REVIEW-CHRONICLE OF HUMAN RIGHTS VIOLATIONS IN BELARUS IN FEBRUARY 2006
On the eve of the presidential election the harassment the opponents of Lukashenka’s regime acquired violent forms. On 21 February the unprecedented wave of pressurization and intimidation covered the country. Workers of KGB and police searched private flats and offices of public activists in Navapolatsk, Brest, Mahiliou, Zhlobin, Minsk and other towns and cities of Belarus. They confiscated the information carriers, computer equipment, printed production and documents. The formal reason for the searched was the order for searches that was issued by Minsk City Procurator’s Office in connection with the case that was brought on part 1 of article 367 of the Criminal Code - defamation of president of the Republic of Belarus in a public speech, printed edition or publicly demonstrated artwork. KGB workers detained and interrogated as witnesses dozens of public activists all over the country. They openly pressurized the detainees. The massive action of intimidation takes place against the background of libelous and tendentious information of the state mass media about representatives of the Belarusian democratic opposition and civil society. Belarus hasn’t experienced such informational terror since Stalin’s times.
Secret services also started to fabricate cases against NGOs, accusing them of anti-state activity. The KGB chair Stsiapan Sukharenka stated the opposition prepared to forcibly seize the power. According to him, after the declaration of the election results on 19 March the opposition was going to declare the election rigged. ‘The starting point could be the provocative statement of the leaders of the unregistered NGO Partnership who allegedly conducted parallel monitoring of the election’, he explained. To prove his words he showed to the public ‘the minutes of the exit-polls that were to have proved the falsification of the election’. These documents were confiscated from four detained leaders of Partnership. According to the minutes 53,7% of electors voted for Aliaksandr Milinkevich, 41,3% -- for Aliaksandr Lukashenka and 5% for the other two candidates. Human Rights Center Viasna considers such actions of the authorities as pressurization of the country’s citizens on the eve of the presidential election.
1. Right to association
The authorities pressurize the Union of Belarusian Writers, the oldest public organization of Belarus that has existed for more than 70 years already. On 12 January 2006 Minsk City Economic Court received from the Main economical board of the presidential administration the note where it was stated that the Union of Belarusian Writers occupied a part of the House of Literary Worker without any grounds, because the rent agreement between the organizations had already lost its force. The MEB also demanded from the UBW to pay more than 55 million rubles for rent (25 700 US dollars) for the fear of eviction. On 31 January the judge proposed to the sides to reach a peaceful agreement and sign another rent agreement. However, the writers don’t have such huge sum of money and are convinced of the illegality o the MEB claims. The court hearing that was appointed on 15 February was later postponed to 2 March. Besides, the Ministry of Justice has already submitted to the Supreme Court a suit for liquidation of the Union of Belarusian Writers.
The main pretensions of the ministry are as follows: the absence of the organization charter; the board with the emblem Pahonia on the House of Literary Worker; the use of the seal that does not meet the requirements - the name of the organization is not in he quotation marks - has been used for four months. The UBW is also accused of relation to a political action - holding of the assembly of the Belarusian Social Democratic Party Hramada in the café of the House of Literary Worker, which is prohibited by the law. In addition, since 2003 the organization had no premises for legal address.
The human rights organization Belarusian Helsinki Committee still has to defend itself from pretensions of the tax inspection. The organization received a copy of the order of the Minister of Justice Viktar Halavanau for its eviction. The order is grounded on the information of the Minsk Maskouski borough tax inspection according to which BHC didn’t pay 157 171 607 rubles (73 450 US dollars) of taxes to the budget. The minister also obliged the organization to take the measures for correction of this situation within a months’ term. The inspection imposed on the BHC a tax a large economic sanctions for the activity within the limits of the Program of technical aid TACIS. In 2004 Minsk City Economic Court defeated these pretensions. However, the Presidium of the Supreme Economic Court reversed this verdict and satisfied the protest of the first deputy chair of the Supreme Economic Court Iauhen Smirnou against the decision of Minsk City Economic Court that had already come into force. In the beginning of February BHC applied to the Procurator’s Office of the Republic of Belarus with a complaint against the illegal decision of the presidium and now is waiting for the decision of the Procurator General. Belarusian human rights activists are sure of the political motivation of the case.
