a result the oppositional activist Paviel Sieviaryniets and Mikalai Statkievich were found guilty in organization of the mass riot on 18-19 October 2004 in Minsk (Article #342 of the Criminal Code – organization or active participation in the group actions that violate the public order).
Minsk Procurator’s Office resumed the criminal case against the deputy chair of Belarusian Helsinki Committee Hary Pahaniaila. In February it was closed down. Now the human rights activist is again suspected in defamation of Lukashenka during the interview to a Swedish journalist concerning the non-judicial executions in Belarus.
6. Violation of liberty of speech
In the evening of 26 May the circulation of the non-state newspaper Den was detained at the Russian border. The car was escorted to Dubrouna District Board of Internal Affairs (Vitsiebsk region). The police confiscated the newspaper “because of absence of accreditation).
The Ministry of Information issued a written warning to the editorial board of Narodnaia Volia newspaper. One of the few independent editions of Belarus was accused in violation of Article #32 of the law “On press” (publication of corrupt information). The reason for the sanctions became the publication “Appeal to the people” of the civil initiative “People’s Will” established by the former rector of Belarusian State University Aliaksandr Kazulin.
On 30 May the flat of Aliaksiei Karol, chief editor of Zgoda newspaper, was searched. The procurator’s office conducts a check-up on the case of Zgoda newspaper as a result of which a criminal case on defamation of Lukashenka can be brought. The procurator’s office found “defamation” in the humoristic collages, confiscated right from the walls of the newspaper’s editorial office.
7. The problem of kidnaps in Belarus
The investigation of the kidnap of the ORT cameraman Dzmitry Zavadski in June 2000 has been resumed recently. The investigators are looking for his body in Orsha and Krupki. The procurator’s office of Belarus doesn’t present any details of this search.
The investigative group on Zavadski’s case started working in Orsha on 4 May. The investigators check information about the body of the unknown man that was exhumed from a Minsk cemetery in 2000 and then buried at a cemetery near Orsha.
On 4 May a sitting of the PACE Committee on Legal Affairs and Human Rights took place. It was dedicated to kidnaps and the techniques of legal influence on the states where such cases happen. This sitting was initiated by the special rapporteur of the PACE Chistos Pourgourides and was also attended by the UN special rapporteur on Belarus Adrian Severin. In his speech Mr. Severin said that it was necessary to publicly enumerate all the criminals, doing harm to their reputation.
8. Politically motivated violations of the right to education
On 25 Zhodzina activists of Young Front went on hunger-strike. They demand to rehabilitate them at the educational establishments of Zhodzina and stop their persecution by the authorities of these establishments. They sent a letter to the education department of Zhodzina Town Executive Committee, Zhodzina Town Deputy Soviet and Zhodzina Polytechnics. Copies of these letters were submitted to the Ministry of Education and Presidential administration.
The activist of Young Front Kiryl Shymanovich is a student of the juridical college of Belarusian State University. He was sentenced to 10 days of arrest for participation in Chernobyl Way. After this he was remanded from the college, despite of absence of summary punishment and excellent marks. Siarhiei Murashka was remanded from Zhodzina Polytechnics. He was detained during the dispersal of Chernobyl Way and had to spend a day in the detention center in Akrestsin Street. The administration of the secondary school in Zhodzina where the member of Young Front Aliaksandr Smolski studied, advised his parents to transfer their boy to another school. The matter is he was detained during Chernobyl Way in Minsk as well. Recently Aliaksandr Smolski was remanded from Suvorou military college for collection of signatures for renaming of this educational establishment.
Many other members of Zhodzina Young Front branch are persecuted as well. Paviel Krasouski was remanded from pedagogical college, Siarhiei Savich was remanded from the Academy of Internal Affairs, Dzmitry Chartkou – from the film production department of Belarusian Academy of Arts. In Hrodna the administration of the state university remanded Aliaksandr Kursievich, Iauhien Skrabutan and the leader of Hrodna regional Young Front branch Aliaksandr Zarembiuk. Alies Kursievich and Iauhien Zarembiuk were detained and judged for the inscription “Let’s stop rusification!”. Iauhien is under age and he managed to get rehabilitated at the educational establishment.
9. Violation of freedom of conscience
The police composed a report on Vasil Iurevich, administration of Minsk community Church New Life of the Association of Communities of Full Evangel of the Republic of Belarus for illegal service. On 18 May he was summoned to Tatsiana Dzikan, inspector on prophylaxis of law violations of Minsk Maskouski Borough Board of Internal Affairs.
-- I am accused in repeated religious service with prayers and sermons without the permission of the borough administration. Though I refused to sign the protocol, I can be tried – said Vasil Iurevich. According to part 2 of Article 167-1 of the Code of Administrative Offences, he can be fined 3 675 000 – 7 350 000 million rubles or imprisoned for 10-15 days. According to Iurevich, in the end of 2004 he was fined 3,6 million rubles for the same “violation”. “Since September 2004 the community authorities have been already fined 4 392 000 rubles”, -- he said.
10. Fomenting of national enmity
On 30 May the authorities of the public association Union of Poles in Belarus (UPB) applied to the chair of the Committee of State Security (KGB) and the minister of internal affairs with the request to stop repressing the union’s activists and criminally punish the persons guilty in persecution of the Poles who are citizens of Belarus. The letter signed by the chair of the union Anzhelika Borys expresses indignation with persecution of the chair of Brest regional branch of the UPB Alina Iarashevich by workers of Brest regional KGB board and workers of the Ministry of Internal Affairs, who threatened to imprison the teacher of Polish language Iadviha Siekh when they interrogated her.
According to Andzhei Pisalnik, the reason for such activity of secret services became the work of A. Iarashevich and Ia. Siekh on revival of Polish culture and development of education in Polish. The UPB authorities think that the lawless actions of Belarusian secret services towards citizens of Polish nationality can lead to fomenting of national enmity in the country.
11. Politically motivated firings
On 25 May the junior researcher of Homiel regional museum was fired for having come with the poster “Down with Autocracy” to the official communist meeting on 7 November. The order to fire her was singed by the museum director Aliaksandr Alieinik.