Review-Chronicle of Human Rights Violations in Belarus in October 2012
The situation of human
rights in Belarus remained stably bad in October. 12 political
prisoners continued being kept behind bars: Ihar Alinevich, Mikalai
Autukhovich, Ales Bialiatski, Dzmitry Dashkevich, Mikalai Dziadok,
Aliaksandr Frantskevich, Eduard Lobau, Vasil Parfiankou, Artsiom
Prakapenka, Pavel Seviarynets, Mikalai Statkevich and Yauhen
Vaskovich. The decision to toughen the prison regime was taken
towards Dzmitry Dashkevich, as a result of which he was transferred
from colony to a cell-type prison for the rest of the term. The
overwhelming majority of the political prisoners remained in the
status of “repeated violators of the prison regime” and was
subject to a ceaseless pressurization by the prison authorities.
On 16 October, during a press-conference for regional journalists from Russia, A. Lukashenka for the first time admitted that Belarus had political prisoners: “We have two or three political prisoners, who have tried to break in the House of the Government”. Thus, he took an intermediate position concerning this issue: he didn't deny their existence, but reduced their real quality and emphasized the allegedly violent nature of their actions.
The Belarusian authorities still considered human rights issues solely in the political dimension. During the conference of 16 October Lukashenka also stated: “There are issues which need to be solved. This is demanded from us by the West, and in Russia critical voices can be heard not only from the opposition, Lukashenka is criticized in Duma (the Russian Parliament) as well". The head of the state admitted that he was most concerned with the unchangeable position of the European Union concerning the possibility of renewal of relations only under the condition of the release of all political prisoners. While presenting credentials to the Ambassadors of five foreign countries on 5 October A. Lukashenka said: “We expect the EU to refuse from the pointless pressure on our country and start taking steps for renewing the trust to it as a serious partner and a good neighbor”. This statement was also a peculiar message to the EU before the sitting of the EU’s Foreign Affairs Council on 15 October in Luxembourg, whose agenda included the extension of sanctions against Belarus. As a result of the hints about the desire to resume the dialogue, voiced by Lukashenka, the stabilization of the level of repression and the release of the political prisoners Siarhei Kavalenka and Pavel Syramalotau at the end of September, the European Union took a compromising decision: the restrictive measures against the official Minsk were prolonged on a full scale, but not increased. Thus, the EU decided not to escalate the political confrontation, simultaneously marking its principled position: “As not all political prisoners have been released and no released prisoner has been rehabilitated, and against the background of the lack of improvement as regards the respect for human rights, the rule of law and democratic principles, the Council decided to prolong the existing restrictive measures until 31 October 2013. In this context, the Council recalls its Conclusions of 23 March 2012 and reiterates that its policy on restrictive measures remains open and under constant review”, is stated in the conclusions of the Foreign Affairs Council. The EU expressed the intention to periodically review the restrictive measures towards Belarus depending on the development of the situation in the country and “demand the release and rehabilitation of all prisoners”.
The dialogue on human rights between the Belarusian delegation and the High Commissioner for Human Rights Navanethem Pillay on “Protection and Promotion of human rights” within the framework of the 67th session of the UN General Assembly is quite eloquent. On 24 October the representative of the regular mission of the Republic of Belarus at the UN Larysa Belskaya stated that Belarus “wholly implemented its undertakings in the sphere of human rights”. According to her, Belarus was ready to cooperate with the human rights instruments of the UN including the High Commissioner on Human Rights on the basis of “objective and unbiased approach”. At the same time, her statement fails to meet the reality: for the last 14 years Belarus hasn't presented any periodical reports concerning the implementation of the International Covenant of Civil and Political Rights; not a single decision of the UN Human Rights Committee concerning violation of citizens' rights by the Republic of Belarus has been implemented; the majority of the recommendations, worked out by the UN Human Rights Council within the Universal Periodical Review were deemed as unacceptable; the official Minsk refused from cooperation with the UN Special Rapporteur on Belarus Miklos Haraszti. The representative of the official delegation of Belarus did not touch upon these problems in her speech, as well as the wide range of human rights questions, put to Belarus by various UN institutions, concentrating solely on the success in the struggle against human traffic.
In October, the Constitutional Court of the Russian Federation adopted a ruling confirming the obligatory nature of decisions of the UN Human Rights Committee: “Though neither the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights nor the Optional Protocol to it oblige States to implement views of the Human Rights Committee, it does not free the Russian Federation from bona fide and responsible implementation of these decisions. Any other position would not only put to doubt the implementation by the Russian Federation of the voluntarily accepted international agreements, but would also witness the non-implementation of the duty to recognize and guarantee civil and human rights and would make deprive of any sense the right of everyone to apply to the Human Rights Committee”. This is a serious counter-argument to the position of the Belarusian authorities, which call decisions of the UN Human Rights Committee “recommendatory views of international experts” and invariably ignore their undertaking to restore the violated rights of Belarusian citizens.
