Review-Chronicle of Human Rights Violations in Belarus for September 2006
In September courts continued considering cassation complaints of the persons who received sentenced under politically motivated cases. The investigation of the criminal case against the unregistered youth organization Young Front intensified as well. The coordinator of Young Front Zmitser Dashkevich was detained and put in an investigative isolator. Other activists of this youth organization were psychologically pressurized and interrogated. Searches were conducted at their apartments.
The authorities also continued detaining youth activists, both preventively and for ‘administrative violations’. Often such detentions were performed without any violation reports drawn. The detainees were taken to police stations. There the police took photos and fingerprints without giving any charges, which is a gross violation of the legal norms of the Republic of Belarus.
On 16 September the traditional Day of Solidarity was carried out in many Belarusian towns and cities, as well as abroad. In Minsk the action acquired a new format – this time the authorities authorized the Large Jeans Feast, but prohibited the procession from the Academy of Sciences to Banhalor Square where the events was to take place. In the middle of the concert the electricity was disconnected and the action was disrupted at its peak. A number of activists were detained.
The authorities still use the contract system of employment still serves as a means of legal lynching of opposition activists. For instance, the teacher of history, deputy of Babruisk soviet Aliaksandr Chyhir was fired because his contract was over. Mr Chyhir held an action of protest and was sentenced to 15 days of jail. He lost 10 kilos because the quality of nourishment there was rather poor.
- Politically motivated criminal cases
On 15 September Minsk City Court held a closed session to consider the cassation complaint that was filed by the activists of Partnership, unregistered public initiative on election monitoring. The court left in force the sentence to Mikalai Astreika and Tsimafei Dranchuk – 2 years and 1 year of jail respectively. Before the beginning of the sitting the court turned down the solicitation of Dranchuk’s lawyer for participation of his defendant in it.
The court ignored the lawyers’ arguments that the guilt of the defendants wasn’t proved. The judges also didn’t recognize as mitigating circumstances that during the investigation Dranchuk’s wife gave birth to his son and Astreika’s wife is expecting a daughter. Thus, the verdict came into effect. On 28 September Ts.Dranchuk was taken to Minsk jail #1 for spending there his term.
On 19 September Minsk City Court held an open session to consider the cassation complaint of the leader of the Belarusian Social-Democratic Party Hramada, former candidate to presidency Aliaksandr Kazulin whom Minsk Maskouski Borough Court had sentenced to 5,5 years of imprisonment. The court turned down the lawyer’s solicitation for participation of his defendant at the session. The College Board composed of Valery Kamisarau, Siarhei Khrypach and Liudmila Shapachnikava left the sentence to Mr Kazulin unchanged. In the night of 20-21 September Aliaksandr Kazulin was taken to Vitsebsk jail #3.
On 6 September in Minsk KGB conducted an illegal search at the apartment of the activist of Young Front Zmitser Khvedaruk. Mr Khvedaruk managed to escape arrest by jumping out of the window (his flat is situated on the ground floor).
On 13 September the assistant prosecutor of Polatsk District Prosecutor’s Office interrogated the political prisoner Pavel Seviarynets on the criminal case against Young Front.
On 14 September in Mahiliou the riot squad police detained 22 activists of Young Front at the organization sitting and confiscated all printed editions. None of the policemen introduced themselves. The photo correspondent of Nasha niva Iulia Darashkevich was made to erase all her photos.
Policemen of Mahiliou Leninski Borough Department of Internal Affairs conducted ‘prophylactic talks’ with the detainees, put down their passport data, searched their belongings and let them go without composing any reports. Only the leaders of the Young Front Artur Finkevich and Zmitser Dashkevich were detained longer.
On 15 September the leader of Young Front Zmitser Dashkevich came to the prosecutor’s office for an interrogation and was taken into custody. He managed to call his friends and tell them about it. Since that time Mr Dashkevich has been kept in the investigative isolator of Minsk City Executive Committee in Valadarski Street. On 22 September he was given official charges under article 193.1 of the Criminal Code – activity on behalf of unregistered organization.
The leader of the Belarusian social-democrats Mikalai Statkevich was sentenced to two years of personal restraint for organization of protest actions of autumn 2004 against the rigged elections to the parliament and referendum about prolongation of the presidential powers to Aliaksandr Lukashenka. On 4 September 2006 he was transferred to village of Blon in Pukhavichy district of Minsk region. Before this he spent more than a year in the city of Baranavichy (Brest region) where his old father lives. The official reason for Statkevich’s transfer is that he is registered in Minsk and therefore has to spend the personal restraint in Minsk region. In connection to the transfer Mr Statkevich was refused the early release. This question can be considered again not earlier than in March 2007.
