Review-Chronicle of Human Rights Violations in Belarus in July-August 2012

2012 2012-09-12T23:09:00+0300 1970-01-01T03:00:00+0300 en The Human Rights Center “Viasna” The Human Rights Center “Viasna”
The Human Rights Center “Viasna”

Review-Chronicle of Human Rights Violations in Belarus in 2012

In July and August, the human rights situation in Belarus deteriorated. Hopes for an easing of the political climate at the time of the parliamentary election campaign were not justified. None of the thirteen political prisoners were released. Moreover, new names were added to the list.

Vasil Parfiankou, who in February 2011 had been sentenced to four years in prison for being involved in a protest against electoral fraud during the presidential election, and pardoned by the President’s decree in August of that year, was sent to serve his new sentence of six months in jail for breach of preventive supervision determined by the court. Journalist Anton Surapin and real estate agent Siarhei Basharymau were still kept in jail on charges of aiding to "illegal crossing of the state border of the Republic of Belarus". The former had posted photographs of a Swedish aircraft flying in the Belarusian airspace, and the latter leased an apartment to Swedish citizens. Political prisoner Zmitser Dashkevich, who was serving a sentence of two years in prison on charges of malicious hooliganism on the eve of the 2010 presidential election, was sentenced to another year in prison for "repeated violation of the requirements of the prison administration" (“willful disobedience to the prison administration that executes the sentence of imprisonment”). Since late June, President Lukashenka has failed to consider the clemency petitions filed by political prisoners Siarhei Kavalenka and Pavel Syramalotau. In reality, all political prisoners had the status of "persistent violators of the regime of punishment", which deprived them of any hope to amnesty and release on parole, they are regularly placed in solitary confinement and subjected to other measures of harassment in places of detention.

The Swedish action, which resulted in the arrest of A. Surapin and S. Basharymau, caused a diplomatic crisis between Belarus and Sweden, whose climax was the expulsion of the Swedish ambassador, recall of the Belarusian one in Stockholm, and the eventual suspension of both embassies. This conflict became a reason to convene on 10 August an extraordinary meeting of the EU Political and Security Committee, whose head Mr. Olof Skoog said in the follow-up of the meeting that the European Union intended to review the restrictive measures against Belarus in October, noting that this situation affected not only the relations between Belarus and Sweden, but its relationship with the EU.

At the same time, the Secretary General of the Council of Europe Mr. Thorbjorn Jagland called on the Belarusian authorities to reconsider the decision to close the Embassy of Sweden and return to dialogue: "President Lukashenka's decision last Friday to expel Sweden's ambassador to Belarus over his support for democracy and human rights in the country will not help to end Belarus' isolation from the rest of Europe. Such a situation unfortunately shows the continued disregard of the authorities in Belarus for basic democratic principles and human rights." Further on, the CE Secretary General stressed that the Council of Europe as "the guardian of democracy and human rights, will continue to do all it can to promote human rights and democracy in Belarus.”

This is a very important statement, because the development of the human rights situation has been traditionally considered by the Belarusian authorities only at the political level of the country’s relations with the EU and other European countries. From this point of view, the appointment of Uladzimir Makei (known as “the architect of the liberalization of 2008-2010” and one of the most active negotiators with the West) as the Minister of Foreign Affairs that came on 20 August was viewed by some experts as a signal of a possible resumption of political dialogue with the countries of Europe. This view was reinforced by the words of A. Lukashenka, who said that “work to improve the positive perception of Belarus abroad, to achieve better recognition of the country in the world requires a breakthrough.” It is worth noting that the EU has repeatedly stated that Europe would not change its tough policy of limited relations with the official Minsk as long as political prisoners remain behind bars.

July and August were marked by the continued practice of arbitrary detentions and arrests of civil and political activists on trumped-up charges. The traditional forms of harassment were followed by repressive measures related to the election campaign: especial pressure was put to supporters of election boycott, participants of the election campaign and observers. Executive authorities across the country banned public events aimed at informing about the non-free nature of the elections, as well as calling for a boycott.

Particular pressure was used against human rights defenders and human rights organizations. The authorities did not authorize any of the actions of solidarity with the imprisoned leader of the Human Rights Center "Viasna" Ales Bialiatski and other political prisoners, planned by human rights activists across the country. Means of harassment of human rights defenders varied: abductions and arbitrary detentions, summons and preventive supervision by the KGB, administrative proceedings, initiation of organizations’ dissolution. The only positive indicator in relation to the human rights defenders was their exclusion from the list of persons prohibited from leaving the country.

Pressure and harassment was still used against journalists, including the common practice of criminal prosecution for expressing opinions, detentions and administrative penalties for the performance of their professional duties, issuance of prosecuting warnings.

An important assessment of the human rights situation in Belarus was the Resolution adopted by the Human Rights Council on 5 July, which called on the Belarusian authorities to "immediately and unconditionally release all political prisoners", to conduct “a full and transparent investigation into all allegations of torture and ill-treatment of political prisoners”, “to immediately put an end to the practice of administrative detention of opposition and civil society activists, journalists and human rights defenders and not to interfere with their free movement, including travel outside the country.” The document called on the official Minsk to implement all the recommendations contained in the Report on the situation in Belarus of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, which was presented at the Council’s session on 27-28 June. The same resolution introduced the mandate of the Special Rapporteur, who was authorized to maintain an ongoing dialogue with Belarus on the situation of human rights in the country, to provide a competent analysis of the current problems, which could help to improve the implementation and protection of human rights in Belarus in accordance with the international standards recognized by the country. In turn, the Permanent Representative of Belarus to the UN in Geneva Mikhail Khvastou accused the European Union, who initiated the mandate of the Special Rapporteur, of the political motivation of the decision, saying that “the motives of the EU initiative are in no way related to human rights. By doing this, the EU promotes to the Council its political agenda and makes the High Commissioner act for that purpose. The main task that the EU charges the mandate with is deliberate anti-government activities in Belarus under the cover of the UN.” Khvastou then said that Belarus did not recognize the Special Rapporteur and would not interact with him or her.

At the same time, the Belarusian human rights community welcomed the decision of the Human Rights Council as very positive, describing it as a clear signal to the international community to support the rights and freedoms in the country. According to human rights defenders, the Council pointed out that torture and impunity, trumped-up cases and violations of freedom of speech, freedom of association and other gross violations of human rights will not be accepted with silence and indifference, while the voices of the civil society activists will become more audible.

Political prisoners, politically motivated criminal prosecution

On 6 July the KGB arrested and took into custody in the KGB remand prison real estate agent Siarhei Basharymau, and on July 13 – photographer Anton Surapin. On 16 and 23 July, respectively, they were charged under Par. 6 Art. 16 (“assistance in committing a crime”) and Par. 3 Art. 371 (“illegal crossing of the state border of the Republic of Belarus”) of the Criminal Code. This was the KGB’s reaction to Anton Surapin’s publication of a number of photos of a Swedish aircraft flying in the Belarusian airspace, which was held on 4 July. Even more absurd were the charges brought against Siarhei Basharymau, who let an apartment to Swedish citizens, for alleged aiding to the crossing of the state border of the Republic of Belarus. These arrests were seen as an attempt to shift the responsibility for improper protection of state borders and the country’s airspace on ordinary citizens. Information of the charges against A. Surapin and S. Basharymau appeared on the official website of the KGB only on 7 August. It noted that “in the interests of an unbiased investigation of the criminal case and figuring out all details of intrusion into the airspace of the Republic of Belarus and the Republic of Lithuania, the State Security Committee offers the Swedish citizens, who took part in organizing and performing the illegal border overflying, to arrive in Minsk as suspects to take part in the investigative procedures, including face-to-face interrogations. Final procedural decisions in relation to the Belarusian citizens involved in the criminal case will be made after that." By releasing the statement, the KGB confirmed that A. Surapin and S. Basharymau were hostages in the case. On 17 August A. Surapin and S. Basharymau were released on recognizance. The KGB’s statement said that “Siarhei Basharymau and Anton Surapin remain in the status of accused, because the necessary investigations, including the holding of a confrontment, were not carried out due to the refusal of the Swedish subjects to appear at the Investigation Department. Final proceedings in respect of the citizens of Belarus, accused in this criminal case, will be taken only after the full understanding of the circumstances of the investigated crime.”

