REVIEW-CHRONICLE OF HUMAN RIGHTS VIOLATIONS IN BELARUS FOR JULY 2005
Recently the Belarusian authorities have increased their repressions towards Polish national minority and the Union of Poles in Belarus in private. The situation led to escalation of the diplomatic conflict between Belarus and Poland. The latest example of limitation of the rights of civil society is the new edition of the laws “On political parties” and “On public associations” that limits the right of citizens to establish public organizations and provides more reasons for liquidation of the existing parties and NGOs. Actually, they legalize the practices that have been already illegally used by the authorities towards the third sector with the aim to pressurize the civil society. The repressions against public organizations are likely to increase, because the new editions provide much more powers for suspension of activity and liquidation of NGOs and parties. On 1 July Aliaksandr Lukashenka also signed decree #302 that limits the activity of non-state funds. In July participants of peaceful actions were tortured by the police.
1. Diplomatic conflict related to the Union of Poles in Belarus
The conflict started in March 2005 after the Ministry of Justice of Belarus didn’t recognize the results of the VIth assembly of this organization at which the new administration of the Union of Poles in Belarus was elected. The union elected Anzhelika Borys instead of the old chair Tadeush Kruchkouski. The Ministry didn’t accept this change, which caused protest of the Polish minority of Belarus and the Republic of Poland.
On 28 July the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Poland Adam Rotfeld stated that Poland was going to call off its ambassador Tadeush Pauliak till “improvement of the situation”. At night of 27-28 August Belarusian riot squad police seized the UPB office in Hrodna. The office workers and the journalists who were in were detained and released several hours later. According to the press-secretary Andzhei Pisalnik, the police didn’t explain the reasons for detention to no one. They only read the order of the Ministry of Justice to provide the management of the Union of Poles by the former chair Tadeush Kruchkouski and the governing bodies that existed before the VIth Assembly. The political motivation of these events is evident. In his speech on 26 July Aliaksandr Lukashenka stated he wouldn’t stand Polish interference with internal affairs of Belarus with “invented problems related to the Union of Poles”. Soon Belarus closed the airway to the Polish delegation to Moscow. As a result the diplomats had to fly through Ukraine. After it the authorities disproved this information and said that Poles had the necessary permission but didn’t want to use it. Four workers of the Polish diplomatic mission were deported from Belarus and four Belarusians were deported from Poland. The Council of Europe officially expressed its deep concern with the events concerning the Polish national minority in Belarus.
2. Liberty of association
The new discriminative edition of the Law of the Republic of Belarus “On public associations” has been adopted. The law was amended with a number of new articles. For instance, it obliges all NGOs to present yearly reports about their members, activity and organized measures to the registering bodies by 1 March each year. The law allows the authorities to suspend the activity of any NGO for up to six months and liquidate them for a single violation of the law on mass measures and illegal use of foreign free aid.
The new discriminative edition of the Law of the Republic of Belarus “On political parties” has been adopted as well. It obliges parties to build themselves on territorial principle. Now they have to have registered organizations in more than a half of regions of Belarus and in Minsk that are to be established not later than in six months after registration. The law also hardens to conditions of financing – now parties can’t receive money form foreign states and organizations, foreign citizens and non-citizens, anonymous donors and religious organizations. Their activity can also be suspended for up to six months on court decision.
3. Torture of participants of peaceful actions
The wife of the disappeared cameraman of the Russian TV Channel ORT Dzmitry Zavadzki Sviatlana has filed a complaint about a trauma sustained to her with the procurator's office. Yesterday during the breakup of the Chain of Concerned People in Kastrychnitskaia Square in Minsk one of the riot police officers (master sergeant) gave the woman a powerful punch in the face. In the evening Sviatlana Zavadzkaia felt bad and decide to go to the hospital so that her injuries could be registered. According to the doctors, the wife of the disappeared journalist sustained a cerebral cranial trauma. Sviatlana Zavadzkaia is not going to let the police office get away with the beating, all the more so that the fact of the beating was recorded by a cameraman of the First Russian TV Channel and broadcast on television later on.
4. Politically motivated discrimination at educational establishments
The activist of Zubr movement Paviel Madzhara was remanded from Homiel State University. He was a third year student at its Belarusian philology department. When Paviel Madzhara was taking his summer exams, he was called to the military registration and enlistment office. A man who introduced himself as a KGB agent met him there. He insisted that Paviel accept his collaboration offer, promising help with exams. In the event of refusal, the KGB agent threatened the young man would have serious problems during the exam session. Paviel refused to cooperate point-blank. Several days later he was invited to the department dean, where the Zubr was warned he would not pass this session. He passed the first two exams successfully, and then encountered problems. The other day the university head signed the expulsion order for Paviel Madzhara. “Taking into consideration the preceding events I understand that the real reason for remanding me is my refusal to collaborate with KGB”, -- Paviel explained.
