Review-Chronicle of human rights violations in Belarus in May 2006
The month was marked by everyday detentions of youth activists taking part in various flash-mobs. Detentions were not always registered; in some cases only ID data, video image or finger-prints were taken. Numerous complaints were passed to the Prosecutors office. The applicants pointed out that special riot squad officers treated them rudely and used foul language. In some case people were beaten. A lot of people were stopped in the streets because of carrying a For Freedom badge on them. On May 29 a number of youngsters, including several under-aged children started a hunger-strike in protest against pressurizing youth activists.
On May 15 Valery Levaneuski, chair of Belarusian entrepreneurs strike committee was finally released from jail. He spent two years in prison for public insult of the president.
1. Politically-motivated criminal cases
On May 29 Siarhei Liashkevich, head of Aliaksandr Milinkevichs Shchuchyn Head-quarters, was sentenced to 5 months of imprisonment. The case was the first one after the introduction of the so called antiterrorist amendments, made on the initiative of the KGB. He was the first to be found guilty of violating Part 3 of Article 293 of the Criminal Code (Educating or other instructing of people for participating in mass disturbances, and financing or other support of such activity). The prosecutor demanded 6 months of hail for him. During the trial Aliaksandr Burdzei, previously trialed and found guilty of committing serious crimes, witnessed that Liashkevich had urged him to go to Minsk and take part in mass disturbances. Liashkevich has been under arrest for three months already, and the appeal will not be satisfied he will be released on August 14.
Mikalai Razumnou from Orsha is in Vitsebsk detention center. He is charged with slander against Lukashenka. Razumnou is one of the leaders of Orsha strike committee which organized mass protests of workers, including blocking railways. On March 24 during Milinkevichs meeting with voters Razumnou with over a hundred people present announced about Lukashenkas involvement in killing Zakharanka and Hanchar. The case was initiated by senior investigator Filipovich.
On May 18 Minsk Maskouski Borough Court sentenced an opposition activist Iury Radzivil to 3 months of detention. On May 2006 near the building of Kastrychnitski Borough Board of Internal Affairs his car was shot at by special anti-terrorism squad officers (it was Mikalai Karpiankou, commander of the special squad Almaz). A couple of days later he was charged with violating Article 364 (violence or threat of violence in connection to a policeman) and put to prison.
On May 15 Ihar Kashko, judge of Lida District Court sentenced Ivan Kruk to 6 months of detention. The convict had also to pay BYR 200,000 to the policeman Tataruk as a compensation for moral damage. Some days before the presidential election Kruks house in Astravets (Hrodna Region) was searched; his son was accused of robbery. The police came to find the mask used in the robbery, but then they started to confiscate periodicals and Kruks computer. When the police tried tot take the computer away Kruk broke it. He was charged with violating Article 364 of the Criminal Code (violence or threat of violence in connection to a policeman). The next day after he was sentenced to 6 months of arrest he learned that the robbery case against his 17-year-old son had been stopped.
On May 10 Minsk Pershamaiski Borough Court sentenced Artur Finkevich to two years of personal restraint for inscribing graffiti. He was detained by the police on January 31 while writing graffiti We want a new one!, Fed up!. For two months while the investigation was under way his actions were treated as hooliganism (Part 2 of Article 339). But later there appeared the sum of the damage to the building BYR 35,196,970 (Part 3 Artcile 218 deliberate destruction or anientisement of property resulting in grand damage), which is punished with 7-12 years of imprisonment. On May 10 during a second sitting Finkevich was freed from grand damage charge, while the sum of the damage was reduced to BYR 2,207,000.
On May 12 Mikita Sasim, a youth activist from Baranavichy, was sentenced to three months of arrest Article 435 (evading induction). The verdict was pronounced by the judge Kanstantsin Charkun. Before the trial Sasim spent two months in prison, so he will be released in a month. He admitted his guilt only partially, since he did not evade the army draft, but was in hospital instead.
He was charged with evading induction in spite of the fact that he was granted deferment because of a craniocerebral injury as a result of the battery by the police while participating in a peaceful action of protest. The Amnesty International declared Mikita Sasim a prisoner of consciousness.
Ex-candidate for the president A.Kazulin is still Zhodzina detention center. In his complaint he said that while he was being transported to the prison he was injured by hand-cuffs and treated rudely, but Minsk Zavadzki Borough Prosecutors Office did not find corpus delicti in the actions of Almaz special riot squad officers who detained Kazulin on March 25.
2. Persecution of human rights specialists
The Ministry of Justice applied to the Supreme Court in order to stop the activity of Belarusian Helsinki Committee. The Ministry of Justice charges the BHC with the following violations:
a) in the parliamentary campaign of 2004 the BHC delegated people who where not its members to act as observers;
b) the BHC offices for a long period of time used living quarters as their legal addresses;
c) the BHC systematically used a name that was not officially registered, as well as committed other violations for which it received four warnings;
d) the BHC was fined over BYR 155 mln, but failed to cover the damage.