In early July Mikalai Statkevich served a 10-day penalty in solitary confinement in prison No. 4 in Mahiliou. The prisoner continued to be subjected to pressure from the administration (and other prisoners who cooperated with the administration) forcing him to write a petition for pardon. M. Statkevich received the status of “a persistent violator of the regime”, he was not allowed any visits by his family, was deprived of food parcels and walks. On 12 July the maximum security regime of detention was extended on the political prisoner. On 12 August Mikalai Statkevich turned 56.

On 7 July it was reported that Siarhei Kavalenka had been recognized "a persistent violator of the regime" by the administration of Mahiliou penal colony No. 19, where he is serving his sentence. The clemency petition, written by Kavalenka in late June to the head of state, without admitting his guilt, was not considered until the end of August. From 28 July to 14 August, the political prisoner was held in a penal cell, where he was placed after a long visit with his relatives. After 16 days in the punishment cell S. Kavalenka was taken to the medical unit in a deteriorating state of health.

In July and August the authorities continued to put pressure to the imprisoned head of the Human Rights Center “Viasna” Ales Bialiatski. A person released from the prison in Babruisk said that, among other things, the administration punished the prisoners for merely talking with Bialiatski – they faced a transfer to another unit or denial of benefits. On 4 July Partyzanski District Court of Minsk ruled to seize the apartment occupied by the office of Human Rights Center “Viasna” for 12 years and registered as Ales Bialiatski’s real estate, as well as part of the human rights defender’s private property. On 17 July Minsk City Court dismissed Ales Bialiatski’s appeal against an earlier decision of Pershamaiski District Court of Minsk to exact from him a penalty in the amount of 140 million rubles for the late payment of debts. The decision to collect the fine was issued by Judge Volha Bahamya on 29 March in a civil lawsuit by Pershamaiski District Tax Inspection; neither Ales Bialiatski nor his family knew anything about the civil suit, the human rights defender’s lawyer was not invited to the trial, either. On 5 August the administration of Babruisk penal colony No. 2 imposed another penalty on Ales Bialiatski for taking a loaf of bread out of the dining room; a week before he was charged with curtaining his bed. For these violations Ales Bialiatski was deprived of regular food parcels and a short visit with family, scheduled on 15 August. The complaint to the Department of Corrections filed by A. Bialiatski’s wife against the severity and the disproportionate amount of punishment remained unmet and the human rights defender remained in the status of "a persistent violator of the regime".

On 23 July the mother of political prisoner Aliaksandr Frantskevich, who is serving a sentence in colony No. 22 near Ivatsevichy, said that the administration was putting pressure on the political prisoner through threats to other prisoners, one of the prisoners was even placed in a punishment cell. By doing so, the authorities attempt to isolate him and deny contacts with people. It is known that the pressure on him increased after the colony was visited by Aliaksandr Litsvinski, head of the Main Department for Combating Organized Crime and Corruption of the Interior Ministry, who was in charge of the crack-down on anarchists back in the autumn of 2010. Previously Aliaksandr Litsvinski visited another political prisoner, Mikalai Dziadokm to inquire if he was ready to ask for a pardon. The answer was no. After that Mikalai received the status of "a persistent violator of the regime", and was later transferred to Shklou colony No. 7, where the pressure was further increased. Aliaksandr Frantskevich also received the status of "a persistent violator.” In early August, he was placed in a penal cell for 10 days.

On 24 July the panel of judges of Minsk City Court dismissed Vasil Parfiankou’s complaint against the arrest for 6 months for non-compliance with preventive supervision set by the court (Article 421 of the Criminal Code). At the same time, the judges chose not to apply to V. Parfiankou Article 107 (Par. 1) of the Criminal Code (“use of coercive measures of security and treatment of persons suffering from chronic alcoholism, drug addiction and substance abuse”). On 9 August Vasil Parfiankou was placed in detention center No. 1 in Minsk, where until 16 August he awaited transfer to the arrest house No. 6 in Baranavichy, where he was sent to serve his sentence.

On 3 August the reception office of the Presidential Administration received a petition signed by Belarusian human rights defenders and civil society leaders, demanding the release of Ales Bialiatski, head of the Human Rights Center "Viasna" and vice-president of the International Federation for Human Rights, as well as the other Belarusian political prisoners. The reply by the head of the public appeals department Stanislau Buko that came on 22 August said that “under the Constitution, the judicial power in the Republic of Belarus belongs to the courts. Judges are independent in decision-making in the administration of justice and are subject only to the law. Other state agencies and officials are not vested with such powers.” The reply also states that “any interference in the work of judges in their administration of justice is prohibited and punishable by law.”

In late August Mikalai Autukhovich received an opportunity for a short meeting with the family, whom he had not seen for almost a year. They were allowed to talk on the phone for one and a half hours through the glass. The political prisoner said that he was reading a lot in prison, writing letters and trying to learn English.

On 28 August penal colony No. 13 hosted a sitting of a circuit court in the new criminal case against political prisoner Zmitser Dashkevich on charges of disobeying the prison administration (Par. 1, Art. 411 of the Criminal Code). The meeting was held behind closed doors. The case involved about 40 witnesses – policemen and prisoners. Zmitser Dashkevich waived defense. As a result, Hlybokaye District Court sentenced the political prisoner to one more year of imprisonment, which is set as the maximum term. At the same time, the sentence included the four months, which were yet to be served by Zmitser under the previous verdict. Thus, Zmitser Dashkevich may not be released before August 28, 2013.

On 28 August the country’s law-enforcement agencies extended the investigation of the criminal case against correspondent of the Polish “Gazeta Wyborcza” Andrei Pachobut under Par. 2 Art. 367 of the Criminal Code (“defamation of President”). The journalist was arrested in Hrodna on 21 June and held in prison until 30 June, when he was released on recognizance.

Harassment of human rights defenders

On 19 July the KGB put on preventive register the human rights defender Andrei Bandarenka, head of information and educational institution "Platform". On the same day Bandarenka was taken to the KGB, where he was shown the order of registration preventive register. He was then offered to sign the document. His request to provide a copy of the decision was dismissed. Bandarenka was asked to review all the documents in the case and take necessary notes. His request for a pen and paper to take notes was also rejected by the KGB agents.

On 20 July Tsentralny District Court of Minsk considered the complaints of the deputy head of the Human Rights Center "Viasna" Valiantsin Stefanovich and the head of information and educational institution "Platform" Andrei Bandarenka against the actions of the Ministry of Defense and Ministry of the Interior to add their names on frivolous grounds to the data bank of the citizens of Belarus, whose right to leave the Republic of Belarus is temporarily restricted. Aliaksei Biahun, representative of the Ministry of Internal Affairs, head of the Department of Citizenship and Migration, provided the court with certificates about the exclusion of Stefanovich and Bandarenka from the data bank, dated 20 July. He also told the court that the Interior Ministry officials had not made decisions on adding the human rights defenders to the database, but referred to a technical failure instead. Aliaksei Biahun refused to comment on how this happened and who was to blame for the failure. The representative of the Ministry of Defense, Major of Justice Leanid Valcheuski stated that his office had not filed information on Stefanovich’s and Bandarenka’s entry into the database because of alleged military service evasion. Judge Alena Siamak rejected all the motions by the plaintiffs, including that to initiate a forensic examination of computer equipment to establish the causes of the failure in the database referred to by representatives of the Interior Ministry. Valiantsin Stefanovich’s petition of removal of the Judge, who for five months, in violation of the Code of Civil Procedure, could not set a date for the hearing, was not met by the court, either. After hearing the plaintiffs in the case, the state officials whose actions were challenged, as well as the public representative Hary Pahaniayla, Judge Siamak ruled to dismiss the complaints of Valiantsin Stefanovich and Andrei Bandarenka.