5. Administrative responsibility for participation in peaceful street actions
At 10.45 a.m. in Lenin Square in Hrodna the police detained journalists who protested against the interference of the authorities with the activity of Glos znad Niemna newspaper, founded by the Union of Poles of Belarus. Their picket lasted for several minutes only.
Hrodna Leninski Borough Court fined Ihar Bantsar 510 000 rubles, Andrei Pachobut 5 125 000 rubles, Andzhei Pisalnik and Ivan Raman 2 550 000 rubles and Inesa Todryk 510 000 rubles.
On 27 July Lida District Court tried Andrei Pachobut, chief editor of Magazyn Polski, Iuzef Pazhetski, deputy chair of the Union of Poles in Belarus and Mechyslau Iaskievich, chair of Hrodna UPB organization. They were detained by the police in the evening of 26 July “for identification”. Andrei Pachobut was sentenced to 15 days of jail, Iaskievich and Pazhetski – to 10 days.
On 8 July in Minsk the police detained the ZUBR activists Aliaksiei Shydlouski and Vasil Zhakau for handing out Vybar newspaper in Iakub Kolas Square. The police composed on them reports for violation of part 3 of Article #172 of the Code of Administrative Violations – distribution of printed editions that contained no issue data.
On 18 July in Chachersk the representatives of United Civil Party Arkadz Korkhau and Vasil Chytaieu were tried. They were charged in organization of unauthorized assembly in the village of Zaliessie (Chachersk district).
6. Politically motivated criminal cases
Aliaksandr Vasiliev, vice chair of Nationwide Strike Committee of Businessmen, has released from jail, where he was kept for alleged libeling of Aliaksandr Lukashenka and organization of mass protest action. Noteworthy, the chair of the strike committee Valiery Lievanieuski and Aliaksandr Vasilieu were sentenced to two years of jail on 7 September 2004. The court found them guilty in public defamation of president accompanied with accusations in a felony commitment (part 2 of Article #368 of the Criminal Code).
Valiery Lievanieuski was denied the early release because of “bad behavior” in jail. Most probably, he will be released only on 15 May 2006, when the whole term is over. According to Levanieuski, the prison administration repeatedly hinted he could me released from jail earlier if he publicly refused from continuing his political activity. According to him, the guards also take away paper from the prisoners who help him to copy complaints and intimidate them.
Meanwhile, the term of preliminary detention of the former leader of Respublika deputy group Siarhiei Skrabiets was prolonged to 28 August.
In the late evening of 9 July 15 policemen and civil persons burst into the private house that belonged to Uladzimir Kishkurna, chair of Minsk city organization of Belarusian People’s Front. They broke the door and smashed the window in order to get in. Uladzimir Kishkurna and his wife were absent, only their soon, 22-year-old Anton Kishkurna was in the house. The invaders showed no orders, only stated they were going to “examine the flat”. They broke all the internal locks, looked through all personal documents of Uladzimir Kishkurna and examined his printing press. Anton Kishkurna was accused in illegal storage of firearms and drugs and now is under arrest.
8. Liberty of word and the right to distribute information
On 25 July Minsk City Court rejected the cassation complaints of the editorial office of Narodnaia Volia newspaper against the large fines imposed on it for the benefit of Siarhiei Haidukievich, chair of Belarusian Liberal Democratic Party, and three citizens of the town of Klietsk (the total sum is 109 million Belarusian rubles, about $50 000).
9. Deportation of representatives of the world community from Belarus
Terry Bosh is another scientist whom the Ministry of Foreign Affairs decided to deport from Belarus. He taught international jurisprudence at Belarusian State University and organized in Belarus charitable actions for the benefit of the country’s educational establishments. His family, who lived in Minsk for two years, was given only two hours to leave the country. Terry Bosh suspects Belarusian authorities would deport all representatives of humanitarian and educational field who come from the US and Western Europe.
MFA also decided to stop the activity of the European Fund Dialogue, NGO that was registered in Warsaw and whose aim is to foster cooperation in the scientific circles of Central and Eastern Europe. The information was pronounced in the Panorama informational program of Belarusian TV in the evening of 21 July. It was said that “the scientific interests were just a cover for espionage in Belarus” and that it was not the first case for the Polish Embassy in Belarus.