Charter’97 Conducts National Award for Human Rights Protection in 2006
The steering committee of the Charter’97 has chosen nominees for the annual National Human Rights Prize for achievements in the sphere of human rights protection in 2006. The Human Rights Award was established by the Charter`97 civil initiative in 1998. The prize has been awarded to the prominent public and cultural figures, politicians, and journalists. Its laureates in the category ‘For personal courage in human rights protection’ are defenders of the tent camp on October Square in Minsk in March-2006; the former presidential candidate in Belarus, the political prisoners Aliaksandr Kazulin and Zmitser Dashkevich, the activist of the Belarusian independent trade union Alena Zakhodzhaia and parishioners who took part in the hunger strike in support of the protestant church New Life.
Tents on October Square in Minsk were put on 19 March 2006 as a protest against rigged presidential vote. On that day dozens thousands of Belarusians gathered in the streets of Minsk. Young people decided to stay on the square day and night, and to demand free and fair election. They courageously stayed there for five days, despite of the fact that they were blocked by task force officers who cordoned off the square and arrested people who tried to bring warm clothes, blankets, food and hot tea to the tent camp. On 24 March in the night the tent camp was pulled down, hundreds of people were beaten up and arrested.
The former rector of the Belarusian State University Aliaksandr Kazulin challenged Aliaksandr Lukashenka in the presidential race in March 2006. In his platform statement on TV he brought up such issues abduction and assassinations of opposition leaders and a journalist in Belarus, existence of the personal fund of Aliaksandr Lukashenka receiving money from Belarus’ arms trade. Kazulin, an active participant of protest rallies after elections, was arrested on 25 March during forcible dispersal of a peaceful protest. At the moment, Kazulin is continuing a hunger strike in the corrective labor colony Vitsba-3, demanding to consider the situation with human rights violations in Belarus in the UN Security Council.
On 1 November the Young Front leader Zmitser Dashkevich was sentenced to 1,5 years of imprisonment in the minimum security colony. The youth activist was charged with ‘activitity on behalf of unregistered organization’. The Young Front activists were trying to register their organization for three times, but the authorities refused. The Young Front leader considers his arrest to be politically motivated. He didn’t plead guilty. He is serving the sentence in the medium-security correctional labor facility #17 of Shklou.
The activist of the Independent Trade Union Alena Zakhozhaia, who works as an electrician at Babruisk-based Belshyna enterprise, continued a hunger strike of protest for 43 days. 54-year-old woman went on a hunger strike in response to violations of rights of independent trade union by Belshyna administration. All this period, except a few days in hospital, Zakhozhaia continued working.
More than 200 believers of the New Life Protestant church continued a hunger strike- fast for 23 days. They demanded Minsk authorities to give them back a prayer house and their land. For all this period the believers were not leaving the church building in their brave action.
Last year the laureates of the National prize if field of Human rights protection in the nomination ‘For personal courage’ were the Leader of Belarusian Social-democratic party (Narodnaia Hramada), coordinator of the European coalition Mikalai Statkevich, one of leaders of the Young Front, political prisoner Pavel Seviarynets, the leader of deputy group Republic, political prisoner Siarhei Skrabets, a Member of Supreme council, political prisoner Andrei Klimau and n imprisoned businessman Mikalai Autuhovich. Laureates in the nomination ‘For protecting Human rights’ were the Union of Belarusian Poles and the National Humanitarian lyceum.