As it became known in October, the National Center for Legislation and Legal Research at the Presidential Administration addressed some “interested state institutions and other organizations” with a letter, in which they were proposed to express their opinion concerning the necessity to create a national institution for the promotion and protection of human rights in Belarus, and their proposals concerning the most acceptable form of such institution and the main agenda of its activities. The NCLLR pointed that this initiative was connected to the implementation of a recommendation received by the Republic of Belarus within the procedure of the Universal Periodical Review (UPR). At the same time, none of the human rights organizations which took part in the drafting of this recommendation (set forth in the alternative report on the situation of human rights in Belarus, which was presented during the UPR) and monitor its implementation were proposed to voice their proposals on this issue. This raises concerns that the Belarusian authorities are trying to imitate a public discussion of an issue which is important for the whole human rights sector. A meeting of representatives of a wide range of human rights organizations was held on 16 October, at which it was stated that the proposed form of discussion of the issue of the national human rights institution did not correspond to the demands of the full-fledged participation of NGOs in the implementation of the UPR recommendations, provided by its procedure. The human rights defenders demanded that a transparent, open and public discussion of the issue with an equal participation of all interested parties, including the human rights organizations which were deprived of registration, was held. They also set forth some preconditions for the dialogue between the state institutions and human rights organizations: the release of all political prisoners including the human rights defender Ales Bialiatski and cessation of all forms of pressurization on human rights activists and organizations.
Political prisoners. Politically motivated criminal prosecution
On 4 October the counsel was not allowed to meet with the political prisoner and member of the organizing committee of the “Belarusian Christian Democracy” party Yauhen Vaskovich who serves his prison term in the prison #4 in Mahiliou. The reason was that Mr. Vaskovich had been put in a penal cell for 7 days. As it was stated that he was to be released in three days, he must have been placed there on 1 October. On 27 October the disciplinary commission of the Mahiliou colony issued another penalty to Mr. Vaskovich. The political prisoner disproved the September information that he had allegedly refused from advocatory services.
On 4 October the political prisoner Mikalai Dziadok (kept in the Shklou colony) was visited by his counsel for preparing a review appeal to the head of the Supreme Court against the refusal to recognize Mikalai Dziadok as a victim of Chernobyl (which would enable the use of amnesty towards the prisoner). According to the lawyer, M. Dziadok would be kept in a one-man cell up to 6 December. He was deprived of food parcels, meetings with relatives and telephone calls. His stomach illness exacerbated. On 20 October Mikalai Dziadok wrote his parents that he was finally allowed to receive a medical parcel. He welcomed the release of Siarhei Kavalenka and Pavel Syramalotau, but wrote that he would not write a pardon petition.
On 5 October the political prisoner, leader of the “Young Front” Zmitser Dashkevich stopped his 15-day hunger-strike at the Mazyr colony. The same day he was transferred from the penal cell to an ordinary cell for a month. After the hunger-strike the prison medics confessed him inclined to suicide. On 30 October the Mazyr court held an ambulatory session at the colony to sanction the toughening of the prison regime for Mr. Dashkevich by transferring him to a cell-type prison facility till the end of the term (the end of August 2013). The trial lasted for ten minutes. Dashkevich's counsel did not attend it, as his client thought it would have no impact on the results.
On 8 October the former political prisoner Siarhei Kavalenka, released at the end of September after writing a pardon petition for A.Lukashenka, was summonsed to the criminal-executive inspection of the Pershamaiski District of Vitsebsk and informed about his new duties – to get registered at the inspection each three months until his conviction was canceled. During the next two years Mr. Kavalenka will have to come to the inspection, whose officers initiated a criminal case against him for alleged violation of the regime of the personal restraint (to which he had been sentenced after hanging out a white-red-white flag on the New Year Tree in Vitsebsk on 7 January 2010).
On 16 October the Paris City Council awarded the Belarusian human rights defender Ales Bialiatski, vice-president of the International Federation for Human Rights, with the title of a honorable citizen of Paris on proposal of the Paris Mayor and the Council of the 11th district of Paris. As it became known on 19 October, Ales Bialiatski, who is kept in the penal colony #2 in Babruisk, was not allowed to receive a medical parcel sent by his wife, Natallia Pinchuk. Though she did not exceed the allowed limit – 2 kilos, the parcel was returned to her with the explanation that the parcel was to weigh not more than one kilo. The reasons for such restriction of weight weren't explained.
