REVIEW OF HUMAN RIGHTS VIOLATIONS IN BELARUS IN SEPTEMBER 2005
Belarusian authorities have stroke the hardest blow on independent press so far. The only independent daily, Narodnaia Volia, faces the danger of disappearance.
On 30 September, in his speech to the Defense Soviet, Aliaksandr Lukashenka stated it was necessary to protect Belarusian society from foreign informational expansion and “induction of instability by anti-Belarusian information resources”.
A. Lukashenka stated that “during the last decade all military conflicts, escalated in the world by the US and its satellites, began from such informational attacks and massive propagandist campaigns against the country defined for military intervention”, -- BelTA reports. According to him, the leading state of the West actively uses the informational means and strategies for one-lateral pushing of its geopolitical interests. “They are trying to manipulate the public conscience with the aid of mass media and internet, discredit the “inconvenient” countries and artificially create conditions for escalation of social tension with the aim to seize the power”.
According to Lukashenka, Poland and Baltic countries have already turned into a foothold of NATO means of radio electronic struggle and spying. He stated that the large-scale program of radio broadcasting to Belarus had been already declared and promoted. “The West and so called Belarusian opposition that is directed by it, search all possible ways to form a negative public opinion and spread destructive information about our country”, -- he said.
In his speech at the seminar for Belarusian and Russian journalists in Minsk Viktar Viahiera, vice-chair of Belarusian KGB stated secret services won’t let destabilization of the situation in the country in the form of “colour revolutions” that have taken part in CIS countries. He also specified that “the republic’s secret services have enough information about all kinds of specific youth seminars, conferences and trainings that are organized for Belarusian citizens by western specialists”.
-- We know about the attempts to draw youth to holding such measures. KGB controls the situation and will adequately react to possible attempts to violate the laws that act on the territory of Belarus”, -- stated Viktar Viahiera.
1. Freedom of association
The Minister of Justice Viktar Halavanau issued the ruling about obligatory registration of block of political parties, trade unions, coalitions, civil initiatives and movements.
“Civil associations have features inherent to the public associations that pursue political aims. The activity of such associations can take place only after their state registration and introduction of the appropriate changes to the State register of public associations”, -- reads the ruling.
On 14 September Mikalai Zielianko, chair of the justice board of Minsk City Executive Committee, held a press-conference. He said that in 2005 in Minsk 292 organizational units of different political parties were deprived of registration for “incompatibility of the juridical address to the acting legislation”. According to his information, five public associations ended with self-liquidation an 30 more are in the process. Mr. Zielianko also stated that there are 15 political parties in Minsk, 178 of their organizational units, 394 public associations and six trade unions.
According to Viktar Halavanau, after the enforcement of the new edition of the law “On political parties” (that will take place on 28 October) the Ministry of Justice intends to apply the appropriate measures to the parties that “work outside the legal field”. Among such measures he mentioned suspension of activity for up to six months on the court ruling. The law will significantly limit the possibilities for party financing: the parties won’t have the right to accept financial means and property from foreign states and organizations, foreign citizens and non-citizens, anonymous donors, under-aged citizens of Belarus, religious organizations and juridical bodies that were registered less then a year before the donation.
The authorities deprived of registration large structures of Belarusian Language Society in Hrodna district, the town of Bieshankovichy (Vitsiebsk region) and Slonim (Hrodna region) and the settlement of Smilavichy (Chervien district of Minsk region). A member other regional organization face the threat of liquidation as well.
2. The right to education in mother tongue
Russification is going on. Students of Akhremchyk artistic college that used to be Belarusian were informed that this curriculum year all subjects will be taught in Russian. It was said that there’s no money for purchase of the maths schoolbooks in Belarusian. This news shocked many of the schoolchildren and their parents. Pupils composed a petition to the gymnasium administration with the proposal to refuse from dinners so that the books could be bought.
Valiantsina Loika, representative of the parental committee, says that Russification concerns not only this gymnasium. At the same time, some youth organizations sent letters to education departments of Belarusian cities where they ask officials about the situation with education in Belarusian and purchase of school-aids. They question the education departments why there are no forms with Belarusian language of education on their territory.