2. Persecution of human rights activists
On 4 September the well-known human rights activist Aleh Volchak who heads the juridical service of the former candidate to presidency Aliaksandr Kazulin was detained on the border on the way to Poland. The border guards searched him and his car for about 3 hours. They confiscated from him two books Election of President of the Republic of Belarus in 2006. Facts and Comments. They composed a confiscation report, which the human rights activist refused to sign.
3. Violation of the right to association and peaceful assemblies
In the regions of Belarus the authorities invented different reasons for non-authorization of dozens of meetings For Freedom and Independence. The opposition intended to use these actions to discuss with the electorate social and economic issues of the regions on the eve of the election to the local deputy social. They also planned to invite Aliaksandr Milinkevich to some of them.
For instance, on 4 September Baranavichy City Executive Committee refused to authorize one of such meetings ‘because on 15 March a meeting with participation of Aliaksandr Milinkevich took place in the city’. The authorities of Minsk regions also refused to authorize the electoral meetings that were planned by the BPF Party. According to the organizer of one of the meetings, the BPF activist Pavel Krasouski, the main reason for the refusal was that the places the applicants defined for the meetings were situated at less than 50-meter distance from administrative buildings which is prohibited by the law On mass actions.
4. Administrative detentions and fines to participants of peaceful actions
On 3 September in different parts of Minsk the riot squad police detained youngsters in dark-blue T-shirts with the inscriptions 16 and Large Jeans Feast. They took them to police station, put down their passport data and let go.
On 9 September in Brest for posting of stickers For Freedom! Large Jeans Feast, 4 p.m., 16 September, Banhalor Square the police detained the youth activists Ihar Dzemidovich and Andrei Sharenda and the under-aged Mikhail Iliin and Dzianis Pradun. They took the detainees to Brest Leninski Borough Department of Internal Affairs and composed on them a report for distribution of printed production. Then the police videoed the detained persons and took their finger-prints. Then the minors were taken to a commission on affairs of under-aged persons. Resting on the police reports the police inspector V.Mazanets composed a report on violation of presidential decree #31, paragraph 1.6, littering the streets, for which one can be fined 70 – 350 rubles.
On 12 September the deputy Aliaksandr Chyhir was detained in his flat in Babruisk. The police composed on him a report under article #166 (disobedience to the police) and article #167.1 (organization or active participation in unauthorized action). The matter is that on 31 August in the center of Babruisk Mr Chyhir held an action of protest against his illegal firing from school – he chained himself to a lamppost opposite Babruisk City Executive Committee. The education department of Babruisk City Soviet refused to prolong the working contract to him, which can be considered as revenge for his active participation in the electoral campaign. Mr Chyhir has three under-aged children and is the only breadwinner in the family. During the protest action the police also lawlessly detained 9 journalists. At the police station they erased all photos. On 15 September the judge of Babruisk City Court Natallia Charapukha ruled to imprison MR Chyhir for 10 days.
On 18 September Minsk Partyzanski Borough Court sentenced to youth activist Mikhail Sharamet to 5 days of administrative arrest for ostensible violation of article 156 of the Administrative Code – disorderly conduct. Mr Sharamet was detained on 16 September while going home after the Large Jeans Feast action.
On 18 September the judge of Minsk Tsentralny Borough Court Ina Sheiko sentenced the politician Viachaslau Siuchyk to 10 days of arrest for participation in the defense of the tent camp in the center of Minsk in March 2006. It is the second time he is given such verdict. The first time he was detained in October Square in the evening of 23 March and taken to the surgical department of hospital #3 in Minsk. The doctors diagnosed a cranial trauma. After the discharge from hospital on 29 March he spent several months in the Ukraine. On 19 May the judge of Minsk Tsentralny District Court Aliaksei Bychko judged him in absentia and sentenced to 10 days of jail. On 6 September Minsk City Court reversed the ruling and directed the case for re-consideration. Nevertheless, on 12 September Mr Siuchyk was detained in the center of Minsk and taken to the jail in Akrestsin Street and then sentenced to 10 days of arrest.
Pressurization of close relatives is one of the means the Belarusian authorities use against their political opponents. In the beginning of September the mother of the well-known public activist Krystsina Shatsikava was summonsed to the pedagogical council of the school in Mahiliou where her grandson Iahor learns. At that time Ms Shatsikava was in the capital. After the council her mother phoned her. She told Krystsina that the social pedagogue accused her of being ‘anti-social person’ and called other participants of the council to raise the question about depriving her of the parental rights. As a result Iahor was very frightened with the pedagogues’ promises to take him to an orphans’ asylum.