On 20 July a court in Minsk was expected to hear a similar complaint by Aleh Hulak, the head of the Belarusian Helsinki Committee, but the trial was postponed to 31 July, when the debate speakers included Aleh Hulak, his representative – human rights defender Hary Pahaniayla, a representative of the Ministry of Justice, which did not mention his name to the court, and a representative of the Ministry of Internal Affairs Aliaksei Biahun, head of the Department of Citizenship and Migration. Aleh Hulak said that the authorities illegally put him in the database and restricted his right to travel. He noted that while the court failed to find out who did it, the fact was admitted even by the Ministry of the Interior. Aleh Hulak said that there were no legal grounds to restrict his right to leave the country, and the Ministry of Interior and the Ministry of Justice should be responsible for their actions. According to Hulak, this was caused by discriminatory reasons. He cited as an example the fact that 17 more people known for their political opposition activities – famous human rights activists, lawyers, and journalists – were also included in this list. Aliaksei Biahun admitted in the debate that there really was a fact of technical failure, which resulted in Aleh Hulak being added to the list of persons restricted to travel abroad. But, according to Aliaksei Biahun, the database includes about 100,000 people, and only 50 people found their names there by mistake. The Interior Ministry official present in court said that after these proceedings Aleh Hulak was removed from the list of persons restricted to travel abroad.

On 26 July Savetski District Tax Inspection of Minsk fined the head of the information and educational institution "Platform" Andrei Bandarenka for late submission of papers on income tax. According to the human rights activist, "Platform" submitted the entire tax reports in March, as required by the law. “However, as it turned out, our report was “lost” somewhere and they had not remembered of it until now. On 24 July we filed the report again. On 25 July the tax inspector called me and asked to appear at 6 p.m., we agreed that I would come. However, at 4.30 my apartment was visited by employees of law enforcement and prevention department No. 66 of Savetski District and presented a warrant compelling my appearance at the Tax Inspection. They said they could only do it in their car,” said Bandarenka. As a result, the tax authorities imposed on “Platform" a fine of 500,000 rubles and a 200,000 fine on Bandarenka as the head of the institution.

On 31 July Alena Krasouskaya-Kaspiarovich, deputy director of the information and educational institution "Platform", was reported missing by her associates. "Platform" employees were last spoke to her at about 3 p.m., after which the connection was broken, and her whereabouts were not known. On 1 August, after the incident was reported to the police, it turned out that the human rights defender was in the center of delinquents’ isolation in Minsk. It was not until 2 August, when the human rights defender was visited by her lawyer who learned that Alena Krasouskaya-Kaspiarovich had been arrested near her house and charged with hooliganism. The human rights defender associates were told that on 3 August Partyzanski District Court of Minsk would hear the charges, but in the first half of the day, Alena Krasouskaya-Kaspiarovich was stolen from the detention center by unidentified plainclothes persons, taken in a car without license plates outside the city and released without explanation.

On 14 August human rights defender Uladzimir Malei was summoned to Leninski District Police Department of Brest, where the trial was held into his jogging on 4 August in the streets of the city in a T-shirt with the image of Ales Bialiatski in solidarity with the arrested head of the Human Rights Center "Viasna" and other political prisoners. Uladzimir Malei explained to the law enforcement officials that the public order was not broken, and he did not abuse anyone by his jogging. As a result, the administrative proceedings were discontinued.

On 17 August member of the Human Rights Center "Viasna" Tatsiana Reviaka was summoned to the KGB central office for questioning “as a person being aware of circumstances that have significance for maintaining the national security of the Republic of Belarus”. The interrogation was conducted by Captain Aliaksandr Rubinau (during previous searches at the office of the Human Rights Center "Viasna" and in the case file of Ales Bialiatski this person was known as Matskevich) and senior investigator Aliaksandr Breyeu. The interrogation concerned an article about interference of the Mahiliou KGB with the electoral process. KGB officer Aliaksandr Rubinau also inquired on the source of the information and its author. He then asked whether Tatsiana Reviaka checked the data mentioned in the article. The human rights defender was warned that in case the information concerning the security services mentioned in the article failed to be confirmed, it would be viewed as discrediting a public authority and the Republic of Belarus in general, but it was noted that for the moment the issue of criminal proceedings on the charges was not under discussion.

On 21 August the Court of Baranavichy fined local human rights defender Siarhei Housha 1.5 million rubles after Judge, as Judge Vasil Petryu found the Mr. Housha guilty of "using foul language in public" while talking to chair of constituency election commission No. 5 Mrs. Tatsiana Latyshava back on 23 July. The charge was related to the events that occurred on 10 July, when observer Siarhei Housha attended the first meeting of the constituency election commission No. 5 and examined the minutes of this meeting. Noticing certain inconsistencies in the report, on 23 July S. Housha addressed the commission’s chair Latyshava with a comment on the errors found. As a result, the observer was accused of disorderly conduct. Despite the fact that Siarhei Housha presented in court a recording of his conversation with the chair of the commission, which did not contain any foul language, the judge found him guilty.

On 24 August a police patrol in Zhodzina detained human rights defender Aliaksei Lapitski for photographing policemen. The patrol’s head A. Manko called a car for support. The police officer P. Yasinevich ordered his subordinates to continue patrolling and, after a short conversation with the human rights activist and checking his passport details, said that Aliaksei Lapitski was not detained and he could be free.

On 31 August it was reported that the information and educational institution "Platform", which protects the rights of prisoners, was under the threat of closure. This initiative was launched by Savetski District Tax Inspection of Minsk on the basis of alleged violations by "Platform" the deadline for submission of the income tax declaration and failure to notify the Inspection of a change in location. The hearing is scheduled for September in Economic Court of Minsk.

Torture and cruel treatment

On 7 July activist of the "European Belarus" movement Alena Semenchukova urged Vitsebsk Region Prosecutor's Office to force the Ministry of Interior’s local department improve prison conditions in the detention center of Vitsebsk. In her complaint, the girl said that the center’s detention conditions constitute degrading treatment of the people who are held there. “There are no sleeping berths in the cell, or any furniture at all. The administration of the temporary isolator refused to accept a parcel with warm things, water any hygienic means for me, that's why I had to lie down on the floor in a white T-shirt, jeans and in ballet slippers. It was impossible to fall asleep, as it was rather cold. It was stuffy in the cell, as it is not aired. The light of the lamp kept dazzling all night, as it was not turned off. It was also impossible to turn down the volume of the radio. I was brought food for the first time in the morning of the day after the detention. I had to eat on the floor with dirty hands, as I was given no soap and towel. I was unable to use the toilet, as the sink had no waste tank and was located in the area of the guard's vision," said the activist. Alena Semenchukova spent in the detention center 10 days for distributing leaflets.

On 20 July the parents of Pavel Plaksa, who was arrested on suspicion of a theft on 30 May 2012 and held in Zhodzina remand prison, eventually received a reply to their numerous complaints of torture against their son by employees of Leninski District Police Department of Minsk. The investigative Committee refused to initiate criminal proceedings. Following a number of complaints submitted by the parents to the House of Representatives’ Standing Committee for Human Rights, National Relations and Mass Media, the Prosecutor General, the Prosecutor of Leninski District, as well as two statements from Pavel Plaksa himself, an inspection was carried out, says the reply from the Investigative Committee’s Minsk Leninski District Department signed by investigator Major I. Mukasei, which goes on to say that it will not open a criminal case referring to Par. 2-1 Art. 29 of the Code of Criminal Procedure, that is, for the absence of corpus delicti in the actions of the policemen.

