Review-Chronicle of Human Rights Violations in Belarus in July-August 2010

2010 2010-09-15T17:17:32+0300 1970-01-01T03:00:00+0300 en The Human Rights Center “Viasna” The Human Rights Center “Viasna”
The Human Rights Center “Viasna”

Socio-political life during these months was accompanied with escalation of the relations between Belarus and Russia including oil and informational war. The general situation of human rights in Belarus remained the same: restriction of freedom of word, administrative and criminal persecution of the opposition and forced dispersals of peaceful street actions.

On 29 July the Minsk City Economic Court found the agreement between Tina Vlati Ltd. and the research and educational institution Movement Forward legally void, which gave juridical grounds to dissolve the Movement Forward. On 25 August the cassation instance left the verdict standing. 'We have always understood that the authorities will take all possible measures to delegitimize us, make us act on behalf of an 'unregistered organization' and increase the pressure on us. However, we will make everything possible to ensure that not a single activist of Speak Truth! is in illegal conditions even for a day,' stated Uladzimir Niakliayeu, the head of the Movement Forward, within the limits of which the civil campaign Speak Truth! existed. Meanwhile, activists of this civil initiative were still vigilantly watched by the law machinery and their detentions for transportation and distribution of informational production were a usual practice.


1. Persecution of civil and political activists

On 16 July the Pershamaiski District Court of Minsk found youth activist Andrei Kim guilty of organizing an unauthorized action dated to the 600th anniversary of the Battle of Grunwald and sentenced him to pay a minimal fine (17,500 rubles or about $6), taking into account paragraph 6 of Article 6.5 of the Code of Administrative Offences (CAO).

On 5 August the Savetski District Court of Minsk punished participants of an action dated to the 20th anniversary of the Declaration of Sovereignty of Belarus with administrative fines under Article 17.1 of the CAO, 'disorderly conduct': Mikola Dzemidzenka and Katsiaryna Davydzik were fined 105,000 rubles (about $35), Andrei Kim and Viachaslau Siwchyk – 350,000 rubles (about $117).

On 24 August the Salihorsk District Court fined Young Front members Ryhor Astapenia and Andrei Tychyna 700,000 rubles (about $232) for alleged resistance to the police. The reason was that they intended to hold a contest of chalk drawings on the asphalt on 27 July to mark the anniversary of the state sovereignty declaration. Illia and Ivan Shylas were also detained at the action, but their trial was postponed.

On 25 August the Astravets District Court fined 1,225,000 rubles an activist of the United Civil Party Mikalai Ulasevich. He was found guilty of insubordination to fire inspectors. The activist disagrees with the verdict. He considers it to be a revenge of the authorities for his accusing them in rigging the local election. In particular, he addressed the appropriate state agencies with the demand to punish the members of the election commissions who were responsible for manipulations with the election results.

The previous year Ulasevich also asked the local authorities to register the district structure of the United Civil Party at his home address. Following the request, his house was examined by a fire inspector who said that the organization couldn't be registered there as about 10 norms were violated. According to Mikalai Ulasevich, fire inspectors kept putting new demands during the following visits, as a result of which he started writing complaints to their regional administration and even to the Emergency Minister.


2. Freedom of word and the right to impart information

In the beginning of July, a criminal case was instigated in Vileika concerning alleged libel in comments at an independent website vialeika.org. One of the users of the website, Mikola Susla, was summonsed for interrogation. His computer was seized and directed to expertise. Bear in mind that earlier there had been instigated another criminal case, concerning libel in comments at the website charter97.org.

On 9 July a courier carrying 297 copies of an independent Krychau newspaper Volny Horad that was detained by the police at the Krychau bus station. The main article of the arrested edition was NTV Ruined President Lukashenka's Reputation, with a commentary by Pavel Sharamet. The courier was soon released, but the newspapers were seized. The editors of Volny Horad submitted a written address to the prosecutor and the head of the district police demanding to return the unlawfully confiscated circulation and draw the guilty policemen to criminal responsibility. On 27 July the district procuracy informed the editor of the newspaper Siarhei Niarouny that the newspapers were directed to linguistic expertise that could last for up to six months.