On 17 October the British daily “The Evening Standard” published a fragment of interview with Aliaksandr Lukashenka of 9 October, where he promised to release the journalist Iryna Khalip from home arrest. The interviewer asked Lukashenka why Khalip could not, for instance, go to Moscow for getting medical treatment, and said he could offer his personal guarantee for her. “Is she still in Belarus?”, Lukashenka answered. “I thought she was in Moscow. Send her away with the evening horse, together with Zhenya (journalist Yevgeny Lebedev). Take her away and don't bring her here anymore. Let her go. It is the first time I hear she cannot go abroad to get medical treatment in Moscow. I cannot talk about this person at all. You want to take her to Moscow? Let's do it.” The journalist reminded that Khalip was under a personal recognizance, after which Lukashenka addressed one of his aides with the request to ascertain the details of her case. “Find out who is responsible for it in the police or wherever, and tell me”, says Lukashenka. “And we'll settle this for you. It's not about Khalip, after all. I have taken the decision already. You see, dictatorship can be kind as well. No president would have taken the decision at once, but I have done it.” “What decision?”, Lebedev asks. “You'll take Khalip to Moscow to your home, or wherever, instead of your wife”. In her interview with “Novaya Gazeta”, a staff member of which Iryna Khalip is, she said that on 15 October she had come to get registered at the police and asked whether she could really go away to Moscow. “They laughed and said that if I tried to go abroad I would be immediately declared wanted and returned to Minsk in handcuffs”, said Iryna Khalip. “Lukashenka is not interested in my release. I was to have been released on amnesty this summer. My inspectors from the Main Police Department prepared the documents for the amnesty and we joked that will soon have to bid our farewell. The law on amnesty was adopted by the upper and the lower chambers of the parliament. When only the president's signature was left, I was informed that I had no legal right to be released on parole. In May 2011 Iryna Khalip had been found guilty of taking part in the “mass riot” after the election of 19 December 2010 and sentenced to two years of imprisonment with the deferment of the sentence for two years. She had no right to leave Minsk, had to get registered at the police each week and be at home after 10 p.m. everyday. The deferment ends on 20 July 2013, after which her case can be reviewed by the court, which will decide whether she must be sent to prison or left in the same status for some other term. It’s worth mentioning that later the interview disappeared from ww.standard.co.uk for unknown reasons and Lukashenka’s press-service stated he had given no promise to release Khalip. At the same, a video recording of the interview is still accessible on the web.
On 21 October the investigative organs ruled that the investigation into the criminal case against the Hrodna correspondent for “Gazeta Wyborcza” Andrei Pachobut was to be extended for another month. “The term of the preliminary investigation into the criminal case against Pachobut under Art. 367, part 2 of the CC of Belarus is extended for another month, until 21 November 2012, for conducting additional investigative measures,” stated the official representative of the Hrodna regional bureau of the Investigative Committee Siarhei Sharshanevich. A.Pachobut continued being kept under a written recognizance in Hrodna. He was charged with libel against A.Lukashenka. No investigative actions were conducted during the investigation, he wasn't summonsed anywhere.
On 22 October an activist of the “Our House” civil campaign Mikalai Petrushenka received from the Vitsebsk regional bureau of the Investigative Committee a ruling about dropping the criminal case against him, instigated under Article 369 of the Criminal Code, “insult of a state official”. The ruling was signed by the lieutenant-colonel of justice S.Sakharava. The case was dropped because of the results of the linguistic expertise, held by the Vitsebsk State Pedagogical University named after P. Masherau. The expertise failed to find any traits of insult in the article “Pedophile received wage bonuses for the best playgrounds” published at nash-dom.info.
On 23 October Maryna Adamovich, wife of the political prisoner Mikalai Statkevich, stated that means of hygiene, including soap, toilet paper, toothpaste and disposable razors, hadn't been issued to prisoners by the administration of the Mahiliou prison for the whole nine months during which her husband had been kept there. Mikalai Statkevich still had to use the spectacles that are unfit for his sight (which started rapidly deteriorating at the remand prison of the KGB in the beginning of 2011). Despite the sudden fall of temperature, heating was not turned on in the Mahiliou prison, and prisoners continued suffering from cold.
Torture and cruel treatment
As it became known on 3 October, the Salihorsk police saw traits of libel in the address of the local “Young Front” activist Ivan Shyla concerning the death of the Salihorsk citizen A.Trafimovich at the Salihorsk remand prison. The address concerned the events of July 2012, when the young Salihorsk citizen was detained for “disorderly conduct” and placed to the remand prison of the Salihorsk DPD, from which he was taken away to resuscitation with a cranial trauma, and subsequently died without coming to his senses. The police stated they possessed a video recording, at which the arrested could be seen falling on the floor without anyone's assistance an hitting his head on the toilet sink. Ivan Shyla, who has repeatedly served arrest terms at this prison because of his civil activities, applied to the Minister of Internal Affairs in connection with this obscure incident, blamed the head of the Police Department of the Salihorsk District Executive Committee A.Astreika on it and demanded a public demonstration of the video recording. The Ministry of Internal Affairs charged A.Astreika (who I. Shyla demanded to draw to legal account) with answering the address. Aliaksandr Astreika stated that the Salihorsk district bureau of the Investigative Committee was holding a check-up on the death of A. Trafimovich within the framework of the Criminal-Process Code. The demands for a public demonstration of the aforementioned video and the points connected with the admission of public representatives and media to the remand prison were simply ignored. Moreover, in the activist's application the police allegedly saw “corpus delicti, provided by Article 9.3 of the Code of Administrative Violations (libel). The Salihorsk DPD held a special check-up on this matter, but “the administrative proceedings on the case were stopped as no corpus delicti was found”.
