REVIEW OF HUMAN RIGHTS VIOLATIONS IN BELARUS IN AUGUST 2005
The conflict between Belarusian authorities and the Union of Poles in Belarus continues. The authorities declared illegitimate the VIth Assembly of the union at which the new administration with Anzhalika Borys at the head was elected. Then such UPB members as Andzhei Pisalnik, Adrei Pachobut, Iuzaf Pazhetski, Vieslau Kieuliak, Miechyslau Iaskievich, Ihar Bantsar, Inesa Todryk, Stanislau Pachobut were arrested by the police, some of them even several times. On 27 August the authorities arranged the repeated assembly. That day Anzhalika Borys was summonsed for 45th interrogation. By the means of this assembly the authorities restored the administration that was loyal to them. The UPB activists who recognized Anzhalika Borys as their head are persecuted. The authorities intimidate them and initiate administrative and criminal cases against them. The UPB founder Tadevush Havin spent a month under arrest. The control of foreign visits to Belarus becomes harder. Lukashenka’s regime conducts one more intimidation campaign on the eve of the presidential election of 2006.
1. The conflict between the authorities and the Union of Poles in Belarus, interference of the state with the activity of the NGO
On 27 August the repeated assembly of the Union of Poles in Belarus took place with support of Belarusian authorities. The new chair of the organization became 69-year-old Iuzaf Luchnik, retired teacher. The assembly was attended by Stanislau Burko, chair of the Committee on national and religious affairs, and by representatives of the local authorities with Maryia Birukova, deputy chair of Hrodna Regional Executive Committee, at the head. On the eve of this assembly the most active UPB members were deprived of the possibility to attend it for invented reasons: they were arrested or faced criminal cases. Delegates to the new assembly were gathered with the use of threats to fire them from work. Andzei Pisalnik, informal secretary of the UPB, and Siarhiei Astrautsou, RFE/RL correspondent, weren’t let to the sum-up conference of the assembly. On the day of the assembly all roads to Vaukavysk were guarded by the road police. The rain from Baranavichy to Hrodna didn’t stop there. Not far from Minsk and Baranavichy the police detained two busses with the people who wanted to get to Vaukavysk in order to express their solidarity with the Union of Poles that was being suppressed by the state. The police even declared one of the busses stolen. The cars of foreign correspondents were detained as well. All “unofficial” ones could be placed to the hotel in Vaukavysk only on special order of the district administration. Vaukavysk recreation house, where the assembly was conducted, was ringed by the police. The events were shot with police video cameras.
The European Union of Polish associations didn’t recognize the repeated assembly of the Union of Poles in Belarus and stated that Anzhalika Borys who was elected at the VIth assembly in March 2005 was the plenipotentiary head of the organization and the only person who could represent it.
The repeated assembly resulted in split of the organization in two parts under the same name, Union of Poles in Belarus. The official, pro-Lukashenka part, will be financed from the state budget and by member fees, as it was stated by Iuzaf Luchnik during the repeated assembly. At the same time, Poland will abstain from its financing:
-- We have decided that in the case Lukashenka takes away our property, we won’t give a penny for payment of the public utilities and repairs, -- stated Maria Petrovicz, chair of the board of Polish Society association. This position is supported by Iolanta, Daneliak, vice speaker of the Polish Senate:
-- We can’t give financial support to any organization that works against Poles. The UPB, subordinated to Lukashenka, will be the one for sure.
2. Torture of public and political activists
At night of 28-29 August the activist of Zubr movement Iauhien Suvorau was detained by the policemen who had detained him two months before for distribution of newspapers. This time they took him to Minsk Leninski Borough Board of Internal Affairs without any explanations. There they groundlessly used violence towards him. They put his hands and feet in two pairs of handcuffs and then chained them together behind his back, which is called “lastachka” (swallow) in criminal jargon. In about two hours they let him go, without registering his detention. Being asked why they mocked at him the policemen answered it was prophylactic work.
3. Politically motivated persecution of foreign citizens
On 24 August the coordinator of Zubr movement Uladzimir Kobiets, the activists of the Georgian movement Kmara, journalist Girgi Kandelaki and producer Luka Tsuladze were detained in the center of Minsk by persons in plain clothes without any reasons. By the way, the Georgian citizens abided by all demands of Belarusian law: they registered at a hotel. They had with them their passport and registration certificates. On 29 August Minsk Maskouski Borough Court sentenced G. Kandelaki and L. Tsuladze to 15 days of jail for “small disorderly conduct” (they allegedly beat their cellmate). They where deprived of advocatory service. The administration of the detention center in Akrestsin Street didn’t accept the food parcel for them. The Georgian diplomat who came from Kyiv wasn’t admitted there either. The incident has already acquired international resonance. Speaking at the CIS summit in Kazan (Russia), Mikhael Saakashvili expressed concern with the arrest of his compatriots in Belarus.