According to Pavel Plaksa’s father, the inspection file does not even hint at torture of his son: it argues that Pavel’s injuries were caused by his resisting arrest at home. However, it says nothing about the fact that he was beaten in the police department. “The policemen only recorded in a register that truncheons had been used, although the bruises are 25-36 centimeters wide, go from the buttocks to the thighs; there are scratches and bruises all over his body, the wounds are enormous. They were afraid that he would once again begin to resist, and kept him handcuffed day and night – that’s what they write. The operatives themselves testified that the handcuffs were removed only when signing the papers,” says Pavel’s father. What happened right before the signing of police papers was told to his parents by Pavel himself. “Within a few days he was tortured day and night. He was beaten up, a pack was put on the head to block the air, no food was given, he was not let out to the toilet. He was tortured in turns, in shifts,” Pavel’s father. “There was a policeman named Raman who was especially brutal. He poked Pavel's face with his ID and said: “You do not get out of here alive, and no one will know you are dead.” And it is under pressure from policeman Raman that Pavel Plaksa signed a refusal to be taken to hospital when the ambulance came.

Human rights defenders have repeatedly criticized the efficiency of investigations into police-related abuses conducted by the employees of the same law-enforcement bodies. In Pavel Plaksa’s case, his parents’ complaint against personnel of Leninski District Police Department was redirected to the Investigative Committee’s Minsk Leninski District Department, i.e. the body in charge of investigating the charges brought against Pavel, where former employees of the Police Department work.

After studying the results of the inspection by the Investigative Committee, Pavel Plaksa’s parents decided to appeal the decision at Leninski District Prosecutor’s Office of Minsk.

Pressurization of social and political activists by security services

On 6 July a former employer of Maladechna activist Tatsiana Balabanskaya received a phone call from the KGB who inquired whether she still worked there. During the previous local councils elections in 2010 Tatsiana Balabanskaya was dismissed from her job as an engineer in the Maladechna forestry on the initiative of its director Anatol Yermalovich the day after Tatsiana applied for registration as a candidate. The new round of harassment by the KGB is associated with the beginning of the campaign for parliamentary elections.

On 14 August Uladzislau Yarashou, a collector of signatures in support of the candidate of the Movement "For Freedom" Uladzimir Punchanka, said his home had been visited by a KGB officer, who asked questions about how much the activist was paid for a signature, who managed and organized the process. The man who introduced himself as KGB officer threatened Uladzislau, a student of the Kuliashou Mahiliou State University, with expulsion for his work in the team of the opposition candidate; he also proposed cooperation with the KGB. On 16 August, a day after the incident was reported on the Internet, Uladzislau Yarashou received a call from the KGB and asked to come for a conversation. The youth refused to meet without a writ. The writ was shortly served on Uladzislau and a car took the student to the KGB office. The conversation lasted for nearly an hour. Uladzislau described the unknown person, who named himself as a KGB agent, told what he was asked and said that he refused to give his name. Uladzislau Yarashou eventually signed an undertaking not to disseminate false information.

On 17 August Babruisk UCP leader Viktar Buzinayeu was summoned to the KGB. The conversation with KGB agent Pavel Silkou lasted for about three hours. The activist was warned against organizing an action, he was told that even if he put on a T-shirt with a slogan and went walking around the city, it would be viewed as an unauthorized action. And for this, according to the KGB officer, Viktar Buzinayeu could face charges under Article 342 of the Criminal Code ("Organization and preparation of activities that breach public order or active participation in them"), and a sentence of up to three years of imprisonment.

On 24 August Dzianis Dashkevich, Rahachou activist of the "Tell the Truth!" civil initiative, was summoned to the local department of the KGB, where he was held for almost 4 hours. The activist was forced to sign a paper saying that he was involved in financial swindle, namely in taking money for organizing weddings in dollars, not rubles, and helped his fellow entrepreneurs to organize such celebrations. A similar conversation was also carried out with Dashkevich’s wife, who was released from the KGB earlier. The KGB officers told Dashkevich that he might face criminal charges, and the information on his activities would be transferred to the tax inspection.

On 30 August the police detained the administrators of a number of opposition communities in the social network. On this day, the mother of Pavel Yetsikhiyeu was visited by two persons in civilian clothes, who without showing any documents said she would be taken home in the case of his son. At the entrance four more persons were waiting for them, KGB agents as described by the woman. They went up to the apartment and in the presence of the woman questioned Pavel. They were interested in his relations with a certain Raman (probably Pratasevich) and his involvement in the Internet-based community "Liapis Trubetskoy – Free Concert in Minsk." They also asked for a password to the community account. Then the police were called, who took Pavel and his home computer away. After his mother objected to the arrest, she was shown an ID of a police captain Aliaksandr Makarau. No reports were drawn up during the arrest. On 31 August Pavel Yetsikhiyeu was taken to Kastrychnitski District Court of Minsk and sentenced to five days in jail on charges of hooliganism.

Andrei Tkachou, the administrator of an online community called "Only SHOS!", whose girl-friend’s apartment was searched and a laptop was confiscated, was also accused of disorderly conduct and sentenced to seven days in jail.

Raman Pratasevich, the head of the community "Liapis Trubetskoy – Free Concert in Minsk," was released after four hours of interrogations, threats and beatings, since he is a minor.

Another administrator of the online community Siarhei Biaspalau, who had been warned by his friends, managed to avoid arrest and had to leave Belarus.

Vitsebsk law-enforcement agents arrested moderator of the Internet community "We are Sick and Tired of this Lukashenka" Aleh Shramuk. According to the activist, there was a ring at the door and an unknown woman offered to buy poison for mice. Shramuk refused, but after some time, the same woman came again. When Aleh opened the door, riot policemen broke into the apartment. Without any explanations, they took Aleh, saying that they were employees of Kastrychnitski DPD. His wife Alesia Shramuk was also questioned. After almost a 24-hour interrogation, Aleh Shramuk was released, and the online community was deleted.

On 30 August Dzmitry Audzeichyk, head of Hrodna Kastrychnitski district branch of the United Civil Party, as well as his friend Yauhen Shviadzko, reported pressure from the security services. According Audzeichyk, he and Shviadzko were arrested a week earlier while posting homemade leaflets calling for a boycott of the elections. Audzeichyk said that they had been tracked down by a man in civilian clothes, who called the police. The detainees were taken to the police station in Hai Street, held there for three hours and forced to provide written explanations. The activists were threatened with criminal liability, considering that the content of the leaflets had "anti-state character." The activists expected their cases to be heard in court. However, according to Dzmitry Audzeichyk, Yauhen Shviadzko recently received a call from the KGB and told that both activists would soon be summoned for explanations.

Administrative prosecution of civil and political activists, arbitrary detentions

On 2 July mass media reported about detention of Yahor Viniatski, activist of “Zmena”, the youth wing of the "Tell the Truth!" civil campaign. On 30 June he received a phone call from Pershamaiski District Police Department of Minsk and was invited to appear in connection with a laptop he reported to have been stolen. But in the end he found himself in the delinquents’ isolation center in Akrestsin Street, after being charged with an administrative offense. On 3 July Yahor Viniatski was taken out to Pershamaiski District Department of Internal Affairs for a preventive conversation, but the conversation did not take place. After 5 hours of waiting the youth activist was released, but warned that he would be summoned to court by a special order.

On 3 July, during the national holiday of Independence Day, Baranavichy law-enforcement agents arrested youth activist Artsiom Babei. They were following him since the morning, but detained the activist near the park in Kamsamolskaya Street. The policeman said that he looked like a criminal and took him to the police station in the same street. The search was joined by Major Kulhavik, who had warned the activist against participation in so called silent protests in 2011. The activist was held for about an hour and then released without charges.