On 2 October the Ambassadors of Latvia, France and Italy to Belarus and representatives of the EU delegation in Minsk presented a démarche to the Belarusian authorities in connection with the Universal Day against the Death Penalty, marked on 10 October. The démarche was a joint decision of the EU Delegation and the accredited EU Ambassadors and was aimed at reminding that Belarus remains the only European country where the death penalty is still used. The European Union has repeatedly called on Belarus to introduce a moratorium on the death penalty.
On 10 October activists of the “Human Rights Defenders against the Death Penalty” campaign held the presentation of the documentary “Departed on Sentence” (the phrase which is used in the official documents and to inform the convicts' relatives about their execution). Presentations of the documentary were held throughout October in different towns and cities of Belarus, including Brest, Mahiliou Mazyr, Homel, etc.
Harassment of human rights activists and organizations
On 6 October the human rights defender Nasta Loika was detained for several hours on the Lithuanian-Belarusain border. This happened when she was returning home from Vilnius by a route bus. The border guards of the crossing point “Kamenny Loh” searched her and her belongings, after which an appropriate report was drawn up. Nasta returned to Minsk late in the evening.
On 9 October the Minsk Economic Court ruled to liquidate the informational and educational institution “Platform”, which dealt with the protection of prisoners' rights. The decision was taken on the lawsuit of the Savetski district tax inspection of Minsk. According to it, the organization did not present a tax and income declaration in time and did not inform the tax agency about the alleged change of its address. In fact, the “Platform” provided all documentation timely, but the tax inspection was allegedly losing them. The trial was lead by the judge Aleh Kliuiko. Representatives of the institution and its head Andrei Bandarenka stated their intention to appeal the court verdict. On 12 October the Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders decisively condemned the ruling on the liquidation of the “Platform”, considering it as arbitrary and aimed at sanctioning human rights activities.
Pressurization of social and political activists by security services
On 8 October a fourth-year student of the Sakharov University, Inna Panchkouskaya, was called to the Partyzanski District Department of Education in Minsk. The formal reason was to find out why the girl wanted to get a second higher education at the Belarusian State University. However, as it was found out later, the meeting was organized by the KGB, whose officers paid interest to Inna's foreign trips. Three weeks before this a police officer talked to Inna’s mother. As the girl wasn’t home at the time, the policeman asked the mother to tell her that she was a witness of some fight. In fact, Inna Panchkouskaya didn’t see any fights. In some time the university’s administration started to pay an unusual attention to the girl. She wanted to acquire a second higher education degree in the Belarusian State University. That is why she addressed the dean’s office and the university’s administration asking to allow her to study in a different institution at the same time as the procedure requires. At first the student’s application was passed from one office to another, but later the university’s vice-provost said that the Department of Education got interested in her that is why she would be called for a talk. The first thing that seemed suspicious to the girl was that the men who introduced themselves as the Department of Education’s officials didn’t give the address where she was supposed to come, but met her near the entrance of the building. The meeting was held in a huge assembly hall. The two men didn't want to tell who they are, but in the course of the conversation it became clear they were from KGB, not from the Education Department. They asked the student about her trips abroad – whom she traveled with and who paid for that. They started shouting at the girl at the end of the talk, as she refused to answer the majority of the questions which had nothing to do with the initial topic – her entrance to the BSU. After the “meeting” she filed an appeal to the head of the Partyzanski District Education Department, requiring explanations as to who exactly had a talk with her and on what grounds. During a private conversation the head of the Department Alena Asadchaya said she didn't know who these men were. “I just got a call from the personnel department of the Ministry of Education and was asked to provide the hall. I don't know who these people are,” answered the official.
On 22 October a KGB officer phoned to the mobile phone of an activist of the Belarusian Christian Democracy Aleh Aksionau and offered to meet. He said he could present him a writ and bring it anywhere, if necessary. Aleh Aksionau agreed to meet and came to the Mahiliou region KGB department several hours after it. A senior investigator of the KGB Andrei Makhunou held a talk with him. He informed Mr. Aksionau that he was put on the preventive supervision register for activities on behalf of the unregistered organization (the BCD). The activist was proposed to familiarize with the appropriate document of 11 October 2012, signed by the head of the Mahiliou KGB department Ihar Siarheyenka. Aleh Aksionau wasn't proposed to sign any papers.
