Norwegian Helsinki Committee Sends Open Letter to Aliaksandr Lukashenka
Here's the full text of the letter:
HE President Alexander Lukashenko
The Office of the President of the Republic of Belarus
Fax +375 17 2260610
Oslo, 2 March 2006
The Norwegian Helsinki Committee is deeply concerned about consistent reports of harassment against young citizens in the Republic of Belarus. The reports indicate that the authorities of Belarus does not respect its responsibilities under international obligations to allow for peaceful political and social activities, including freedom of assembly, freedom of opinion and freedom of expression.
Active youth have noticed a significant rise in repressions against them the last few months, notably after the Presidential elections were announced in the end of December last year. A very high amount of cases of harassment, more than 300, have been recorded with only one youth organisation since last September. The young activists have been detained, convicted to administrative arrests, been fined, beaten by the police, threatened, been expelled from schools and Universities and searched. Even though there often seems to be a different pretext for the actions against the youth, like hooliganism, it appears that the goal of the harassment is silencing and stopping any activity that is critical towards the current regime. This has also been demonstrated by the fact that more than fifty peaceful participants in a picket were detained on February 16th of which five have been convicted to administrative arrests. Detentions are often carried out as so-called “preventive measures”, not as a result of any criminal actions.
We would like to draw your attention to the following concrete cases:
o Alexandr Kazakou and Dzmitry Zubro, "Zubr" detained for political graffiti, but convicted on article 363 of the Criminal code (resistance to police).
o Pavel Krasousky, a member of initiative group of Alexander Milinkevich, charged on article 369 of the Criminal code (public insult of officials) for satirical caricatures,
o Dzmitry Kaspiarovich Kasperovich charged on article 339 of the Criminal Code (hooliganism) for trying to remove an official flag from a public building
o Arthur Finkevich and Alexey Janusheuski, arrested in Minsk for writing political graffiti, charged on article 339 of the Criminal Code (malicious hooliganism).
o Timophey Dranchuk, Mikola Astreyka, Alaksandr Shalayka and Enira Branitskaja are detained on suspicion on violation of the newly adopted article 193 point two of the Criminal code; action on behalf of an unregistered organization (“Partnerstvo”).
The last two weeks five politically active students have been relegated from Universities:
o Sergey Marchik, student of Baranovichy state university,
o Lubou Kuchynskaja, student of Vitebsk State Academy of veterinary medicine,
o Evgeniy Skrabutan, student of the Grodno State University,
o Marina Tsvetkova, student of the Mogilyov Pedagogical University, and
o Venedikt Klauze, student of Belarusian Agrarian Technical University.
The current wave of repressions is not in itself a novelty, but rather another manifestation of the policy of Belarus authorities to suppress fundamental rights and freedoms. This policy has been demonstrated by the closure of numerous independent media-outlets, previous arrests and convictions on political grounds and by the closure of political parties and nongovernmental organisations.
The Norwegian Helsinki Committee calls on the Belarusian authorities to put an end to repression of its own population. All prisoners convicted on political charges must be freed immediately; criminal legislation must be put in conformity with international standards and with conventions of which Belarus is a party. In particular, the legislation must clearly secure the right to assembly and to free expression of opinion, even though the expressed opinion may not be shared by the Government of Belarus.
The Norwegian Helsinki Committee would like to draw your attention to Article 19 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) to which Belarus is a state party: “Everyone has the right to freedom of expression”. Furthermore, we would like to draw your attention to the ICCPR Article 21: “The right to peaceful assembly shall be recognized. No restrictions may be placed on the exercise of this right other than those imposed in conformity with the law and which are necessary in a democratic society in the interest of national security or public safety, public order (ordre public), the protection of public health or morals or the protection of the rights and freedoms of others”.
The Norwegian Helsinki Committee urges Belarusian authorities to bring both its legislation and its conduct in compliance with these commitments.
Bjørn Engesland Gunnar M. Karlsen
Secretary General Deputy Secretary General
The Norwegian Helsinki Committee,
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Belarus; fax (+375 17) 227 4521
The Norwegian Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg
The Norwegian Minister of Foreign Affairs Jonas Gahr Støre
Chairman of the Standing Committee for Foreign Affairs, the Norwegian Parliament (Storting) Olav Akselsen