On 24 July Pershamaiski District Court of Minsk heard the case of Andrei Mouchan, activist of the "European Belarus" movement, who on 19 May in a sign of solidarity with the imprisoned opposition activist Siarhei Kavalenka of Vitsebsk displayed a white-red-white flag in Minsk, for which he was severely beaten by police. He was charged under Article 23.34 of the Administrative Code (“unauthorized picketing”). Judge Siarhei Liushtyk found Andrei Mouchan guilty and sentenced him to a fine of 280,000 rubles, ignoring the fact of beating Mouchan confirmed by medical evidence.

On 4 July the judge of the Kastrychnitski District Court of Vitsebsk Ina Hrabouskaya awarded two fines, each of 1,200,000 rubles, to activist of the "Young Front" movement Yauhen Hutsalau, who was detained on 3 July for distributing leaflets calling for a boycott of the elections and placed overnight in a detention center. The young man was charged with two offenses: “organizing an unsanctioned rally” and “disobeying police”.

On 5 July 5 Judge Ina Hrabouskaya sentenced the activist of the "European Belarus" movement Alena Semianchukova with 10 days of arrest. The 22-year-old girl had been arrested back on 29 June while distributing leaflets calling to boycott the elections. The trial began on 30 June, but the judge postponed the hearing, so that Alena could sign an agreement with a lawyer.

On 12 July Orsha police arrested activist of the civil campaign "Our House" Yanina Liasneuskaya. The police officers said they suspected her of distributing works that promoted violence and cruelty (Article 17.8 of the Code of Administrative Offenses), namely a children's coloring book "My Dad is a policeman. What does he do at work?" After a conversation with the police, Yanina Liasneuskaya was charged with an administrative offense and then released.

On 17 July the judge of the Pershamaiski District Court of Minsk Alena Ananich considered the administrative case of Leanid Mazhalski who protested against the construction of homes for special police employees in Minsk’s Uruchcha residential area. Mazhalski was arrested on 5 July, when he tried to prevent the builders from setting a construction site. Mazhalski was charged under Article 17.1 (“disorderly conduct”), 23.4 (“disobeying a lawful order or requirement of a person in the discharge of official duties”), and 23.34 (“violation of the order of organization or holding of mass events or picketing”) of the Code of Administrative Offenses. Under the first charge, he was sentenced to two days of administrative arrest, under the second – sentenced to a fine of 2 million rubles, and under the third – sentenced to three days in jail.

On 17 July, on the eve of Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Mededev’s visit to Minsk police detained Ivan Amelchanka, activist, author of the acclaimed performance "Musarok" ("Cop"). After about 11 a.m., Ivan left the house for a meeting, and after 1 p.m. it became known that he was taken to Leninski District Court of Minsk and he accused of disobeying the police (Article 23.4 of the Administrative Code). Judge Zapasnik sentenced Ivan Amelchanka to 12 days of administrative arrest. On the day of his detention and arrest, Ivan Amelchanka was going to visit the constituency election commission to register his initiative group to be nominated as a candidate for the House of Representatives. However, having the experience of preventive detentions (in the last two months Amelchanka spent behind bars a total of 40 days), it was decided to send the documents for registration by mail. The constituency commission received the documents, but refused to register the initiative group, precisely because the documents were not delivered in person.

On 17 July the police detained "Young Front" activists Uladzimir Yaromenak, Raman Vasilyeu and minor Raman Pratasevich (later released). Uladzimir Yaromenak and Raman Vasilyeu were taken to Kastrychnitski District Court of Minsk and accused of using foul language: at 7.40 a.m. they were allegedly swearing in the streets of Babruisk. Judge Lapko punished Raman Vasilyeu with a 12-day arrest, the witnesses were police officers Tsiunis and Drazdou. Uladzimir Yaromenak was sentenced to 15 days of prison. Kasia Halitskaya, who came to the House of Justice to support the activists, was detained in the court building, charged with using foul language and spent the night in the Delinquents’ Isolation Center. On 18 July the judge of Maskouski District Court of Minsk Tatsiana Motyl sentenced Kasia Halitskaya to 10 days of administrative arrest, the witnesses were riot policemen Yauhen Baradach and Dzmitry Tarashkevich.

On 18 July Tatsiana Novikava, a coordinator of the Belarusian antinuclear campaign, and nuclear physicist from Russia Andrey Ozharovsky were sentenced to arrests of 5 and 10 days respectively on charges of disorderly conduct as a result of a trial at Leninski District Court of Minsk. The activists of the anti-nuclear campaign were planning to pass to the Russian embassy in Minsk an appeal against the signing of the contract for the construction of a nuclear power plant in Astravets. The signing was scheduled during the visit to Minsk of Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev. Tatsiana Novikava is chronically ill, she has her thyroid gland removed, and she cannot live without the continuous use of special medications.

On the same day, Minsk police detained head of the Public Association "Eco House" Iryna Sukhiy, who is also an activist in the anti-nuclear campaign, and coordinator of the monitoring group of the Center for Legal Transformation Mikhail Matskevich. After being charged with disorderly conduct (Art. 17.1 of the CAO), they were taken to Tsentralny District Court. Judge Yakunchykhin sentenced Iryna Sukhiy to a fine of 1.5 million rubles, Judge Yesman sentenced Mikhail Matskevich to three days' imprisonment. Witnesses in the case were policemen Anton Litsvinka and Bahdan Zhokun.

On 19 July Tsentralny District Court of Minsk considered an administrative action activist of the LGBT movement Varvara Krasutskaya, who was accused of disorderly conduct (Art. 17.1 of the CAO) and fined 700,000 rubles (Judge – Viktoryia Tkachova). Varvara was detained near Minsk’s Kastrychnitskaya Square in the afternoon of 18 July. The reason for the detention was a T-shirt "Free Ales Bialiatski!" The activist was taken to Tsentralny District Police Department, and after being charged, was taken to the delinquents’ isolation center.

On 24 July Pershamaiski District Court of Minsk considered an administrative action activist Andrei Mouchan, detained in the night of 14 July for distributing leaflets. The case was considered by Judge Siarhei Liushtik. A. Mouchan was charged under two articles of the Administrative Code: 23.14 (“violation of urban environment restrictions”) and Art. 17.1 (“disorderly conduct”), and punished by a fine of 1 million rubles. The witnesses were police officers of the Guard Department Viktar Samutsenka and Yauhen Burak.

On 26 July representatives of a number of human rights organizations of Belarus sent a joint letter to Prosecutor General of the Republic of Belarus Aliaksandr Kaniuk and head of the Supreme Court of Belarus Valiantsin Sukala requesting a meeting to discuss the situation with illegal preventive detentions of civil society activists and representatives of youth opposition groups and demanding to put an end to this illegal practice and bring the perpetrators to justice. The appeal says that in recent years in Belarus on a regular basis ahead of mass events or arrivals of high-ranking officials of foreign countries there have been numerous arbitrary detentions of civil society activists and representatives of youth opposition groups, who were usually accused of disorderly conduct, and then on the testimony of the police courts punish them with administrative arrests. According to the human rights defenders, such methods are used to preventively isolate the activists at the time of certain socio-political events. The human rights activists said that this practice should be considered as arbitrary detention, while these actions are contrary to the principles of the rule of law, involving the police and judges to participate in the political persecution of citizens.