6. Violation of liberty of word and the right to receive information
The department of ideological work of Brest Regional Executive Committee didn’t permit the journalists of the non-state newspaper Miastsovy chas to attend the solemn opening of the State University in Pinsk with participation of A.Lukashenka. In their answer to the newspaper’s chief editor Viktar Iarashuk the authorities referred to an order received from the presidential security service.
The editorial office of the non-state newspaper Tovarishch received official responses from the state monopolists Belposhta (Belarusian post) and Minabldruk (Minsk regional press). The first of the enterprises refused to include the edition into the subscription catalog for the first half of 2007 and the second refused to sell the edition at its kiosks. The reasons for the refusals weren’t explained. Siarhei Vazniak, chief editor of the newspaper, intends to apply directly to the heads of these enterprises.
Only state mass media were exhibited at the book and press festival that was held on 3 December in Pastavy within the frames of the Day of Belarusian Literacy. The chair of the department of ideological work Mikhail Kuzmich didn’t satisfy the request of the editor of the non-state newspaper Vitsebskiy Kurier Uladzimir Bazan to put the newspaper at the stand where the regional and district press of Vitsebsk region was exhibited. The official stated that the stand was for state editions only.
On 6 September the workers of the customs office at Tserakhouka transition point (situated in Dobrush district of Homel region) confiscated newspapers and books from Babruisk social democrats. ValiantsinPabortsau, the chief editor of the newspaper Pamiat i sovremenniki that is dedicated to public and political issues trafficked 150 copies of the edition from the Ukraine. The newspaper started being printed abroad after the refusal of Babruisk printing house to cooperate. Together with the newspaper Mr Pabortsau carried the advance copies of the books Why Lukashenka Loves Stalin and Legal Lynching (the chronicle of the trial over the former candidate to presidency Aliaksandr Kazulin). These materials were confiscated together with the CD records of the contents and the models of the books.
On 8 September the concert dedicated to the victory of the forces of the Great Principality of Lithuania over the Moscow troops in 1514 was to take place at the concert hall Minsk. Despite of the preliminary agreement the administration of the concert hall cancelled the concert at last moment.
On 11 September the non-state newspaper Bobruiskiy Kurier applied to the department of ideological work of Mahiliou Regional Executive Committee with the request for accreditation at the state feast Dazhynki-2006. The accreditation wasn’t issued because of ‘non-cooperation with the authorities’.
On 19 September the Ministry of Information suspended the issue of the Arche magazine for three months under article #16 of the law On press and other mass media and issued to it the second warning about law violations. It’s worth mentioning that according to the legislation two warnings within a year can ensue in liquidation of edition.
7. Politically motivated firings and expulsions from educational establishments
On 1 September the secondary school of the town of Milkaushchyna (Hrodna district) conducted the celebration of giving to it the name of the Polish writer Eliza Ozheszko. The event was attended by representatives of the Union of Poles in Belarus, the school’s friends from Lithuania and Poland and the general consul of Poland in Hrodna Andrzei Krentowski. On 4 September the schoolmaster Uladzimir Trakhimchyk was summonsed to the education department of Hrodna District Executive Committee and proposed to resign. As a result he had to compose an application for resigning ‘on his free will’.
The deputy chair of Rechytsa district branch of the BPF Party Kanstantsin Baieu received a letter from the administration of the regional Unitarian enterprise Beltekhinventaryzatsyia (Belarusian Technical Inventory). The enterprise administration informed him that his working contract ended on 3 October and wouldn’t be prolonged. The reasons weren’t explained.
On 8 September in Turau (Hrodna region) the chair of the local public-cultural association Ziamlia prodkau (Ancestors’ Land) Ina Zenina was fired from the position of methodologist of the local House of children’s and youth creative work. During the presidential election Zenina agitated for the democratic candidate Aliaksandr Milinkevich and nominated herself to a polling station election commission by collecting signatures of citizens in her support. She monitored the electoral process at the polling station. At that time she was told that she mustn’t support Milinkevich in the case she works in the state educational system.
On 22 September the administration of Mahiliou lyceum forced the parents of the last-year pupil Maksim Azarau to transfer him to another school. The reason was that on 14 September the police detained Maksim together with other Young Front members at the organization’s assembly. Another four members of the lyceum were warned by the lyceum administration.