Criminal Prosecution of Political Opponents Returns Belarus to Times of Soviet Totalitarianism
Paris, 16 May 2007, - The International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH) and Human Rights Center « Viasna », its member organisation in Belarus, express their deep concern about criminal prosecution of political opponents in Belarus.
On 8 May 2007, the judge of Savetsky District Court of Minsk A. Aniskevich announced that the criminal trial against five members of unregistered oppositional NGO « Malady Front » (Young Front) will be scheduled for 30 May 2007. Barys Haretski, Dzmitry Khvedaruk, Aleh Korban, Nasta Palazhanka and Aliaksei Yanusheuski are charged under article 193.1 of the Belarusian Criminal Code (the illegal organisation of activities by an association or a foundation, or participation in their actions) and face imprisonment for up to 2 years.
FIDH and HRC « Viasna » remind that the amendments to the Criminal Court of Republic of Belarus signed by president A. Lukashenko on December 13, 2005 and entered into force on December 20, 2005, introduced criminal penalties for activities carried out in the framework of a suspended or liquidated association or foundation. (See FIDH/OMCT press release « Lukashenko signs new amendements to the Criminal Code : members of independent Human Rights NGOs at risk », 14 December, 2005) These amendments already allowed to condemn a number of Belarusian activists. On 4 August 2006, members of NGO « Partnerstva » (Partnership) Cimafej Dranchuk, Aliaksandr Shalajka, Enira Branickaja, Mikola Astrejka, Zmicer Dashkevich were sentenced by Tsentralny District Court of Minsk under the same article of the Criminal Code. Branickaja and Shalajka were condemned to six months’ imprisonment each, Dranchuk was sentenced to one year’ imprisonment and Astrejka to two years. On 1st November 2006, the leader of « Malady front » Zmitzer Dachkevich was sentenced by Oktaibrsky Disctrict Court of Minsk to 1,5 year of prison. ( See « FIDH est inquiиte pour la sociйtй civile bйlarusse », 26 September 2006,) On 10 May, 2007 new criminal cases under article 193-1 were open against members of « Malady Front » Ivan Shyla and Jaraslav Gryschenia.
FIDH and HRC « Viasna » consider that article 193-1 of the Criminal Code of the Republic of Belarus which punishes membership in an unregistered organization blatantly violates freedom of expression and association enshrined in the Constitution of the Republic of Belarus and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.
FIDH and HRC « Viasna » urge the Belarusian authorities to drop the charges against Barys Haretski, Dzmitry Khvedaruk, Aleh Korban, Nasta Palazhanka and Aliaksei Yanusheuski and to release the other political prisoners currently jailed.
More generally, FIDH and HRC « Viasna » call upon Belarusian authorities to put an end to any kind of politically motivated prosecution and to conform with international and regional standards relative to freedoms of association and expression in particular the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, and the Document of the Copenhagen Meeting of the Conference on the Human Dimension of the Conference for Security and Cooperation in Europe (CSCE).