On 7 August the Human Rights Center "Viasna" received a reply to its appeal from the General Prosecutor's Office. The head of the Department of Supervision of the Rights and Freedoms of Citizens M.V. Papova limited her letter to a bureaucratic formal reply, saying that "taking into account that you are not a person who was legally delegated the right to represent the people mentioned in the appeal, there are no sufficient grounds to consider your appeal on its merits." However, human rights defenders didn't seek to represent interests of citizens in any administrative trials, they just asked for a meeting with the Prosecutor General and the head of the Supreme Court with the aim to discuss the situation, get the unlawful practice stopped and the perpetrators punished. The procuracy hasn't given a substantial answer, though.

On 27 July, the day of the signing of the Declaration of Sovereignty, on the steps of Pershamaiski District Court of Minsk the police arrested a 65-year-old activist Nina Bahinskaya, who, as a sign of celebration and protest against illegal trials, displayed a white-red-white flag. Thirty minutes later, a police car pulled up, which took Nina Bahinskaya to Pershamaiski District Police Department, where a woman was released three hours later.

At about 8 p.m. on 31 July outside the central railway station in Minsk police detained the activists of the "European Belarus" movement Aliaksei Tsioply and Mikita Kavalenka, who were handing out the newsletter "Charter 97." After three hours of detention, the activists were released without charges.

On 4 August Zhodzina police detained Andrei Zubro and Siarhei Khamutsinin, who were wearing T-shirts with the inscription "Freedom for Ales Bialiatski!" The reason for the detention was the need to check their identities. After a short conversation on the inadmissibility of participation in unsanctioned public events, the activists were released without charges.

On 4 August Barysau police detained the deputy head of the United Civil Party Leu Marholin and a member of his electoral team, Mikhail Vasilyeu near the major Barysau supermarket “Vesta”, where they were collecting signatures in support of Marholin's candidacy. A banner “For free elections without Lukashenka” was hanged out at the picket together with a photo of Marholin, and the signers were asked to sing not in support of Marholin, but for fair elections. The detainees were charged under Article 23.34 of the Administrative Code, "holding an unauthorized mass event." On 8 August the judge of Barysau District Court Iryna Pasiuk ruled to impose a fine of two million rubles on Mikhail Vasilyeu and three million rubles on L. Marholin.

On 5 August the Navapolatsk police detained activist of the NGO "Free Region" Aliaksandr Drazdou with a banner "Freedom for Bialiatski!". After being taken to the police department, the activist was searched and warned of liability for unauthorized actions. The question remains as to where the police found out about the activist’s intentions.

On 22 August Savetski District Court of Minsk heard the administrative case of activists of the Belarusian Christian Democracy Halina Karzhaneuskaya and Ina Loika for participating in the pickets for a boycott of the elections. The court ruled to fine the activists 300,000 rubles each.

At about 9 p.m. on 21 August police detained activist of the "European Belarus" movement Aliaksei Tsioply outside the central railway station in Minsk, who had just returned home from Poland. On 22 August the judge of the Kastrychnitski District Court of Minsk Hermanovich found Aliaksei Tsioply guilty of a violation of Art. 17.1 (“disorderly conduct”) and Art. 17.9 (“smoking in a public place”) of the Administrative Code and sentenced the activist to a fine of 500,000 rubles. The actual reason for the trial of the activist was his distribution of the "Charter 97" newspaper.

At about 11 a.m. on 22 August at the central railway station of Minsk, police detained Mahiliou activist of the "European Belarus" movement Viktar Boldzin, who had just got off the train. He was transporting several editions calling for an election boycott and the officially registered newspaper "Narodnaya Volia". On the same day, Kastrychnitski District Court of Minsk sentenced Viktar Boldzin to a fine of 300,000 rubles on charges of disorderly conduct.

On 22 August the police detained activist of the "Young Front" movement Mikalai Dzemidzenka. Late in the evening, it became known that he was placed in the delinquents' isolation center in Akrestsin Street and charged with disorderly conduct (Art. 17.1 of the CAO). On 23 August, Mikalai Dzemidzenka was taken to Frunzenski District Court, where Judge Dzmitry Lukashevich ruled to arrest the activist for 7 days.

On 23 August Mahiliou police detained local coordinator for the organization of the monitoring process in the framework of the campaign "For Fair Elections" Yury Novikau and Halina Lisitsyna. The detention took place near the train station, after the newspapers, brochures and notebooks have been transferred from one vehicle to another. The policemen counted the products and seized them. After three hours of detention the regional coordinators of independent observation were released, but told to appear in Leninski District Police Department later.

On 28 August the police detained the BCD Executive Secretary Dzianis Sadouski who was transporting a circulation of a newsletter "Krynitsa" featuring information about the boycott. As it was found out later, he was kept in Frunzenski District Police Department, where he was charged with disorderly conduct. Later, Frunzenski District Court ordered the arrest of Dzianis Sadouski for 10 days (Judge – Maryia Liashkevich).

Restrictions on freedom of speech and the right to impart information, persecution of journalists

On 26 July Tsentralny District Court of Minsk considered the administrative case of journalist of the "European Radio for Belarus" Vital Ruhainy, detained on 25 July and charged with using obscene language in public (Judge Tatziana Tkachova). Vital Ruhainy was released in the courtroom, but the case was not closed and sent back for revision – the police had five days to find evidence of Vital Ruhainy’s guilt. All attempts to get to the courtroom were stopped by the police. Journalists counted seven police officers, who were thus involved in the process. In the course of the trial were interviewed three witnesses-policemen who detained Vital Ruhainy. The detention of the journalist took place late in the evening on 25 July in central Minsk. The detention was carried out by a group of policemen and commanded by persons in civilian clothes. After being charged, the journalist was taken to the delinquents’ isolation center. On this day, Vital turned 25. Vital Ruhainy’s detention is regarded as a kind of revenge by the police for a report from the subway, during which ERB journalists marched through the stations with a large suitcase, without being stopped by the Metro guards. On his return from Lithuania on 24 July, Vital Ruhainy was removed from the train and subjected to a full customs inspection at the border crossing Hudahai. The customs officials took Vital’s passport, laptop, but then returned them and he was released.

On 9 August Savetski District Court of Minsk heard the administrative cases of journalists Yulia Darashkevich and Iryna Kozlik. Iryna Kozlik is a journalist of the "Komsomolskaya Pravda in Belarus" newspaper, and Yulia Darashkevich is a freelance photographer. They were arrested in the evening of 8 August outside Minsk’s Palace of Arts, when they were being photographed for a virtual "poster" with bear-paratroopers within the campaign of solidarity with the arrested photographer Anton Surapin. The journalists were accused of illegal picketing (Art. 23.34 of the CAO). The arrest report of Darashkevich and Kozlik mentions "picketing by photographing." Judge Dzmitry Pavliuchenka found the journalists guilty and ruled to impose on each of them a fine of 3 million rubles.

On 10 August journalist Tatsiana Belashova was summoned to Minsk City Prosecutor's Office in connection with an investigation into the activities of the "Belsat" TV channel. Prosecutor Dzmitry Pastayalka remembered Belashova’s arrest in Gorky Park in Minsk on 1 June as she was shooting a video. According to the prosecutor, the video shot by Tatsiana were aired by "Belsat". In this regard, Tatsiana was warned about violating of the law "On Mass Media", in particular for working without accreditation for the benefit of the Polish TV station. The warning was signed by the Deputy Prosecutor of Minsk Kazimir Kezhun.

On 11 August cameraman Viachzslau Piashko and journalist Hanna Azemsha were shooting the editor of the independent newspaper “Prefekt-Info” Dzmitry Lupach who was handing out the weekly in a public place. The journalists were then detained by a police patrol. At the police department, Piashko and Azemsha were identified and released, while Lupach was held longer, as the policemen wanted to know if his newspaper was a registered one, who issued it, and for what purpose. As a result, the editor was also released, but asked to fax papers certifying the legal status of the newspaper.