Administrative prosecution of social and political activists, arbitrary detention
On 2 October two police officers came to Mikalai Ulasevich's apartment and drew up a report for alleged insubordination to police (Article 23.4 of the Code of Administrative Offenses) which had allegedly taken place on 21 September. Bear in mind that on 21 September the activist was detained in Astravets for handing out electoral leaflets. Later the police searched him and his car, which was followed by a search in his village house. The police confiscated the leaflets. According to Mr. Ulasevich, they didn't want to charge him for distribution of printed matter and therefore had to invent this “insubordination”.
On 8 October the Navapolatsk District Court considered an administrative case against a BCD activist Siarhei Malashonak who was detained that day while trying to hang out a streamer “Freedom to political prisoners!”. The activist was charged with violation of Article 23.34. of the Code of Administrative Offenses, “violation of the order of holding mass events” and fined 300,000 rubles.
At about 5.20 p.m. on 8 October in Mahiliou, two activists of the campaign against the death penalty were detained for handing out posters and stickers against the death penalty. According to one of the campaign activists, Uladzimir Chumakou, the youngsters were detained after a telephone call of some “vigilant” citizens and guarded to the Leninski District Police Department of Mahiliou. A report under Article 21.14, part 2, “Violation of the urban maintenance rules” and a report for confiscation of the printed matter were drawn up against them as a result of the inquiry which lasted for almost five hours.
On 9 October on the Kastrychnitskaya Square in Minsk the police detained participants of the art project “Going Public”, artist Mikhail Hulin together with three assistants – Aleh Davydchyk, Uladzislau Luk'yanchuk and Siarhei Panasiuk, and a correspondent of the “Nasha Niva” weekly Tatsiana Haurylchyk. Hulin and his assistants were holding the performance “Difficulties of expression in public space”. During the detention Hulin and the assistants were just carrying some abstract constructions on the square. They were approached by some riot policemen, who told they needed to come with them for checking their identities. Then the detainees were set on a bus and driven to the Tsentralny District Police Department of Minsk, where the police told them its was necessary to take their fingerprints. The detainees refused to be subject to this procedure voluntarily, as a result of which physical violence was used. Tatsiana Haurylchyk was released three hours after the detention, whereas Hulin and the volunteers were charged with insubordination to police. The trial of Aleh Davydchyk and Uladzislau Luk'yanchuk started at the Tsentralny District Court on 22 October. The judge Tatsiana Tkachova decided to aggregate the cases of all four accused in one and appointed the trial on 29 October. That day the video recording of the detention was viewed, at which it could be seen that the participants of the art project had showed no resistance to the police. The case was dropped on 2 November.
On 11 October in Minsk the leader of the youth initiative “Alternative” Aleh Korban and an activist Uladzimir Siarheyeu were detained for a flash-mob against the propaganda on the Belarusian TV. They put a TV set with the logo of the 1st National TV channel on the corner of Niamiha and Haradzki Val streets and put noodles atop and around it. “To put noodles on somebody's ears” in Slavonic languages is an idiom meaning “to tell bold lies”. They also put a shield “Donations for BT” and scattered small bonds around, hinting that the state propaganda was cheaply priced. The detainees were charged under Article 17.1 of the Code of Administrative Offenses, “disorderly conduct”. On 12 October the judge of the Partyzanski District Court of Minsk Ryta Sharai sentenced both of them to 5 days of arrest.
On 12 October the judge of the Slutsk District Court Uladzimir Areshka abolished the ruling of the administrative commission of the Slutsk District Executive Committee according to which a civil activist Vital Amialkovich was guilty of posting stickers. The case materials were returned to the commission for being reviewed. Bear in mind that on 6 September the commission had fined Mr. Amialkovich 1 million rubles. The activist appealed this verdict at the Slutsk District Court. The judge asked Vital, who had detained him in the night of 14 July. The latter answered he still did not know it: the police officer hadn't introduced himself and his name hadn't been voiced at the sitting of the administrative commission. Moreover, the administrative proceedings against the activist were accompanied with gross violations of the part of the Slutsk District Police Department.
On 25 October a police inspector Dz. Mizger paid a visit to the local market where the entrepreneur and civil activist Mikalai Charnavus worked. Having questioned vendors and entrepreneurs, he drew up a report charging Mr. Charnavus under Article 23.34,part 2 of the CAO, “organization and holding of unauthorized events”. The policemen qualified as such the charitable dinner, held by Mr. Charnavus near his market stall on 6 October.
