REVIEW-CHRONICLE OF HUMAN RIGHTS VIOLATIONS IN BELARUS FOR OCTOBER 2005
Before the election the authorities started the complex offence on the structures of civil society.
On 29 October there was enforced the law of the Republic of Belarus of 19 July 2005 “On amendment of the law of the Republic of Belarus “On public associations” (the new edition of the law “On public associations”) without any consultations with public organizations. Independent experts characterize this law as a discriminative and limiting the civil right to association.
On 26 October the Chamber of Representatives adopted in the first reading the Law “On counteraction to extremism”, elaborated by KGB. It was presented by the first vice-chair of KGB Vasil Dziemiantsiei who also stated that the camps for influencing Belarus were being established in Poland and Lithuania and extremist groups were prepared there for organization of terrorist actions and coup d’etat. As an example of such groups he drew the Ukrainian youth movement “Pora” that played an important role in the Ukrainian orange revolution.
-- The facts witness that destabilization of the political climate in our country is the main task of foreign secret services, the US in private. They have a certain tactics approximating to intervention, -- Dziemiantsiei stated.
The explanatory note attached to the draft law, reads: “There are cases of illegal financing of Belarusian extremist politicized structures by foreign organizations, distribution of provocative informational production aimed at destabilization of the political situation in the country”.
1. Right to association
The Law “On public associations” that was enforced on 29 October legalized the activity of the National commission on registration (re-registration) of public associations, which Belarusian NGOs claimed to close. This commission was established by a presidential decree in 1999 and wasn’t mentioned in any other legislative acts. Now this commission, all members of which are appointed on president’s consent, will “give conclusion concerning the possibility of registration of NGO” on the basis of the Law “On public associations”. The final decision on registration will be taken by the Ministry of Justice on the basis of the commission’s conclusion. Accordingly, one can sue against the decision of the Ministry of Justice, not the registration commission.
The new edition of the Law includes the norms of the presidential decrees that prohibit the activity of unregistered NGOs on the territory of Belarus and provide liquidation for a single violation of the order of holding of mass actions or the order of receiving free foreign aid.
It also contains the interesting term “national state-public organizations” that are established by the state and are financed from the budget. The action of the Law “On public associations” doesn’t spread on them. It’s unclear what regulates their action, then.
The new law strengthens the control of the organs of the Ministry of Justice over NGOs. Now they can control observance by all kinds of laws by NGOs, including financial legislation. NGOs are obliged to give yearly reports about the activity of their organizations, the measures held, etc. There are also such new kinds of punishment as suspension of activity of NGO for 1- 6 months or liquidation of NGO for a law violation within year’s term since the issue of a warning by the registering body. Before that, NGOs used to be liquidated for a repeated violation committed less then a year after the warning for the first case. Besides, according to the existing practice, an NGO can be always liquidated for a gross law violation on the basis of Article #57 of the Civil Code.
On 11 October the representative of the Romany minority Mikalai Kalinin was officially warned by Minsk procurator’s office about the inadmissibility of violation of the law “On public associations”. In the warning it is stated that Kalinin, acting on behalf of the Romany Diaspora public association participated in the constituent conference of the international and inter-confessional initiative Agreement and singed the appeal to Lukashenka in defence of the chair of the Union of Poles in Belarus Anzhalika Borys.
On 29 October the police detained 110 delegates of the constituent assembly of the public association of independent observers Partnership in Tsentralny cinema in Minsk. The police appeared there 40 minutes after the beginning of the assembly and qualified it as unauthorized mass action. All the detainees were taken to Minsk Maskouski Borough Board of Internal Affairs (BBIA). The assembly organizers were kept in jail till the trial that took place two days later, on 31 October. On the eve of the arrest the chair of Partnership initiative Mikalai Astreika stated the assembly was held in connection with the new demands of the Ministry of Justice that prohibit the activity of unregistered associations.