On 13 August independent journalist Kanstantsin Shytal was summoned to Hlybokaye District Prosecutor's Office to provide clarification on the article "Yaraslau Bernikovich offers help to supporters of boycott" signed by his name and posted on the regional web-site . Prosecutor Anatol Seurukou threatened Kanstantsin Shytal with administrative responsibility if similar publications appeared on the web-site in future. Meanwhile, the journalist said that he had not violated the law: the boycott is not banned in Belarus, and the article on the independent website can hardly be considered as a call for a boycott.

On 14 August journalist Henadz Barbarych was summoned to Prosecutor's Office of Minsk in connection with an investigation of his work for “Radio Racyja”, that was initiated after a search of the office of the radio station on 2 May. Prosecutor Dzmitry Pastayalka called the journalist a permanent employee of “Radio Racyja” and said that he had listened to a lot of his reports aired on the radio station and found on the computers seized during the search. In the end, Prosecutor issued an official warning, urging him to stop working for foreign media without accreditation. The warning was signed by Deputy Prosecutor of Minsk Kazimir Kezhun. Belarusian journalist of Radio "Racyja" are forced to work illegally, since the Ministry of Foreign Affairs has repeatedly denied the radio station official accreditation.

On 19 August Zhana Litvina, chair of the public association "Belarusian Association of Journalists", was excluded from the list of foreign travel restrictions. This was stated in a notification received from the Department of Citizenship and Migration of the Ministry of Interior. The Department officials said Zhana Litvina was added to the travel ban list owing to a computer failure, which allegedly occurred between 24 February and 10 March 2012. Zhanna Litvina believes the reason is trumped up and links it to a specific decision of the official Minsk.

On 20 August journalist Alena Stsiapanava was summoned to the Vitsebsk Region Prosecutor's Office to provide explanations for her work for foreign media without accreditation. As a result of the conversation with Prosecutor Zaitsau, head of the department for supervision over the implementation of laws and legality of legal acts, an official warning was issued, but with the signature of a different man – Deputy Prosecutor of Vitsebsk region, senior justice advisor H.A. Karanko. The journalist was warned for allegedly carrying out the preparation of audio and video reports, as well as for interviewing people, that were later “published on behalf of the foreign media (the Czech office of Radio "Liberty")”. By the way, Czech office of Radio "Liberty" ceased to exist in 2002. Prosecutor Zaitsau said that the appearance of the journalist’s name on any Internet web-sites was "undesirable" and that these facts could be interpreted as cooperation with foreign media without accreditation.

On 23 August journalist Mikhail Yanchuk was summoned to the Department of Citizenship and Migration of the Ministry of Interior and shown a certificate-statement, saying that he had "no restrictions for foreign travel". The document was dated 23 August and bore the signature of senior inspector for special affairs Liudmila Maskaliova. As of the end of August, two journalists remained the on the border service’s black-list: Andrei Dynko and Aliaksandr Atroshchankau.

On 23 August Orsha town department of the Investigative Committee of Belarus opened a criminal case against journalist Mikalai Petrushenka for "insulting a government official." The reason for the prosecution was an article by Mr. Petrushenka entitled "Pedophile receives awards for best children's playgrounds" and published on the web-site on 8 August. The publication was available in the section "Blogs". According to a decree signed by senior investigator S. Shcharbianka, the author of the article argues that the deputy head of Orsha City Executive Committee is suspected of promoting the activities of a pedophile. Thus, Petrushenka caused "public insult" to the official “as a government official in connection with his discharge of official duties.” “The collected materials contain sufficient data to indicate the elements of a crime under Art. 369,” the investigator claims. In connection with this, he ordered to bring a case against Petrushenka and initiate proceedings on the charges.

Restrictions on freedom of assembly

On 9 July Brest authorities banned two rallies scheduled by the BCD activists: on 10 July – in support of political prisoner Pavel Seviarynets, and on 14 July – under the slogan "Freedom to political prisoners". The reason for the ban, as stated in the response of the executive committee, is that the events were planned to be held next to the building occupied by the Russian and the Polish Consulates in Brest, which is "contrary to the laws of the Republic of Belarus."

On 24 July, three activists of the organizing committee of the party "Belarusian Christian Democracy" received bans from Minsk City Executive Committee to hold pickets for a boycott of the elections. Member of the BCD National Council Ina Loika, who was one of the applicants of the pickets scheduled on 28 and 30 July at 50 Independence Avenue, was denied due to picket’s proximity to the metro station. Activist Ivan Saladukhin also applied for holding a picket on 28 July at 50 Independence Avenue, and on 30 July at 50 Surhanau Street. In the first case, he was denied due to proximity to the subway, in the second – under Article 9 of the Law "On Mass Events" without providing a specific reason. Member of the BCD National Council Ales Shamiakin was not allowed holding pickets in Yakub Kolas Square on 28 and 29 July. On 23 July a negative response was received by the leader of the Young Christian Democrats Maryna Khomich, who petitioned for holding pickets on 28 July at 21 Independence Avenue, and on 31 July at 4 Zhylunovich Street. On 21 July a ban on holding two pickets was received by BCD activist Nadzeya Iyulskaya, who was expected to hold the events on 28 July in Yakub Kolas Square and on 30 July in Zhylunovich Street. All the bans were signed by Deputy Mayor of Minsk Ihar Karpenka.

On 27 July the UN Human Rights Committee recognized a violation of the rights of Baranavichy activists Siarhei Housha, Viktar Syrytsa and Viktar Meziak to freedom of expression and assembly. The complaint concerned a ban on rally entitled "For free, independent and prosperous Belarus" of 10 September 2006. On 4 September 2006 the Baranavichy City Executive Committee dismissed the activists’ application for holding the rally on the grounds that the meeting on the same topic had already taken place in the premises of the city executive committee back on 15 March 2006. The ban was appealed to the Court of Baranavichy District and of Baranavichy City and the Judicial Chamber for Civil Cases of the Brest Region Court. However, their complaints were dismissed. Thus, the activists exhausted all available domestic remedies in the attempt to exercise their right of peaceful assembly, guaranteed by article 35 of the Constitution." "The Human Rights Committee, acting under article 5, paragraph 4, of the Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, is of the view that the facts before it disclose a violation by Belarus of article 19 and article 21 of the Covenant", says the UN Human Rights Committee in its Views adopted on 27 July 2012. "The Committee observes that the State party has failed to demonstrate, despite having been given an opportunity to do so, why the restrictions imposed on the authors' rights of freedom of expression and assembly, even if based on a law and a municipal decision, were necessary, for one of the legitimate purposes of article 19, paragraph 3, and the second sentence of article 21 of the Covenant. Accordingly, the Committee concludes that the facts as submitted reveal a violation, by the State party, of the authors' rights under article 19 and article 21 of the Covenant," says the Committee’s decision. In addition, the Committee noted that “the State party is under an obligation to provide the authors with an effective remedy, including reimbursement of the legal costs incurred by them and compensation. The State party is also under an obligation to take steps to prevent similar violations in the future. In this connection, the State party should review its legislation, in particular the Law on Mass Events, and its application, to ensure its conformity with the requirements of article 19 and article 21 of the Covenant.”

In late July-early August executive authorities across the country banned rallies of solidarity with the imprisoned leader of the Human Rights Center "Viasna" Ales Bialiatski and other Belarusian political prisoners. Denials to hold peaceful mass events were received by human rights defenders and civil activists from Hrodna, Smarhon, Babruisk, Brest, Vitsebsk, Baranavichy, Mazyr, Barysau, Orsha, Zhodzina, Biaroza, and Maladechna. All further appeals against the bans heard in the courts did not have a positive outcome.