On 27 October in Miyory, the “Young Front” activists Dzmitry Kremianetski and Raman Vasilyeu were detained after the wedding of their fellow activist Mikalai Dzemidzenka. The car by which Raman Vasilyeu was returning home, was stopped at the drive-out of Miyory, after which he was detained. Dz. Kremianetski was detained near the cafe in which the wedding party was held. On 29 the detainees were tried at the Miyory District Court on charges in disorderly conduct, Article 17.1 of the CAO. The head of the Miyory District Court Natallia Hryhor'yeva declined two solicitations of Raman Vasilyeu, who asked to be provided with advocatory services and stated impeachment to the judge. Testimonies were born by the road policemen Milto and Verashchaka. R. Vasilyeu felt bad during the trial and was taken to hospital with the suspicion of a hypertension stroke. Testimonies against Dz. Kremianetski were given by the head of the public order and prophylaxis section of the Miyory DPD Uladzislau Yudkin, and Mikhail Kurazh. Mr. Kremianetski was sentenced to 5 days of arrest.
On 27 October in Svislach (the Hrodna region) four participants of the traditional commemorative action in honor of the participants of the anti-Russian insurgency of 1863-1864 Viktar and Kastus Kalinouskis, were detained: the student of the Belarusian National Technical University Ales Krot, Stanislava Husakova from Vitsebsk (a Belarusian-speaking Russian citizen), a member of the “For Freedom” movement and the Belarusian Popular Front Party Vitold Ashurak from Biarozauka and a Hrodna activist Vital Lopasau (who was released after the trial, as he had his minor son with him). The detention took place on Saturday, that's why three detainees were kept in the remand prison during the week-end. All of them were charged under Article 23.34 of the CAO, “participation in unauthorized mass event”. On 29 October the Svislach District Court considered the administrative report against S. Husakova, but the ruling was delivered the following day. On 30 October the head of the Svislach Court Aliaksandr Shylin found Ales Krot, Stanislava Husakova and Vital Lopas guilty of taking part in an unauthorized mass event with the use of unregistered symbols. As a result, Krot and Husakova were sentenced to 3 days of arrest (most of which they had already served before the trial), and Lopas was fined 3 million rubles. Vital Ashurak was tried on 1 November and sentenced to 3 days of arrest as well.
Restrictions on freedom of speech and the right to impart information, persecution of journalists
On 1 October the "Belarusian Association of Journalists" received a reply to an appeal to the head of the public security section of the main police bureau of the Minsk City Executive Committee Aliaksandr Ioskin concerning respect of journalists' rights during street actions. "There is a practice of interaction with the media during public events, including unauthorized political actions. Depending on the situation, representatives of the police groups for interaction with journalists render information, voice comments, express wishes and explain the acting legal regulations,” stated Aliaksandr Ioskin in his reply. The official wrote that in his opinion the level of interaction of the police with journalists during civil and political events was "sufficient." However, in fact police officers often grossly violate the rights of the journalists. For instance, one of the recent cases is the detention and beating of the journalists who covered a “Tell the Truth!” action on 18 September in Minsk.
On 7 October the “Associated Press” photographer Siarhei Hryts received an official response from the Frunzenski District Police Department of Minsk, which carried out a check-up on the fact of his arrest and beating during the unauthorized rally on 18 September. As it follows from the answer, the police department conducted a check-up the actions of the its officers at the journalist's request and found no corpus delicti in their actions (Art. 174, point 2, part 1 of the Criminal Procedure Code of the Republic of Belarus). "It proved to be impossible to establish the circumstances of the injury of Hryts S.V., since none of the police officers had used physical force and violence or police gear, towards him. It is also impossible to establish the fact of deletion of the footage from the video camera of Hryts S.V., as none of the police officers had taken it away from him and the police hadn't established the presence of any footage on it, which means that there is no corpus delicti provided by Art. 198 of the Criminal Code. The ruling was signed by the deputy head of the public security and prophylaxis section of the Frunzenski DPD A.Chumik and the depity head of the police bureau of the Frunzenski District Executive Committee of Minsk R.Vaskrasenki.
On 9 October the video correspondent of “Nasha Niva” weekly Tatsiana Haurylchyk was detained on the Kastrychnitskaya Sqaure in Minsk during the art performance “Difficulties of expression in the public space” and taken to the Tsentralny District Police Department of Minsk together with the performance participants. The journalist was released three hours after the detention, all footage was deleted from her camera.
On 12 October the judge of the Savetski District Court of Homel Siarhei Ulasau abolished the fine to a civil activist Aliaksandr Pratsko who had been selling a private newspaper “Novy Chas” in an “improper” place. The case was returned to the administrative commission of the Savetski district of Minsk to be reviewed.