Three 15-day arrests and one fine – that’s was the verdict of Minsk Maskouski Borough Court for Partnership administration. Mikalai Astreika and vice-chairs Enira Branitskaia and Aliaksandr Bondarau were arrested for 15 days for alleged violation of part 2 of Article #167 of the Code of Administrative Violations, active participation in unauthorized action. Mikalai Astreika was also charged with violation of Article #166 of the Code of Administrative Violations – resistance to legal demands of the police (he didn’t let them take his fingerprints). One more vice-chair, Sviatlana Konava, was fined about $400.
2. Persecution of human rights activists
Wife and husband Sviatlana and Aliaksiei Lapitskis, regional representatives of HRC Viasna in Zhodzina, suffered several attacks of unknown persons during the month. At first one of the flat windows was smeared with brown-black paint. Several days later somebody fired in the flat from a pneumatic pistol and then threw there bags with black paint. According to the preliminary police versions, somebody shot in the window on the level of the workplace six times from German pneumatic pistol. Sviatlana Lapitskaia thinks these attacks are related to the upcoming election and is an attempt of intimidation. The family has already applied to Zhodzina City BIA, which brought a criminal case upon part 1 of Article #339, malignant hooliganism.
3. Administrative persecution of public and political activists
In the evening of 7 October the coordinator of Zubr movement threw down from the roof of a house in former Frantsysk Skaryna Avenue a pile of fly-sheets with the urge to join the action of 16 October. When he came down by pompier ladder he was detained by a KGB worker. The police composed on him a report for anti-sanitation, that’s how they qualified throwing down the fly-sheets. Then they accused him in small disorderly conduct – he allegedly used foul language and didn’t react to the policemen’s words. He spent three days at the detention center in Akrestsin Street. On 10 October Minsk Tsentralny Borough Court sentenced him to the three days of arrest which he has already spent.
After the trial Mikita Sasim came to Minsk Tsentralny Borough Board of Internal Affairs. There he was detained once again and taken to Baranavichy military committee, where he received the summons to come for medical examination the following day.
On 11 September he came there and showed the medical certificates witnessing that on 16 September he received cranial trauma with brain concussion, after which he received a direction for further examination. The police refused to bring a criminal case against the policemen who beat Sasim. Now he is going to complain against this decision to Minsk Tsentralny Borough Procurator’s Office.
On 24 October the activists of Zubr movement Aliena Karpach and Natallia Ushko were detained for handing out the fly-sheets, calling on Belarusians to take part in the 16 November action of solidarity with victims of Belarusian regime. They were let go in 2,5 hours, after the police composed on them reports upon Article #143 of the Code of administrative Violations (anti-sanitation).
On 27 October the chair of United Civil Party Anatol Liabiedzka was detained at Minsk-2 airport on return from Strasburg, where he together with the leader of BPF Party Vintsuk Viachorka negotiated with the EU authorities, deputies of the European Parliament and representatives of the Council of Europe. The police confiscated the information he carried with him for “being dangerous to the political and economical interests of Belarus, as it was said in the confiscation report.
Minsk Kastrychnitski borough passport and visa service didn’t put a permissive seal for foreign travels (this anachronism still exists in Belarus) to Iryna Toustsik, coordinator of the human rights service of Zubr movement. Instead, the service officials said KGB had some questions to her.
Barys Borys is brother to Anzhalika Borys whom the authorities don’t recognize as the chair of the Union of Poles in Belarus. He works in Hrodna police and will stand before the disciplinary commission for… having failed to execute the order for taking his sister to an interrogation. Anzhalika Borys stated the head of Hrodna police thrice warned her Barys would have troubles if she didn’t stop her activity. A. Borys treats this situation as blackmail and violation of human rights.
4. Politically motivated criminal cases
The police arrested the entrepreneur from Vaukavysk Mikalai Autukhovich, known for his active public position and the two hunger-strike as a result of which he managed to defend the rights of his employees. Now he is charged with evasion from payment of 679 million rubles of taxes for the period since 1 May till 1 August 2005. If found guilty, he can be sentenced to up to 7 years of jail. Being kept in the investigative isolator of Hrodna, the businessman went on hunger-strike of protest.