In February the Supreme Court liquidated the Belarusian Union of Youth and Children’s Public Associations Rada, the last large independent youth association of Belarus. Rada included seven organizations that possessed the national status.
2. Politically motivated criminal cases
On 21 February workers of KGB detained the activists of the unregistered NGO Partnership Mikalai Astreika, Enira Branitskaia, Tsimafei Dranchuk and Aliaksandr Shalaika. Now all of them are kept in the investigative isolator of KGB. They are accused in organization of the activity of the unregistered NGO on monitoring of elections in Belarus. The KGB also confiscated all equipment and documents from the organization’s office.
The activist of Young Front Artur Finkevich was detained at night on 30 January in Minsk together with his friend Aliaksei Ianusheuski for writing political graffiti (He pissed us off!). A criminal case on part 2 of article 339 of the Criminal Code (malignant hooliganism) has been brought against the detainees. They can be sentenced to up to 6 years of jail in the case the final accusation keeps to the same article. Mr Finkevich is kept in the investigative isolator of Minsk, whereas Aliaksei Ianusheuski was released under written undertaking not to leave Minsk.
On 27 February Minsk Maskouski Borough Court sentenced the activist of the BPF Party Dzmitry Kaspiarovich to 5 months of jail. Mr Kaspiarovoch was detained at night of 17-18 January on suspicion in the state flag. However, he was accused on part 1 of article 339 of the Criminal Code (hooliganism). This article provides harder punishment and also allows keeping of the suspect in custody till the trial.
In Mahiliou a criminal case on part 1 of article 435 of the Criminal Code (evasion from military service) was brought against the activist of Zubr Iauhen Suvorau. Activists of Zubr are sure it is just a formal pretext for imprisonment of their friend. It is also confirmed by the fact that the military commission had found Mr Suvorau unfit for military service in peaceful time. Ia.Suvorau was detained on 14 February for hanging out a banner with the urge to take part in the Solidarity Day and charged with violation of article 156 of the Code of Administrative Violation (petty hooliganism).
3. Administrative arrests of public activists
On 17 February the courts of Minsk sentenced to different terms of jail a number of public activists. One of coordinators of the Zubr movement Aleh Miatselitsa was sentenced to 15 days of jail, the activists of Young Front Pavel Fihuryn, Barys Haretski and Aleh Korban - to 10 days of jail. We should remind that on 16 February, the Solidarity Day, the police detained 24 persons in the center of Minsk. The detainees came with candles to Kastrychnitskaia Square to express their solidarity with the political prisoners of Belarus and the families of missing public and political activists. A considerable part of the detainees were under age. There’s one more interesting circumstance. Earlier the police used to compose on the detained participants of mass actions reports for violation of article 167 of the Code of Administrative Violations (violation of the law on mass actions). Now all of them are charged with violation of article 156 (hooliganism). This tendency is observed in all courts of Minsk.
On 11 February Minsk Leninski Borough Court sentenced to 10 days of jail the chair of the coordination council of individual entrepreneurs Aliaksandr Manaieu, who was charged with organization of an unauthorized action on the territory of Chervenski market of Minsk on 10 February.
On 9 February in Homel region the liquidator of the consequences of Chernobyl accident Vasil Siliverst tore off from the agitation stand the portrait and the biography of Aliaksandr Lukashenka (the activity before registration of candidates is prohibited by the electoral legislation and the registration took place on 17 February). The police severely beat Mr Siliverst. They kept him lying on the snow, as a result of which he received a chilblain and was taken to a hospital.
On 26 February in the town of Belaaziorsk the activist of Zubr Artsiom Hovin was taken to a hospital with a cranial trauma. On 25 February the police detained him for a political graffiti. They severely beat him - twisted his arms and hit in the head. Mr Hovin was taken to the surgical department of Belaaziorsk town hospital.
Propaganda of anti-Semitism and Stalinism becomes a part of the electoral campaign of Aliaksandr Lukashenka. In February the state TV showed the series Spiritual War with glorification of Stalin and Lukashenka. The oppositional candidates were shown there with David stars on their foreheads.
6. Right to education
One of the leaders of the Young Front Siarhei Marchyk was expelled from the second year of the financial-juridical department of Baranavichy State University. The leader of Hrodna branch of Young Front Iauhen Skarabutan was expelled from the third year of the department of Belarusian philology of Hrodna State University. In both cases the reason for the expulsion was political activity.