On 12 October the third trial over the creator of the web-site vrogacheve.ru Dzianis Dashkevich came to an end at the Rahachou City Court. Before this, the local state-owned newspaper had twice tried to draw him to account for alleged violation of copyright. This time the court finally found Mr. Dashkevich guilty of violation of copyright (Article 9.2 of the Administrative Code) and punished him with a fine of 3 million rubles. The judge mentioned neither the accusation article, nor the allegedly committed crime while delivering the sentence. The newspaper’s claim concerned the alleged repost of information at the website, including official police reports and information from the local hospital about the number of the dwellers who received frostbites last winter, which means that the newspaper correspondents weren't the original authors.
As it became known on 16 October, the authorities of the Kastrychnitski district were trying to restrict access of journalists of the “Volny Horad” newspaper to information about the state of affairs in the district, threatening officials with troubles for disclosing such information to them. In particular, on the eve of the Parliamentary election of 2012, the head of the Krychau district KGB department Illia Krauchou delivered a speech at the extended state council on the results of work of the agricultural complex for eight months of 2012. The official directly threatened with problems to those who provided “third parties” with “closed” information. Though he didn't explain what he meant, some of the present people associated his statements with a series of revealing articles concerning the Krychau District Executive Committee, the prosecutor's office and the administrations of the state plants, which had been published in “Volny Horad”.
On 16 October a police inspector paid a visit to the Astravets activist Mikalai Ulasevich and proposed him to give written explanations concerning the interview which had been published at belaruspartizan.org under the title: “I walk on KGB provocations like on a minefield” several days ago. M.Ulasevich refused to give any explanations, saying everything was clear in the interview and required no explanations.
On 18 October the Homel Region Economic Court fined the chief editor of the “ARCHE” magazine Valery Bulhakau 500,000 rubles. All profit from the sale of the magazine, 875,000 rubles, was confiscated as well. The court considered the “Hrodna incident” of 14 September, when Mr. Bulhakau had come to Hrodna for the presentation of a book from the “ARCHE” series, “Sovetization of the Western Belarus” by Yan Shumski. The event was attended by officers of the tax inspections who conducted a “control purchase”, followed by confiscation of about 200 copies of the magazine and the books for which there were no covering documents. The development of the events after this incident presents a threat to the further existence of the edition. On 21 September officers of the Financial Investigations Department of the State Control Committee visited the printing house where the magazine was printed. On 24-28 September the documents about the activities of “ARCHE” for the last two years were exacted from the printed house. On 1 October the chief editor agreed to come to the Financial Investigations Department. On 2 October more than 5,000 editions from the private collection of the chief editor of “ARCHE” were attached. On 4 October the “ARCHE” founder Andrei Dynko was summonsed to the FID, after which he decided to dismiss Valery Bulhakau from the position of the chief editor and appoint his deputy Aliaksandr Pashkevich instead of him. However, the same day the FID blocked the “ARCHE” account, as a result of which the magazine lost the ability to pay for the printing of new issues, the model of one of which was already at the printing house. On 5 October Valery Bulhakau went to the FID. On 12 October the new chief editor of “ARCHE” and its accountant went to the FID too. On 17 and 18 October Valery Bulhakau and the accountant were summonsed to the FID again. Though no official charges had been presented to the “ARCHE” staff so far, from the content of the interrogations at the FID it followed that the investigation was conducted on two main directions: the purposefulness of the use of the printing paper and the correctness of the acceptance of donations by the editorial office of the magazine. On 26 October a report about the situation around the “Arche-Pachatak” magazine was shown in the “Zone-X” program on the 1st channel of the Belarusian TV. As it was stated in the report, the ex-editor Valery Bulhakau could receive a criminal punishment. According to the journalist Aliaksandr Viarbitski, the reason for the criminal proceedings against Mr. Bulhakau could be the “extremist character” of the confiscated literary editions – if it was proved by a repeated examination.
On 20 October there turned 8 years since the assassination of the journalist Veranika Charkasava. The identity of the killers has not been established, the investigation has been suspended. As stated by a representative of the Investigative Committee, the case was passed to this institution short after its establishment and was subsequently suspended due to the impossibility to establish the identity of the perpetrator. Before that, the investigation had been suspended in 2007 on the basis of the articles of the Criminal-Process Code “Impossibility to find the person to be drawn to responsibility in the capacity of the accused”. Initially the investigation considered a domestic murder as the main version, Veranika's son and his stepfather being the main suspects. The suspicion was removed from them in April 2005.