5. Liberty of word and distribution of information
On 7 October in Hrodna the police detained Ivan Roman, correspondent of Salidarnasc newspaper, for handing out Narodnaia Volia issue devoted to the Congress of Democratic Forces, to workers of auto-supplies factory. The policemen detained him for about an hour and even composed a report for handing out the newspaper.
In the evening of 31 October in 15 kilometers from Hrodna the road police detained a car with three members of the United Civil Party and 3 400 copies of Narodnaia Volia newspaper in it. The police states they will return the newspaper only after the UCP shows them the way-bills and the agreement for distribution of the edition concluded between the UCP and the editorial board of the newspaper. Since 4 November Narodnaia Volia has been printed in Smolensk (Russia) as all Belarusian printing houses refused to collaborate with it. The main part of the circulation is distributed on subscription. The remaining several thousands are handed out free of charge by public organizations and oppositional parties. The main part of the confiscated circulation (3 200 copies) was the Saturday’s number of Narodnaia Volia.
6. Death penalty
In 2005 two persons were sentenced to death in Belarus.
The UN has pretensions to Belarus concerning the process of execution. Its special memorandum states that in Belarus it is equal to torture. The convicts are kept in separate cells. Any relations with the outer world are prohibited to them, even correspondence. They don’t know even when the punishment will take place. They live in fear of death. The same happens to his friends and relatives. They don’t know when he will be punished either or whether he has or hasn’t been. Neither will they ever know the place of burial.
According to the death penalty department of the Ministry of Internal Affairs, 126 death verdicts have been pronounced since 1997. According to the department, their number decreases: in the end of 1990-ies some 30-40 verdicts were issued each year, in 2003 there were only four of them and in 2004 – 2. Usually at least a year passes before the issue of the verdict and its execution. The convicts have the right to complain against the verdict to the Supreme Court. His last hope is the presidential commission on paroles. Each decision of this commission is signed by Lukashenka in person.
7. Torture in prisons
HRC Viasna periodically receives information witnessing systematic human rights violations in the country, for instance, the hard situation of prisoners in Mazyr experimental-exemplary colony. According to the prisoners’ witnesses, the “success” is achieved here with lawless and sometimes even criminal methods used by the colony administration during the last five years. In December 2000 workers of this colony violently beat about 100 prisoners.
Here’s a quotation for a prisoner’s letter: “Many of them received different physical injuries. After such torture four of the beaten hacked themselves and put metallic things into their internals to get procurator’s audience”.
The letter tells about tortures and other kinds of cruel and inhuman treatment used in Mazyr colony. Despite the demands of the Executive-Corrective Code of the Republic of Belarus, the victims can’t complain to procurator’s office and the authorities of the execution committees. The conditions of their life are terrible, there’s almost no medical care. Tortures, mass hunger-strikes of protest and conscious self-injuries are wide spread in Belarusian prisons.
Every Belarus prisoner who is deprived of material support from his friends and relatives is systematically underfed and freezes during the cold time of the year. According to the norms that were established by the Soviet of Ministers of the Republic of Belarus, Belarusian prisoners don’t receive even 40 grams of fat per day. Despite the norms of closing, regulated by the Ministry of Internal Affairs, prisoners receive mainly demi-season clothes.
Some paragraphs of the internal colony rules also seem to be a real torture. For instance, prisoners mustn’t wear overcoats since 15 April till 15 October. In the penal isolators they also have to spend nights without beds. As a result, many prisoners get ill with tuberculosis, pneumonia and other diseases resulting from undercooling.
Human Rights Center Viasna received the application of the prisoner Siarhiei Iahoravich Karytkin about torture:
“I was tortured by the colony workers, who injured my forehead when I was at the National hospital for prisoners. These injuries deformed my face. I have repeatedly complained to the supreme instances, but no complaints reached the addresses. At the same time, I am constantly put into penal isolator, though I have jumping blood pressure.”
The facts drawn present only sporadic evidence of the systematic violations of human rights in the prisons of Belarus.