REVIEW-CHRONICLE OF HUMAN RIGHTS VIOLATIONS IN BELARUS IN JANUARY 2006
On the eve of the presidential election in Belarus there started active offence against the opponents of the present regime. In January the police searched flats of opposition’s activists, several members of the initiative group of Aliaksandr Milinkevich were tried and a number of politically motivated criminal cases were brought.
This month there was signed the document about cooperation of the Ministry of Internal Affairs and the operators of cellular communications. As a result the secret services receive the possibility to limitless bugging of cellular phones. The document was signed by the minister of the Internal Affairs of Belarus Uladzimir Navumau and the Minister of Communications Uladzimir Hancharenka.
Against the background of the repressive tendencies in the society A. Lukashenka also signed the order for holding of the 3rd All-Belarusian Assembly on 2-3 March 2006 with participation of about 2 500 persons. The authorities state it is a unique measure on the whole territory of CIS countries, combining the historical experience of people’s gatherings with the contemporary democratic techniques. Among the discussed topics there will be the implementation of the social and economic development of Belarus in 2001-2005 and the same program for 2006-2010 and other questions of state and public life. Holding of this action two weeks before the election shows that Belarus again faces the situation when all state organs and mass media will participate in the agitation for the acting president.
1. Freedom of Association
On 24 January the Supreme Court of Belarus suspended for three months the activity of the public association “Belarusian Thought Factories” (BTF) because of absence of juridical address and its registration in residential premises.
On 24 January during the press-conference in Minsk the justice minister Viktar Halavanau stated the Ministry of Justice had “a list of demands to certain parties that weren’t implemented by them”.
On 26 January the Ministry of Justice gave repeated written warning to the BPF Party. This warning can bring the liquidation of the party. It was issued for the failure to execute the demands of the law “On political parties”. According to this document all parties must have their structures in the majority of the Belarusian regions and in the capital. However, recently the party structures of Hrodna and Homel region have lost their juridical addresses which became the reason to deprive them of registration. After this the Ministry of Justice warned the BPF. The Ministry of Justice ordered the party to find a way out of this situation by 1 March 2006. However, according to the new law a political party can’t be liquidated during the electoral period.
The Belarusian Union of Youth and Children’s Public Organizations “Rada” also faces the threat of liquidation. In the case it will be liquidated there won’t be left any large independent youth associations in Belarus. On 28 the liquidation trial started at the Supreme Court. The trial was initiated by the Ministry of Justice. The reason for such persecution became the idea of alternative youth policy that was proposed to the state by “Rada”. The Ministry of Justice considered it as interference with the internal policy of state organs.
The idea was voiced at the Forum on independent youth associations and initiatives that took place on 5 December 2005 in the Russian city of Smolensk. The authors of the Declaration about alternative youth policy – activists and leaders of the Belarusian youth movement expressed their concern with the situation in Belarus and emphasized that the youth policy in our country was completely monopolized by the state and youngsters were deprived of the right to chose and express themselves. At present “Rada” consists of seven national member organizations. The Union is a member of the European Youth Forum.
On 16 January the organization received summons to the Supreme Court. On 23 January the trial of “Rada” started. Next court sittings took place on 28 January and 1 February. The final decision will be most probably issued on 6 February.
On 31 January Minsk City Economic Court started the consideration of the suit of the main economic board of the presidential administration to the Union of Belarusian Writers. The UBW is charged with violation of article 971 of the Civil Code and illegal appropriation of financial means and is threatened with eviction from the House of literary worker in Minsk. Instead of paying the due rent for the office room, the UBW administration passed one of the halls to the main economic board. The verdict will be pronounced on 15 February.
2. Politically motivated criminal cases
At night of 28 December in Minsk the police detained Aliaksandr Kazakou and Dzmitry Zubro for making political graffiti (devoted to the Day of Solidarity that is held on 16th every month). The detainees spent more than two days in temporary isolator and then released under written undertaking not to leave the city. They were charged with violation of part 2 of Article 363 of the Criminal Code (resistance to the police or other guard of public order). This article provides up to 5 years of jail or personal restraint as punishment).
In Zhodzina a criminal case was brought against the activist of youth democratic movement Pavel Krasouski, member of the initiative group of Aliaksandr Milinkevich. The criminal case was initiated for grotesque cartoons of Zhodzina authorities in the bulletin “Nabliudatel”, edited by P. Krasouski. This publication was considered as violation of Article 369 of the Criminal Code (public insult of duty officials).
A criminal case was brought against the BPF activist Dzmitry Kaspiarovich. He was detained at night of 17-18 January 2006 on suspicion in outrage of the state symbols. According to Mr. Kaspiarovich, he really climbed the roof of Minsk City Executive Committee and really tried to tear up the state flag, considering him as “Stalinist’. The official state emblem and flag of Belarus were introduced in 1995 as a result of the referendum that was initiated by A. Lukashenka. These symbols are almost exact copies of the soviet ones (except for hammer and sickle). In 1991-1995 the state symbols were the historic white-red-white flag and “Pahonia” emblem. Now they are used by the opposition. Outrage of state symbols is punished with personal restraint upon article 370 of the Criminal Code. Besides, the suspects can’t be kept in investigative isolator before the trial. Probably that’s why Kaspiarovich’s actions were first considered as “malignant hooliganism” and then as “hooliganism”. The maximal punishment for it is 3 years of jail. The procurator’s office decided to keep him in the investigative isolator of Minsk. The case investigation was finished and the materials will be soon passed to the court.