In July, socio-political private edition Nasha Niva received two warnings from the Ministry of Information within a week in connection with articles about Godfather – the documentary about Aliaksandr Lukashenka that was broadcast on the Russian TV.

In the 22 July warning the ministry accused the newspaper of disseminating untrue information in the article Godfather Confiscated. 'According to Article 244 of the Civil Code of the Republic of Belarus, confiscation is a non-paid seizure of property from an owner as a sanction for a committed crime or other violation, whereas according to information of the republican Unitarian enterprise Belsayuzdruk the newspapers were directed for retail,' emphasized the ministry.

The other warning, dated 26 July, concerns the article BRSM Advertises Godfather Movie. 'According to information of the Belarusian Republican Youth Union (BRSM), activists of this association held an action on 6 July that wasn't aimed at advertisement of the mentioned movie,' reads the warning. 'Correspondingly, the published information doesn't meet the reality and denigrates the reputation of this legal entity.'

In July the Leninski District Administrative Commission of Hrodna fined Ales Kirkevich, Deputy Chairperson of the Young Front,  875,000 rubles (about $292) for distributing printed production within the guidelines of the YF campaign City Is Ours!. The fine was issued in the absence of the defendant. Kirkevich was detained on 3 July. Police charged him under Article 21.14, part 2 of the CAV (violation of the urban maintenance rules) and searched his apartment.


3. Freedom of peaceful assemblies

In July the Minsk City Executive Committee banned the pillow fight dated to the 600th anniversary of the Battle of Grunwald without offering any explanations. The event was initiated by the Historyka association. Despite the ban, the peaceful action took place near the National Library in Minsk. Many participants were detained. On 26 July in Homel the police detained about ten participants of an action dated to the 20th anniversary of the Declaration of Independence of Belarus, including a representative of the Human Rights Center Viasna Anatol Paplauny. Detainees were guarded to the police station where the police discovered 'anti-state information' in the postcards they carried with them. According to the human rights defender, the confiscation of the postcards was conducted with many violations. Two hours before that, civil activist Uladzimir Niapomniashchykh was detained in Homel for wearing a T-shirt with inscription For Belarus without Lukashenka. Democratic activists Yury Hlushakou, Vasil Paliakou and Larysa Shchyrakova were detained in the city at about the same time. The Minsk City Executive Committee also banned the leaders of political parties and movements to hold the Chain of Concerned People on 16 August. The aim of the action was to demand an international investigation into the disappearances of oppositional politicians Viktar Hanchar and Yury Zakharanka, businessman Anatol Krasouski and journalist Dzmitry Zavadski. The official reason for the ban was that there were some defects in the application. However, the authorities said nothing concrete about these 'defects'.


4. Politically motivated criminal persecution

On 15 July democratic activist and editor of the Boiki Kletsk bulletin, Siarhei Panamarou, found at the Minsk Region Procuracy that the investigation of his criminal case had been completed and the case had been passed to court. The was instigated under Article 369, 'insult of a state official' for a heavy critique of the authorities in the pages of Boiki Kletsk. The trial of the criminal case was to have started on 23 August, but Panamarou moved for Poland and asked for political asylum there. He intends to return to Belarus only after the change of the political regime.

On 6 August an activist of the Speak Truth! campaign, member of the Belarusian Union of Writers Mikhail Bashura was detained by the police and put him in a pre-trial prison in Minsk. On 16 August he was charged under Article 380, part 1 and 2 of the Criminal Code, 'production and use of forged documents'. Two years ago he was his wife's guarantor when she took a bank loan, and allegedly provided the bank with a note about his wage where his income was overestimated. According to the activist, he isn't an accountant and simply made a mistake in the calculations. The case was investigated by the Savetski District Police Department of Minsk. On 18 August Bashura was transferred to the Zhodzina pre-trial prison.

Speak Truth! activists believe that Bashura's arrest is connected with his civil activism. In particular, he ran for a deputy seat as a representative of the entrepreneur coalition at the latest local election. Human rights defenders also see a clear political motivation behind this arrest. The motions of the detainee for changing the restraint to undertaking not to leave gave no result.

