Review-Chronicle of Human Rights Violations in Belarus, October 2006
In October the long confrontation of Minsk church Novaie Zhyttsio (that belongs to the Association of Full Gospel Christians) and the Belarusian authorities resulted in the mass action of protest of the believers – a termless hunger-strike that lasted for 23 days.
Politically motivated criminal cases were brought against the activists of the democratic movement Pavel Krasouski and Aliaksandr Kamarouski (the latter is the chair of the association of the invalids of Afhgan war). The court consideration of the criminal case against the Young Front leader Zmitser Dashkevich has started. 60-year-old human rights activist Katsiaryna Sadouskaia was sentenced to 2 years of jail for insult of honor and dignity of the president.
On 23 October the Council of Europe decided to extend its letter of Belarusian non-grata officials. The judge of Minsk Maskouski Borough Court Aliaksei Rybakou and the state accuser Siarhei Bortnik who had taken part in the trial over the ex-candidate to presidency Aliaksandr Kazulin, the judge of Minsk Tsentralny Borough Court and the state accused Andrei Mihun who had sentenced four activists of the election monitoring initiative Partnership to different terms of imprisonment were included into the list. Thus, now the EU list of non-grata officials from Belarus consists of 41 persons including the country’s president Aliaksandr Lukashenka.
In October the authorities declared the day of the election to local deputy soviets of Belarus, 14 January 2007. Short before this, on 2 October the Chamber of Representatives adopted in the first and the second reading amendments to some Belarusian laws related to carrying out elections and referenda. As a result organization and holding meetings with the electorate were subordinated to the regulations of the law On mass actions. It means that the organizers of such meetings must apply to executive committees for authorization. Otherwise the meetings will be considered as unauthorized mass actions with all ensuing consequences. The order of production of agitation materials for elections of all levels has changed as well – now they can be produced only on the territory of Belarus. No representatives of oppositional parties were included into territorial and circuit election commissions.
- Persecution of political leaders and human rights activists
The leader of the Belarusian Trade Union of Radio-electronic Trade Aliaksandr Bukhvostau didn’t manage to get to one of Lithuania’s health centers where he intended to improve his health. The Belarusian border guards detained him on the border. They searched him for two hours and even told him to undress. They didn’t find anything wrong, but by the time Mr Bukhvostau was let go his bus drove away.
On 14 October near Mahiliou the road police detained the car of the vice-head of the United Civil Party Ihar Shynkaryk. The car was released only after the end of the sanctioned meeting of solidarity with Aliaksandr Kazulin and other political prisoners. The police checked whether the car wasn’t stolen. Then they tried to accuse Mr Shynkaryk of using unregistered symbols, for which they took the officially registered flag of the United Civil Party. Finally they returned to him the technical passport and the driver’s license, without explaining why he was detained for 1.5 hours.
- Politically motivated criminal cases
On 4 October in Zhodzina the police searched the flat of Pavel Krasouski, activist of the unregistered organization Young Front. They confiscated one computer block, discs and printed editions. The activist was escorted to Vitsebsk and interrogated about the explosions that took place in Vitsebsk on 14 and 22 October 2005. After the interrogation the police made him a suspect in the criminal case that had been brought on the fact of explosions under article 193, part 2 of the Criminal Code (crime, aimed at murder in a terrible way). This is one of the articles which provides death sentence as maximal punishment. Several days later Mr Krasouski was also charged with violation of article 139, part 2, paragraphs 7, 8 and 16 (murder that is accompanied with raping or violent actions of sexual nature; with the aim to conceal another crime or ease its commitment). The investigator of the case threatened to deprive Krasouski’s lawyer Pavel Sapelka of license.
On 15 October the legally allowed term of detention ended and Pavel Krasouski was released from Vitsebsk isolator. However, the investigative measures weren’t stopped.
The Belarusian authorities also brought a criminal case against Aliaksandr Kamarouski, the chair of the republican public association of invalids of Afghan war. He was detained at night of 21-22 October on the border when the customs officers allegedly found 500 forged US dollars in his cap. Mr Kamarouski was going to Poland to meet with representatives of partner organization. A criminal case was brought against him. On 22 October the police sealed Zhodzina office of the association of invalids and on 23 October searched it. They confiscated about 300 copies of the non-state newspaper Narodnaia volia, computers and 300 forged US dollars. Mr Kamarouski wrote articles in which he criticized the Belarusian authorities and the president and proposed to create an oppositional party consisting of veterans of Afghan war. These articles were published in Narodnaia volia and a number of electronic newspapers. Aliaksandr Kamarouski believes that it was the reason for the provocation against him.
On 20 October the political prisoner Aliaksandr Kazulin started a hunger-strike in order to make the UN Security Council consider the situation in Belarus and turn attention to the lawless actions of the authorities. The political prisoner Siarhei Skrabet, former deputy of the Chamber of Representatives of the National Assembly of Belarus, resumed his hunger-strike as well.
On 23 October Minsk Leninski Borough Court sentenced the human rights activist Katsiaryna Sadouskaia to two years of jail. 60-year-old pensioner was found guilty of violation of part 2 of article 368 of the Criminal Code (defamation of president), article 389 (threat to judge or associate judge) and 391 (insult of judge or associate judge). According to the court ruling she also has to pay 4 million rubles as moral compensation to judges of Kirau District Court and the court fees.
On 30 October the closed trial over the leader of the Young Front Zmitser Dashkevich took place. Mr Dashkevich was charged under article 193.1 of the Criminal Code, ‘activity on behalf of unregistered organization’. Before him four members of the election monitoring initiative Partnership were sentenced to different terms of imprisonment under this article. Since 15 September Zmitser Dashkevich was kept in the investigative isolator of the main department of internal affairs of Minsk City Executive Committee in Valadarski Street in Minsk.