3. Torture of public and political activists
A coordinator of the human rights service Zubr Mikita Sasim was severely beaten on 16 September in Minsk during the We Remember action devoted to the 6th anniversary of the disappearance of the politician Viktar Hanchar and the businessman Anatol Krasouski and was taken to a hospital. The diagnosis is craniocerebral injury. Apart from Mikita Sasim, another six action participants got various traumas on the same day.
4. Persecution of political leaders
Dozens of people were injured during the explosion in Vitsiebsk on 22 September. On 23-24 September the police conducted searches in the flats of youth and opposition activists. The police followed almost the same scenario, searching the apartment of the Young Front leader Viktar Shliakhtsin, the place of a member of the youth society Siomaia Hran Stsiapan Tsishutsin. They did not follow any explosive devices, but when the human rights activist Valiery Shchukin and a member of the Belarusian Helsinki Committee Paviel Lievinau tried to enter the Tsishutsins' apartment, the police ordered them to leave the place immediately, promising to call in riot police in case of insubordination.
Anatol Liabiedzka, the leader of the United Civil Party, was detained at the customs of Minsk-2 airport for more than 2,5 hours on his way home from the celebration that was devoted to the 25th anniversary of Solidarnosc trade union in Poland. At first the border guards checked his passport for more than half an hour, consulting their administration. Then customs officers examined the politician’s belongings. They paid interests to the materials of the conference “From solidarity to freedom” that took place in Gdansk and Warsaw.
As a result the border guards confiscated the conference programs, lists of participants, their biographies, CDs, Orange Revolution digest of poems in English and Ukrainian and a book devoted to the establishment of Solidarnosc trade union. In the confiscation report it was stated that this information could be harmful to political and economical interests of Belarus.
5. Politically motivated criminal cases
Andrei Klimau, the chair of Belarusian Social Democratic Party Mikalai Statkievich and the leader of Young Front Paviel Sieviaryniets spend in open colonies their terms of political restraint for organization of actions of protest. Valiery Lievanieuski, Mikhail Marynich and Siarhiei Skrabiets are still in jail.
The administration of Ivatsevichy penal colony where the chair of the national strike committee Mr. Lievanieuski spends his 2-year prison term for alleged defamation of president refused to transfer him to a free settlement colony (it means that a person lives in a village under the police supervision, have the possibility to walk, meet with people and does unskilled work at a collective farm).
The official reason is that Valiery Lievanieuski was punished four times for different violations of discipline. One time he was put in a black hole for not wearing the prison uniform. Before that, Mr. Lievanieuski wasn’t granted parole for the same reason. He considers these events as revenge of the colony administration for his complaints against its officials he has submitted to different instances.
On 22 September the Parole Commission of Minsk Prison No.1 again reviewed Mikhail Marynich's case and again refused early release. None of the circumstances were taken into account, neither his state of health nor his good conduct. In the prison the former minister and ambassador had a stroke, his eyesight is much worse now. Mikhail Marynich doesn’t agree with the refusal to the early release, because he executes all the rules, has no violations and needs urgent medical treatment.
The renowned opposition politician, the head of the deputy group Respublika in the Chamber of Representatives of the Previous Convocation, continues his hunger-strike in Minsk temporary detention center, the so-called Valadarka. Since 10 September Siarhei Skrabiets has kept a second hunger-strike of protest against the authorities that, in the opinion of the former deputy, illegally keep him behind bars. The first time he hungered for almost 40 days in Brest investigative isolator, where he was taken on 15 May.
6. Liberty of speech and the right to distribute information
The largest independent daily, Narodnaia Volia, faces the danger of disappearance. Despite of the fact that the newspaper has already paid 70 million rubles of the 100 million compensation for alleged insult of honour and dignity of the deputy of the Chamber of Representatives Siarhiei Haidukievich, the state officials decided to break the contracts of their subordinate services (printing houses and distribution nets) with the newspaper. Belarusian Association of Journalists considers these actions of the authorities as evidently lawless action, aimed at annihilation of the important information source on the eve of the presidential election.