Hrodna City Executive Committee denied the right of human rights defenders Viktar Sazonau and Uladzimir Khilmanovich to stage a picket on 4 August. The first application for holding the picket received a strange answer from the officials. After that Viktar Sazonau and Uladzimir Khilmanovich sent another application to the city authorities, with a request to clarify the situation, after which the officials sent a written response signed by the deputy head of the executive committee Alena Ahei, which definitely banned holding a picket in Kalozha Park. The formal ground for the denial was failure to sign agreements with the appropriate agencies to ensure public order.

The head of Smarhon District Executive Committee Mechyslau Hoi did not authorize a picket aimed at protesting against Ales Bialiatski’s imprisonment, encouraging all members of the civil society in Belarus to show solidarity and support for human rights organizations and human rights activists and other persons, including candidates for President, who were illegally sentenced following the events of 19 December 2010, as well as all people who are subjected to harassment for their beliefs and political views, and demanding the release of all political prisoners in Belarus. The picket was expected to be held on August. The reason for the refusal was the fact that the applicant of the picket Ales Dzerhachou wrote in his application that he assumed the maintenance of public order and security during the picket. The head of Smarhon District Executive Committee considered the desire of the applicant to take these measures as contrary to Decree No. 207 by the Council of Ministers of 5 March 2012, according to which the functions of public order during mass events rest with the police.

Babruisk activist Siarhei Latsinski was not allowed to hold a picket in support of political prisoners. The ban was signed by the deputy head of the executive committee Aliaksandr Markachou. The official paper said that the law "On Mass Events" does not define "a picket", which "does not allow accurately determine which mass action is being planned." "The application also fails to specify the specific place where you are going to hold a mass event," wrote the official. Aliaksandr Markachou’s answer mentions prevention of responsibility, which is provided "for violating the procedures for organizing or holding of public events." Siarhei Latsinski deliberately omitted the location for the rally, stating that "the place shall be determined by the executive committee."

Brest authorities banned a picket expected to be held on 4 August by the human rights defender Uladzimir Vialichkin. The official response signed by the deputy head of the Brest City Executive Committee Viachaslau Khafizau said that on 4 August the park where the human rights activist was going to hold the picket would host events marking the Day of Paratroopers and Special Forces. The second reason for the refusal of the picket was failure to sign agreements with the appropriate agencies, which should maintain public order during the event. However, according to the applicant, he would not need a car of garbage collectors, an ambulance, or a police bus, as the picket was expected to be held by only two participants.

The deputy head of Kastrychnitski District of Vitsebsk Viktar Halanau substantiated his decision to ban an event on 4 August by the fact that the applicants had not entered into service agreements with the departments of the Interior, the city’s central clinic and the enterprise "Vitsebsk housing and utilities." This is the standard official denial, which is based on Decision No. 881 "On mass events in Vitsebsk" adopted by the city authorities in 2009. However, the Interior Ministry departments, medical services and ambulances, as well as public utilities refuse to sign the contracts, requiring permission from the authorities in advance. Therefore, the applicants are trapped in a "vicious circle", and since the adoption of the decision, local authorities have not given permission to a single event applied for by pro-democratic activists.

On 28 July Baranavichy activists Siarhei Housha, Viktar Syrytsa and Viktar Meziak received a letter signed by the deputy head of the executive committee of Baranavichy Dz. Kastiukevich, which reported that the executive committee did not give permission for the rally on 4 August. The city authorities argued that the applicants had violated Art. 6 of the Law "On Mass Events" and Par. 4 of Decision No. 1497 by the executive committee of Baranavichy of 16 June 2009 "On the order of public events in Baranavichy" (as amended by Decision No. 2497 by the executive committee of Baranavichy of October 10, 2009). However, the employee of the ideological department Siarhei Piatsihoroau refused to name, both in writing and orally, what specific rule of law was violated the applicants.

On 26 July Mazyr human rights defender Uladzimir Tseliapun received negative responses from the executive committee and the district council of Mazyr to his applications for a street manifestation in the city center. The event was scheduled for 4 August and was expected to distribute leaflets with information about Ales Bialiatski and to demand to put an end to the harassment of the human rights defender. The letters signed by deputy head of the Mazyr City Executive Committee Feliks Haliuk and the head of the district council of deputies Siarhei Hvozdz are nearly identical. Uladzimir Tseliapun was not allowed holding the event on the grounds of alleged non-compliance with Article 2 of the Law "On Mass Events in the Republic of Belarus", which states that "a street march is an organized mass movement of citizens on the pavement or on the roadway of a street, a boulevard, an avenue, or a square in order to attract attention to any problems or to publicly express one’s social and political sentiments or protest.” “However, the application specifies the number of expected participants of the street procession as one person, which does not meet the definition of "a street march" provided in the Law," reads the letter signed by Siarhei Hvozdz, head of the district council of deputies.

Barysau City Executive Committee banned a picket "Freedom for Ales Bialiatski", which was planned to be held by local human rights defenders on 4 August outside one of the town’s major department stores. The application for the picket was submitted to the local executive committee by human rights defenders Maryna Statkevich and Aleh Matskevich. Simultaneously, they lodged statements with the police department of Barysau, the central district hospital and the community services with a request to enter into contracts for the provision of law and order during the picket, medical care and clean-up. All the three services issued the same answers: "Owing to your failure to meet the requirements of Art. 5 of the Law "On Mass Events in the Republic of Belarus" of 30 December 1997 as amended by the Law of 7 August 2003, we do not have any possibilities to sign a contract with you." The same reason for a ban on the rally was mentioned in the response of the Barysau District Executive Committee.

Orsha City Executive Committee denied the right of seven human rights organizations and political parties to hold a picket in support of Ales Bialiatski. The formal reason for the refusal was the absence of agreements with the police department, local hospital and housing and public utilities. The above mentioned services did not wish to sign such contracts, and the executive committee, in turn, used this as an excuse for the ban.

Zhodzina city authorities banned a rally scheduled for 4 August by local human rights activists in order to demand the release of all political prisoners, as well as prominent human rights defender Ales Bialiatski. On 24 July Aliaksei Lapitski received a letter from Zhodzina City Executive Committee, which denied the applicant’s right to picketing. The ban was signed by deputy head of the ideology department Yury Shary. The official believes that the picket with an expected number of participants of 1-2 persons should not be allowed on the grounds that "public order and security and medical management of picketing during the public event should be maintained by the bodies of internal affairs and those of public health."

Biaroza human rights defenders Siarhei Rusetski and Tamara Shchapiotkina, as well as a member of the BPF party Anatol Sakharusha, were not allowed by the executive committee holding a picket in the city center on 4 August in support of the head of the Human Rights Center "Viasna" Ales Bialiatski and other political prisoners. The ban signed by deputy head of the executive committee Yauhen Tarasiuk referred to its own decision No. 138 of 9 February 2010 "On the order of public events in Biaroza district." According to Yauhen Tarasiuk, the application failed to specify the exact location. In addition, the application for a picket did not have attached copies of agreements with the police, community services and medical department. The authorities ignored the fact that the organizers undertook the charges for the maintenance of order and other services.

Maladechna human rights defenders received a ban imposed by the executive committee on holding a picket to protest against the imprisonment of Ales Bialiatski and other political prisoners. The picket was banned, because on the day the expected location of the picket (the central square of the town) would reportedly be occupied by the rental of children’s cars and trains. In addition, the head of the executive committee Fiodar Damatsenka in his reply said that Ales Bialiatski had been found guilty and sentenced in a criminal case, and the "expression of public protest in the form of picketing in this case is not provided by law."

слухаць Радыё рацыя Міжнародная федэрацыя правоў чалавека Беларуская Інтэрнэт-Бібліятэка КАМУНІКАТ Грамадзкі вэб-архіў ВЫТОКІ Антидискриминационный центр АДЦ 'Мемориал' Беларускі Праўны Партал Межрегиональная правозащитная группа - Воронеж/Черноземье
Московская Хельсинкская группа
Молодежное Правозащитное Движение
amnesty international