On 23 August the police detained an American diplomat in Homiel. That day the activists of local public organizations intended to meet with the US Embassy political officer Lyle McMillan. This measure was initiated by the US Embassy and was to have taken part in the house that belonged to the democratic activist Viktar Karnienka, where the offices of Homiel branch of the United Civil Party and other organizations are situated. Two hours before the meeting the police ordered people to leave the house, stating they’ve found a suspicious thing that can be a bomb in the neighbourhood. The meeting was transferred to a private flat. After all the meeting participants gathered there, two policemen burst into the flat and demanded from the present persons to show their documents. They explained their actions with conduction of Illegal Immigrant operation in Homiel. The American diplomat and his assistant were detained for about 40 minutes. The US Embassy expressed its concern with this incident.
4. Administrative persecution of public and political activists
On 26 August Liubou Valievich, judge of Minsk Leninski Borough Court, sentenced to 10 days of jail Aliaksandr Kurbitski, Aliaksiei Liaukovich and Natallia Ushko, the activists of Zubr movement who took part in the action of solidarity with the arrested activists of the Georgian movement Kmara. The action was qualified as violation of part 2 of Article #167 of the Code of Administrative Violations. Its participants were detained by the riot police, who tore the banner with the inscription “Set Free Our Georgian Brothers!”, broke the flagstaffs of the national flags of Georgia and Belarus. The picket participants sat down on the ground. The police pulled the action participants into the busses or carried them in. Some of the protesters were also beaten.
On the eve of the repeated assembly of the Union of Poles in Belarus Hrodna police arrested adherents of Anzhalika Borys. In the morning of 26 August Andrei Pachobut, chief editor of Magazyn Polski and Ivan Raman, correspondent of Solidarnosc newspaper were detained in Shchuchyn and charged with violation of Article #165 (small disorderly conduct) for alleged swearing at the entrance of Shchuchyn District Board of Internal Affairs. They were released on 27 August, after Andrei Pachobut went on dry hunger-strike. His brother Stanislau Pachobut, correspondent of Navinki newspaper, was detained in the evening of 26 August and stayed under arrest till 29 August. On 29 August Andrei Pachobut was arrested once again, this time for three days. The UPB activist Miechyslau Iaskievich, detained in Vaukavysk the same day, was detained till 29 August as well. In the afternoon of 27 August the criminal police detained the UPB activist Ihar Bantsar and took him to Hrodna Leninski Borough Board of Internal Affairs. These arrests were aimed at prevention of the protest action in Vaukavysk, where on 27 August the authorities staged the repeated assembly of the Union of Poles with election of new chair of the organization.
5. Politically motivated criminal cases
Minsk City Procurator’s Office brought a criminal case on the fact of web distribution of the cartoons one of the characters of which looks like Lukashenka. According to Siarhiei Ivanou, chair of the department of especially important cases, they investigate libel of president of Belarus. The investigators have already interrogated Andrei Abuzau, webmaster of the sited with the cartoons and Paviel Marozau, coordinator of Third Way project. The police searched their flats, exacted personal notes and documents and more than ten computers. In the case the suspects are found guilty they can be sentenced to up to five years of jail.
Hrodna Regional Board of Internal Affairs has brought a criminal case against Andrei Pachobut, editor of the edition of the Union of Poles in Belarus Magazyn Polski, Andzhei Pisalnik, chair of Glos z-nad Niemna newspaper, Iuzaf Pazhetski and Vieslau Kieuliak, deputy chair of UPB. On 25 August they were summonsed for interrogation and charged with violation of Article #185 of the Criminal Code (constraint). If found guilty, the accused persons can be punished with fines, up to six months of arrest and up to two years of personal restraint or corrective labor. The criminal case was brought on application of Viktar Bogdan, director of the Polish House in the town of Shchuchyn. The matter is that in July Andrei Pachobut and Andzhei Pisalnik visited the Polish hose for revision check-up related to the institution’s debts. However, V. Bogdan refused to show any documents. He also applied to the police, stating they threatened to beat him, demanding to give to them the keys to the Polish House.
6. Violation of the principle of liberty of word and the right to distribute information
Minsk City Executive Committee liquidated Denpress Ltd. that issues Den newspaper. On 19 August Mikola Markievich, chair of Denpress Ltd. found about it from workers of Minsk Tsentralny Borough Tax Inspection. The decision about liquidation was signed on 4 July by Mikhail Savanovich, chair of Minsk City Executive Committee, because of “absence of business activity for 6 months in succession and non-submission of information about the reasons to Minsk City Executive Committee”. The liquidation was initiated by Minsk Tsentralny Borough Tax Inspection.
-- This is a political order, similar to the liquidation of my previous newspaper, Pahonia, -- said M. Markievich.
Hrodna Procurator’s Office issued official warning to Anatol Bukas, chief editor of the non-state edition Borisovskie Novosti for the article “Biased court” devoted to the trial on the criminal case against Bukas. This warning can bring on liquidation of the newspaper.