A criminal case has been brought against the activists of “Young Front” Artur Finkevich and Aliaksei Ianusheuski. The police detained them at night of 30 January in Minsk for political graffiti. At present they are kept in temporary isolator. The case was brought upon part 2 of article 339 of the Criminal Case (malignant hooliganism), which provides up to 3 years of jail.
On 16 January 2006 the consideration of the criminal case against Siarhei Skrabets started at the Supreme Court. The political prisoner refuses to take part in the trial, stating his impeachment to the court. He was detained in Minsk on 15 May 2005 and accused in three crimes – cheating credits from the state, illegal business activity and preparation to give an exceptionally large bribe. Siarhei Skrabets went on several hunger-strikes of protest. The longest of them lasted for 40 days. Observers unanimously point at political motivation of his criminal persecution. In summer 2004 he took part in the hunger-strike of the deputy group “Respublika” who claimed democratization of the electoral legislation. He also was one of the organizers of the action that was devoted to the 10th anniversary of Lukashenka’s rule.
On 20 January the deputy of the Supreme Soviet of the 13th Convocation Andrei Klimau was officially warned by Krupki District Procurator’s Office (, he was sentenced to 1,5 years of personal restraint for alleged violation of article 342 of the Criminal Code (organization of group actions that violate the public order or active participation in them) and spends his term at the open colony in Krupki). The reason for the warning became his interview to “Euramost” internet site under the title “People often ask me about Milinkevich”. The procurator’s office believes Klimau grossly violated the demands of the Belarusian legislation, speaking on behalf of the unregistered “Andrei Klimau’s movement” and calling people to mass street actions of protest.
3. Administrative arrests of public activists
On 17 January 16 activists of the youth movement “Zubr” were detained by the police near Mahiliou. They were driving to Minsk on two microbuses. The road police detained the busses near the village of Knazhitsy, stating they had technical defects. The youngsters tried to go to Mahiliou on foot, but a number of police cars arrived and detained them.
The police also detained collectors of signatures for Aliaksandr Milinkevich. For instance, at 1.20 p.m. on 13 January at Zhdanovichy market not far from Minsk the policeman Siarhei Shymanski detained some collectors without any explanations. They were taken to the police station that was situated on the territory of the market. In half an hour the detainees were driven to Minsk Tsentralny Borough Board of Internal Affairs.
In Mahiliou region the police detained Milinkevich’s adherents in Mahiliou, Bialynichy, Horki and Kastsiukovichy. On 11 January in Bialynichy the opposition activist Mikola Miatselitsa was detained. The police stated they were informed that Miatselitsa handed out calendars with Milinkevich’s portrait. The composed on him a report for violation of part 3 of article 172 of the Code of Administrative Violations, kept him for several hours and then let go. On 11 January in Kastsiukovichy the member of Aliaksandr Milinkevich’s initiative group Uladzimir Papkou was detained. The police also visited another member of the initiative group, Barys Vyrvich, who lives in the village of Mashchanitsa in Bialynichy district. They stated the chair of Bialynichy District Executive Committee ordered them to drive Vyrvich to his office “for a talk”. On 12 January in the town of Masty (Hrodna region) the police detained Iauhen Skarabutan, member of Milinkevich’s Hrodna headquarter when he got out of the electric train. They said that a cellular phone was allegedly stolen from one of the passengers.
4. Rights of political prisoners in jail
The political prisoner Valery Levaneuski was taken to a penal isolator for 15 days for violation of the established order of filing of complaints and applications. According to the vice-chair of the colony, all complaints and applications are sent to the appropriate organs only after their examination by the colony administration, whereas Mr. Levaneuski tried to pass his complaint without informing the administration, using the assistance of a prisoner who was released from the colony.
5. Freedom of Conscience
In Belarus the collection of signatures under the demand to return to Belarus the priest Robert Krszyvitski is going on. The former prior of the Catholic parish of Barysau lived in Belarus for 10 years, but in December 2005 the authorities refused to prolong the visa to him, as a result of which he had to return to Poland. More than 1 000 citizens of Barysau, Maladechnka, Vileika, Salihorsk, Zhodzina, Mahiliou, Minsk and other cities have already signed the petition.
6. Liberty of speech
Independent printed media can soon disappear in Belarus. The statistics of www.mininform.gov.by lets us make some conclusions about the existing trend to reduction of their number. On 1 January 2006 in Belarus there were 1187 periodicals. Two months before, on 1 November 2005 this number was 1257, 779 of them were newspapers. So, during the last three months of 2005 the number of editions became 79 items smaller, 31 of which were newspapers. The registration department of the Ministry of Justice refused to give any information to the Belarusian Association of Journalists concerning the number of warnings, suspensions or liquidation of mass media in 2005 without written request submitted to the ministry by the organization.
According to BAJ, at present in Belarus there are a bit more than 30 non-state editions that are still issued and get to readers. About 25 of them are regional ones.
The information minister Uladzimir Rusakevich warned journalists about the use of internet. He said:
-- Internet is a very influential means of mass information, but judicially it is “nothing”. The minister doesn’t rule out that in the case internet editions distribute incorrect information their printed versions won’t be punished for it.
-- The trials will take place in any case, -- he said.