Press Conference of Belarusian Prisoners’ Relatives
Recently a group of relatives of the prisoners who received unfair sentences has held a press conference.
The lawyer Tamara Siarhei started the meeting with a quote from a letter of the chairman of the Supreme Court Valiantsin Sukala: ‘Consideration of each case demands from us wholeheartedness and high professionalism, because people’s fates, interests and rights stand behind each case.’ The topic of the press-conference was evaluation of the activities of the contemporary court system of Belarus: whether the court verdicts are always fair and well-grounded and whether the possible mistakes of judges are timely corrected.
‘The people who have gathered here today will tell their life stories. The stories are quite different, but one thing is the same – groundless and unfair verdicts to them or their relatives and reluctance of the officials to help them in restoring the justice,’ pointed Tamara Siarhei.
The stories were really quite different. Nina Miranovich from Zhodzina struggles for her son, who was sentenced to 30 years of jail for alleged murder of his former wife.
‘During the investigation he was kept nude in cell for three days. They beat him and tore one of his lungs. He could not bear it and took the blame. He thought that the court would restore the justice,’ speaks his mother, crying. According to her, the investigation had no evidence but his confession.
‘My name is Aliaksandr Krot, at present I have nowhere to life. In 2004 I received a disability as a liquidator of the consequences of Chernobyl accident. The same year my former wife deprived me of facilities and home with the court assistance,’ said another participant of the press conference. He still cannot understand why should one sacrifice his health in Chernobyl and then spend years struggling for his apartment.
Larysa Kachatkova’s son fell a victim to realtor agencies. The woman spent years trying to restore the justice in courts, in prosecutor’s offices, writing letters to Lukashenka. ‘I wrote to Lukashenka that our officials are much more harmful to the power than opposition, but received no answer’, she said.
None of the present persons managed to find the truth on their own. According to Liudmila Kuchura, ‘women receive come-offs from the officials of courts and procuracies to their concrete questions’ and in many cases the authorities have already stopped answering the letters. She also criticizens the work of Minsk UN office – she had submitted a complaint to its address, but it still hasn’t been passed to Geneva. She says that she has information about a number of cases when such complaints were not passed for consideration.
The prisoners’ relatives did not manage to find support and understanding in their country. Instead they decided to hold together in order to turn attention to their problems abroad. That’s why they held a number of actions, including the picketing of the Belarusian Embassy in Kyiv, protested in Russia during the summit of G-8, sent seven letters to the Russian president, asking him to facilitate their meeting with the Belarusian president. They wrote to the PACE chairman Rene van der Linden as well.
In Belarus these women participated in the peaceful protest action Social March (November 2007), wrote letters to the chairman of the Supreme Court Valiantsin Sukala, the Prosecutor General Piatro Miklashevich, the secretary of the Security Council Viktar Sheiman and the metropolitan of the Belarusian Orthodox Church Filaret. The latter was the only to promise to them telling Lukashenka about their problems.
Numerous applications to the president in person gave no result. On 9 January 2008 the prisoners’ relatives applied to the President’s Administration again, asking for personal audience with the head of the state. However, on 11 January they received a refusal, signed by Stanislau Buko, the head of the public relations department of the President’s Administration.
She thinks that if the country’s authorities ignore the problems of its citizens, the attention and support of other countries will be welcomed by the victims. ‘Our president did not meet with us, that’s why I am grateful to the US Embassy and president for having found time for us. I am grateful for their attention,’ said the woman.
‘In this case the authorities have to deal not with the oppositional politicians, in relations with whom they keep to a well-engineered line’, emphasized Tamara Siarhei at the end of the meeting. ‘Now the authorities face ordinary people who became victims and started organize themselves in order to get justice. Self-organization of offended citizens is a greater threat than usual opposition,’ she stated.
As a result of the press-conference it was decided to continue protest actions and appeals to state organs and foreign organizations. The idea to issue a compendium of the victims’ cases including all letters and come-offs received by them and their relatives.