Barysau City Procurator’s Office didn’t satisfy the complaint of Anatol Bukas, chief editor of Borisovskie Novosti newspaper, against illegal obstacles to distribution of his edition. In the complaint he stated that the workers of Barysau City Executive Committee Valiantsina Shutko and Natallia Kaspierskaia purposefully hindered the sale of the newspaper in the city. The chief editor asked the procurator’s office to inform the officials about inadmissibility of such actions and also submit the answer to the mentioned vendors. The procurator’s office refused to do it and stated he could complain against its decision to court or Minsk Regional Procurator’s Office.
The complaint was submitted on 26 July 2005. The answer came in September.
The officials of Hantsavichy District Executive Committee refused to tell Hantsavitski Chas newspaper correspondent Iryna Damaratskaia what families have the right to receive financial support for preparing their children to school. She asked this question to Ala Stralchenia, chair of the committee’s financial department on the eve of the new curriculum year, who answered she couldn’t explain anything.
At the start of August the article entitled "Time to Dispose of Rake" was published by the Novaia gazeta with a question "Will there be a revolution in Belarus?" In the article the journalist Iryna Khalip analyzed the situation in Belarus in the run-up to the presidential campaign. The article author concluded that the Belarusian authorities would change as a result of a street revolution.
The procurator's office assessed the journalist's opinion as a call to the destabilization of the public order and change of the constitutional regime of the Republic of Belarus using illegal methods. Iryna Khalip was summonsed to the constitutional rights department of the Republican Procurator's Office, where she was read a warning.
The international organization Cartoonists Rights Network and workers of Dyvo Production company (Ukraine) expressed their support to Andrei Abozau, Paviel Marozau and Alieh Minich, against whom the authorities initiated a criminal case for making political cartoons, placed at the site of Third Way initiative. KGB workers confiscated from them all computers and information carriers and even took away passports from Minich and his wife.
Aliaksiei Karol, the editor of the independent newspaper Zgoda, and his deputy Aliaksandr Sdzvizhkou have been fined 100 basic units each (approximately, 1200 US dollars). The Piershamaiski Court of Minsk has ruled. The court punished the heads of the independent periodical for "releasing knowingly untruthful information".
At the 26 September press conference Aliaksei Karol said that the reason for the court ruling was the collages printed in several issues of the Zgoda. On 24 March the police searched the Zgoda office and took away all of the office equipment. So far they have not given it back.
In the morning of 26 September the work of www.praca-by.info. , site of independent trade union movement, was paralyzed by a hacker attack. Sites that place information about the activity of independent democratic organizations of Belarus, sometimes are subject to such assaults. Among the recently attacked ones are the sites of United Civil Party, BPF Party and Young Front.
7. Freedom of Conscience
On 20 September Minsk City Court liquidated the Belarusian Evangelical Church. Earlier the court had already liquidated a Calvinist Protestant Church with Leanid Lipien being the pastor. The Protestant Church "New Life" with Viachaslau Hancharenka serving as the pastor also faces liquidation. Minsk City Executive Committee initiated the proceedings.
The religious community of the Evangelists was registered in 1994. They started to have problems after 2002. Because the church was registered at the apartment owned by Pastor Sabila, Minsk City Executive Committee demanded that the believers find a new legal address. But the Church has fewer than twenty people. They do not have enough money to rent an office. Judge Ala Krapiuka held the first sitting in July and gave the pastor time to find a compromise with the officials. However, the officials refused to help with a new legal address. As a result, the court liquidated the church.
On 23 September Maskouski Borough Court of Minsk continued to consider the case of the administrator of the Church "New Life" Vasil Iurevich. The police accused him of organizing religious services unauthorized by the authorities. The report was made on 24 July, tomorrow is the last day of the administrative responsibility.
The case consideration lasted half an hour and led to a decision: find the church administrator Vasil Iurevich guilty and fine him in accordance with Article 167 Part 2 160 basic units, which is 4 million 80 thousand rubles (about 2000 US dollars).