3. The problem of disappearances of journalists in Belarus.
On May 30 during a press-conference in Minsk the General Prosecutor of Belarus Piatro Miklashevich announced that the Prosecutors Office continued searching Dzmitry Zavadzki. Andrei Bastunets, vice-head of the Belarusian Association of Journalists, says that the Prosecutors Office does not pay any attention to the courts verdict it declared him dead and started a murder case. At present Zavadzki location is not found, but the Prosecutors Office continues searching him. There have been a number of check-ups concerning the case, and they are still under way. said Miklashevich. The General Prosecutor seems to focus everybodys attention on finding Zavadzkis deliberately, as if he were speaking of a living person. Dzmitry Zavadzki, a Russian ORT channel cameraman, disappeared on July 7 2000. On March 14 Valery Ihnatovich and M.Malik together with other officers of Almaz were found guilty of kidnapping Zavadzki. Minsk District Court sentenced Ihnatovich and Malik to life sentence and the others to different terms of imprisonment. The ground for the crime was revenge.
4. Fines and administrative arrests of peaceful actions participants.
Stanislau Shushkevich, ex-chair of the Supreme Soviet of Belarus and leader of Hramada party, was found not guilty by Minsk Pershamaiski Borough Court. He was charged with violating Article 167 of the Administrative Code active participation in the action of solidarity with political prisoners on May 1.
On May 4 a number of activists who decided to express their solidarity with Artur Finkevich were detained near the building of Minsk Pershamaiski Borough Court Nadzeia Batura, Aliaksandr Kazulin (A.Kazulins nephew), Iury Talstoi, Aliaksandr Reznikau and Andrei Ihnatchyk. Two journalists Tatsiana Snitko and Natallia Valakida were also detained.
On May 10 six special squad officers rudely detained the leader of the UCP A.Liabedzka as he was approaching Kastrychnitskaia Square to take part in Iury Zakharanka memory action. He was taken to Tsentralny Borough Board of Internal Affairs. 10 more people were detained on the square that day. On of them Liubou Kuchynskaia was badly beaten by the police. The girl was taken to hospital, but before that she managed to tell that she had been beaten by six policemen.
On May 18 Maskouski Borough Court considered the cases of youth activists Artur Finkevich, Krystsina Shatsikava, Aliaksei Straltsou and Pavel Drazdou. The activists were detained near the building of Maskouski Borough Court for supporting the opposition activist Iury Radzivil who faced criminal punishment. The Judge Mikalaieu sentenced Dzmitry Dashkevich, Artur Finkevich and Pavel Drazdou to 15 days of imprisonment. Krystsina Shatsikava was taken to hospital with a stomach problem. Later she was taken back to the court. The human rights experts that saw her on that day say that she had obviously been beaten in the face. It also turned out that one of the detainees Pavel Drazdou had a broken finger.
Kanstantsin Usionak, who was detained on March 22 in Kastrychnitskaia Square and sentenced to 10 days arrest, want to bring to court the policemen who beat and insulted him in a police car before he was taken to the detention center in Akrestsina St. The boy had a T-shirt on with a phrase Stop Terror In Belarus on it. On of the policemen started shouting at him, then he hit him in the chest and tore off the T-shirt, while Kanstantsin tried to resist it. Then the policemen called by the other two Boxer, started to stick the torn T-shirt into the guys mouth, as a result of which he received a tongue injure. After that the policeman took scissors and cut some hair of the boys head. All this was accompanied by foul language and threatens. The incident was witnessed by the other detainees and two policemen.
After Kanstantsin was released from detention he filed a complaint to the General Prosecutors Office. Later he was informed that the complaint had been passed to Colonel Abramiuk. The other day he received the final reply saying that the facts did not prove to be true, and the policemens actions were found lawful.
On May 10 Liubou Kuchynskaia was detained near Kastrychnitskaia underground station. The policemen took her to the nearest yard and put the girl into a bus, where she was beaten. After that she was taken to hospital because of a blood pressure problem.
A.Liabedzka received a reply from the Ministry of Health Protection, where its vice-minister refused to give any information. He wanted to know the action on March 25 really claimed a life. He also asked to give information about the injured people.
6. Violations of Freedom of Speech
In May Uladzimor Rusakevich, the Minister of Information, announced that the Law of the Press would be altered gradually. He also said it would be done in the framework of the new information policy of the Belarusian authorities. The innovations will first of all be connected with Internet. According to some experts, this will be one more means of pressurizing Internet sites.
Minsk Prosecutors Office issued a warning to a famous journalist Iryna Khalip for an article in Novaia Gazeta, dealing with the falsifications in the presidential campaign in Belarus. She was warned that she could be charged with violating Article 369 of the Criminal Code of Belarus (discredit of Belarus) and face up to 2 years of jail; as well as Artcile 367 (slander in connection to the president) which may result in up to 4 years of imprisonment.
In MayMInsk Prosecutors Offcie issued a warning to Aliaksandr Milinkevich for an interview given to the Polish newspaper Rzeczpospolita. He is charged with distributing false information, discrediting Belarus and its governmental bodies. According to Part 1 of Article 369 he may be sentenced to 2 years of jail. In the interview Milinkevich said about the Belarusian authorities involvement in the death of the Polish diplomat Ryszard Badon-Lechr, who was found dead in his apartment in Hrodna on April 6.
He was also warned about his interview with the BBC, where Milinkevich used such expressions as falsification of elections, Lukashenka had no right to take part in the election.
7. Harassment of young activists by the Special Forces.
A KGB officer forced Andrei Kuzmitski to testify against a young activist Iauhen Afnahel, which would enable the KGB to initiate a case of involving an under-aged person in anti-social behaviour (Article 173 of the Criminal Code). The boy was forced into a car and put a bag on the head. Then he was put against the wall with a metal object pressed against his head and warned that the boy would be killed if he did not do what the officer wanted.