- The right to association
On 17 October the Supreme Court left in force the warning to the Party of Communists of Belarus that had been issued by the Ministry on Justice on 25 August. The reason for the warning was the refusal of the PCB to present to the ministry the lists of the party members. The party administration considered this demand as groundless and also said that the authorities could use the lists for pressurization of the party members.
The administration of Belnaftakhim (Belarusian Oil Chemistry) enterprise refused to provide an office to the primary unit of the Free Trade Union of Belarus (FTUB) to workers of the public corporation Polatsk-Shklovalakno (Polats Fiberglass). As a result the trade union was left without legal address and can’t receive the state registration.
Since 3 October Alena Zakhozhaia, vide-chair of the independent trade union of the public corporation Belshyna Belarusian Tyre), has kept a hunger-strike at her working place. She demanded from the enterprise administration to provide a legal address to the trade union (so that it could be registered as a juridical body) and to pay the unpaid wage bonuses and health recovery aid to members of the independent trade union (other workers had received the money).
- Administrative detentions, arrests, unsanctioned searches
On 16 October, the traditional Solidarity Day the activist Zmitser Paloika photographed the appropriate street action in Baranavichy. Suddenly he was seized by two policemen. They pulled him away, beat and then took to a police station. They confiscated from him photo-camera and some other belongings. They kept him in the station at nighttime and composed a violation report. There they wrote that he used four-letter words and initiated a fight with them. As a result of this report Mr Paloika was fined 155 000 rubles (about 70 US dollars) by an administrative commission.
On 26 October the member of the Belarusian Social-Democratic Party (Hramada) Aliaksandr Abramovich was detained near the building of the presidential administration for holding the poster ‘Freedom to Kazulin and other political prisoners’. Together with him the police detained the correspondent of Radio Liberty Halina Abakunchyk and the correspondent of Belorusy i rynok weekly Kseniia Alimava. The journalists were soon released, whereas Mr Abramovich was sentenced to 15 days of jail.
On 27 October Sviatlana Matskevich, wife of the Belarusian philosopher Uladzimir Matskevich who took part in the hunger-strike in defense of the New life church, was fined about 70 US dollars for ‘disobedience to the police’ by the judge of Minsk Maskouski Borough Court Viktar Kazak.
In the evening of 30 October workers of Brest Maskouski Borough Department of Internal Affairs with its chair Iu.Stsiapusiuk at the head conducted an illegal search at the office of the public organization Dzedzich. Only the chair of Brest branch of the Belarusian People’s Front Zmitser Shymanski was present during the search. They presented to him a sanction for examination and stated they came there after receiving an anonymous telephone call informing them about a fight in the office. As a result of the search the police confiscated 15 applications about joining the BPF, 500 blanks of such applications, 800 copies of the Report of the UN Committee on Human Rights in which the human rights violations in Belarus were analyzed. They also exacted about 50 copies of the bulletin Naviny BNF (BPF News), Moladz BPF (BPF Youth), Dzedzich and other editions.
- The right to education in mother-tongue
On 3 October the leaders of the public association Frantsishak Skaryna Belarusian Language Society (BLS) filed a letter with the head of the parliament Siarhei Sidorski with the proposal to reverse the decision of the Ministry of Education about the transfer of teaching of history and geography of Belarus in secondary schools to Russian language. The BLS chair Aleh Trusau pointed that by this decision the ministry was breaking the well-developed system of teaching of history and geography in Belarus. He said that the teachers will have to take much effort for accommodation to this change.
- Speech liberty and the right to distribute information
The rector of Brest State University Miachyslau Chasnouski refused to inform the correspondent of the non-state newspaper Brestskiy kurier Alena Cheb about the increase of the education fees at different specialities of the university. Instead of answering to her question he said: ‘You are not an economical newspaper and have no need to know it’.
Baranavichy housing economy refused to answer a written inquiry of the non-state newspaper Intex-press. The vice-chair on informational work Volha Kudlasevich said she wasn’t going to receive any inquiries because she was very busy and the enterprise cooperated only with state editions.
It is prohibited to sell the non-state newspaper Inform-progulka in the kiosk of Brestablsaiuzdruk that is situated in the building of Luninets District Executive Committee. The prohibition was issued by the head of the DEC despite the fact that the newspaper has an official contract for it distribution by Brestablsaiuzdruk.
- Politically motivated firings and expulsions from educational establishments
On 20 October Babruisk City Court refused to rehabilitate the deputy of Babruisk Deputy Soviet Aliaksandr Chyhir at work. The former teacher of history filed a complaint with Mahiliou Regional Court. He has three children and has already started working in the non-state newspaper Babruiski kuryier in order to support the family. The religious Brotherhood of three Vilnius martyrs has recently given material aid to Chyhir’s family as well.
On 26 October the youth leader Ihar Barysau, a member of Mahiliou regional committee of the Belarusian Social-Democratic Party (Hramada), was fired from Mahiliouliftmash (Mahiliou Elevators) where he worked as an engineer. The legal ground for it was that the term of the working contract was over. Before the firing the factory administration pressurized the activist and threatened to fire him for ‘violations of the Working Code’.
On 30 the commission of Svetlahorsk State Industrial Technical College decided to expel the Young Front activist Siarhei Huminski from the educational establishment. The official reasons were violations of the internal regulations and missing of classes. In September the college director threatened the student with exclusion for his political activity.