On 31 August the Minsk City Court turned down the cassation complaint against the verdict of the Savetski District Court according to which M. Bashura was left in custody. According to his counsel Tamara Sidarenka, one could hardly find another person kept in a Belarusian jail on suspicion in violating this article of the Criminal Code.


5. Freedom of association

On 20 August the Brest Region Justice Department for the tenth time refused to register the regional civil association Brest Spring. The reason for the refusal was that the home address of a founder of the association was allegedly incorrect (the number of the house was wrong). However, according to the Chairperson of the association, Uladzimir Vialichkin, the information that was presented by the police department of the Brest City Executive Committee was wrong and the founder really lived on the specified address. That's why on 25 August human rights defenders addressed the Justice Department of the Brest Region Executive Committee asking to reverse the aforementioned decision, register the Brest Spring and oblige the police department of the Brest Region Executive Committee to correct the mistake in the information about the address of the founder.

According to a verdict of the Mahiliou Region Economical Court, the Mahiliou Human Rights Center was obliged to pay 13,658,000 rubles (about $4,550) to the Leninski district municipal engineering of Mahiliou as debt for office rent. According to a member of the Mahiliou Human Rights Center Barys Bukhel, the municipal engineering started counting the debt on 24 April 2008 when the NGO was deprived of facilities without being informed about it. The organization continued regularly paying according to the old tariffs for two years. The municipal engineering applied to court on the initiative of the estate department of the Mahiliou City Executive Committee. The Mahiliou Human Rights Center was established in 1998. The organization has been a member of the commission of the justice department of the Mahiliou Region Executive Committee on supervision of the region's penitentiary institutions since 2006. The commission is headed by a member of the human rights center. The organization actively participates in election campaigns.


6. Freedom of consciousness

On 18 August a mass campaign to protect St.Joseph Church was launched at a sitting of a civil group created by an unregistered party Belarusian Christian Democracy. BCD activists intended to collect several thousand signatures under the demand to return the church to believers in 14 cities of Belarus. Bear in mind that according to plans of the Minsk City Executive Committee the church was to be converted into a hotel complex, shops and leisure entertainment objects. In 2007, the head of the state was passed the request to return the church to believers, signed by about 30,000 people. Nevertheless, the repair and conversion works were started in the beginning of 2010.

On 14 August the verdict of the Minsk City Economical Court about the exaction of 249 million rubles (about $83,000) from the Protestant Church New Life came into effect. On 29 July the court found the church guilty of polluting its own territory with oil products. The church also was obliged to pay 8 million rubles (about $2,667) as a state fee. Church lawyer Siarhei Lukanin stated that representatives of New Life pleaded innocent and intended to appeal against the verdict. However, on 8 August the congregation of the believers voted against it, as it would be necessary to pay a large state fee because of the enormous sum of the lawsuit.


7. Deportation

In July the Human Rights Center Viasna followed the request of a Spanish citizen Inmaculada Gonzales and found a 28-year citizen of Cameroon Guy François Toukam who had been detained in the Minsk airport on 1 July on suspicion in forgery of the passport. Toukam had come to Belarus to play for the Norwegian club IOF at a match of the Cup of European Champions on Futsal in Minsk. We found that the detainee was kept in the delinquents' isolation center in Akrestsin Street. The Belarusian services made sure that the Cameroonian passport and the Spanish residence permit of Toukam weren't forged only in 44 days. The Cameroonian spent all this time behind bars without legal assistance. On his return home Toukam spoke about the prison conditions, battery, malnutrition, racist jokes of cellmates and having to pay $250 for 1.5-month rest in prison where he lost about 20 kilos. 'There's absolutely no respect for people. Foreigners have no rights. One can take a shower only once a week, and only in the case one demands it. I spent 44 days without walks. All my personal belongings were taken away. There are no beds and everybody sleeps on a wooden berth. Foreigners aren't kept separately, but have to share cells with tramps and insane people. There are visibly ill people among prisoners. Some of them spend 7-8 months in custody and cannot even walk when they are eventually released!'


8. Death penalty

The cassation complaints of death convicts Andrei Burdyka and Aleh Hryshkautsou were to have been considered by the Supreme Court on 30 July. On 14 May the both of them had been sentenced to death by the Hrodna Region Court. However, the consideration of the complaints was postponed to 17 September for unknown reasons.

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