On 22 October Larysa Shchyrakova, a freelance journalist from Homel, was summonsed to the Homel Region Prosecutor's Office by Iryna Makarevich, an officer of the corruption and organized crime department. Pretensions of the prosecutor's office to L.Shchyrakova concerned her work for foreign mass media without official accreditation and her comment on the air of the satellite TV channel “BelSat” concerning the arrest of the head of the Homel City Executive Committee Viktar Pilipets. The officer of the prosecutor's office informed the journalist that she would be issued with an official warning for cooperation with a foreign mass media without an official accreditation. The same day the deputy head of the Homel Region Prosecutor's Office Vasil Brouka signed the warning, in which it was stated: “The regional prosecutor's office held a check-up on information from the Homel regional KGB department, as a result of which it was established that you conduct activities for the benefit of the producing company N.E.W.S. Informacja (Warsaw, Poland) and gather information about sportive, cultural and socio-political events in the region. Moreover, on 26 September you recorded information about the arrest of the former head of the Homel City Executive Committee Viktar Pilipets for the TV air of the Polish media “BelSat”. As it was established by a check-up, you, having no working or any other relations with mass media and having no accreditation at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs as a journalist for a foreign medium, act as a journalist, including for the Polish producing company N.E.W.S. Informacja and the TV company “BelSat”, which is a violation of the Law “On mass media”. It is already the second prosecutor's warning issued to Larysa Shcharbakova this year.
Restriction of freedom of assembly
On 3 October the Baranavichy entrepreneur and civil activist Mikalai Charnavus received a letter signed by the deputy head of the Baranavichy City Executive Committee Dz. Kastsiukevich, informing him about the prohibition of the picket he intended to hold on 7 October. By means of this action Mr. Charnavus intended to inform the public about the creation of an initiative group for gathering signatures for free use of the public transport by school-children going to extra-curriculum classes. The answer traditionally had no information as to what was violated by the applicant, and proposed him to apply to the Baranavichy District and City Court in the case of disagreement.
On 4 October the Brest authorities declined the application of representatives of the Belarusian Trade Union of Radio Electronic Industry for authorization of a picket dated to the World Day for Decent Work, 7 October. The action was banned despite the fact that the trade union activists intended to hold it in the park of soldiers-internationalists (the officially determined place for the opposition's actions). The picket organizers intended to draw the public attention to the fact that the Brest region had the lowest average wages among all Belarusian regions and there were no conditions for decent work all over the country. The Brest authorities explained their answer with the statement that some festive events related to the Teacher's Day would be held in the park of soldiers-internationalists at the time of the action.
On 26 October the Brest human rights defender Uladzimir Vialichkin filed an individual communication to the UN Human Rights Committed concerning the violation of his freedom of expression and peaceful assembly by Belarus. The reason for the application became the prohibition of a picket in support of the imprisoned head of the Human Rights Center “Viasna” Ales Bialiatski. The Brest City Executive Committee motivated the prohibition by a reference to the failure of Mr. Vialichkin to conclude service agreements with the public utilities, medics and police. The attempts of the human rights defender to appeal the ban at the Belarusian court instances brought no result.
On 26 October, having come through all court instances at the national level, a Brest activist of the Belarusian Leftist Party “Fair World” Aliaksandr Dzenisenka filed an individual communication to the UN Human Rights Committee concerning the prohibition of the picket by means of which he had intended to draw public attention to the impossibility to build dwelling on affordable prices. The Leninski District Court had turned down his appeal against the ban, stating that the authorities had rightly prohibited the action due to the failure of the organizers to conduct service agreements with the police, medics and public utilities. This verdict was subsequently upheld by the Brest Region Court and the Supreme Court of Belarus.
On 28 October the traditional mass event of the Belarusian democratic opposition dedicated to the Ancestors' Day, “Dziady”, was held in Minsk. This event was authorized by the Minsk City Executive Committee in the form of a procession and a rally. The event went on peacefully. Its participants did not deviate from the sanctioned route and didn't violate any laws. Representatives of the police and security services did not use violence. However, they shot participants of the event on photo and video cameras. Often they weren't dressed in the uniform and had no IDs. An under-aged activist Illia Khormau, who carried white-red-white ribbons in his bag, was detained before the beginning of the action and later released. Uladzislau Shved was detained and charged under Article 17.1 of the CAO, “disorderly conduct”. A white-red-white flag was confiscated from him. Needless, to say, the detentions were completely unlawful.
Restriction of freedom of association
On 4 October the Hrodna Region Court considered the appeal of the Belarusian Popular Front Party against the justice bureau of the Hrodna Region Executive Committee who refused to register the Hrodna region BPF branch. The interests of the BPF Party were represented by Yury Chavusau and Vadzim Saranchukou. The judge Zoya Nikolskaya found nothing illegal with the actions of the justice bureau and denied the regional party organization in holding its activities on a legal basis. Bear in mind that a constituent assembly of the Hrodna regional BPF branch had taken place in May 2012. A packet of documents was filed to the justice bureau for registration of the branch. However, the registration request wasn't satisfied by the officials. Having suspended the process of registration, the justice bureau demanded that the organization provided personal data of its members, including their surnames in Russian. Though even this information was submitted, the registration did not take place.
As it became known on 25 October, all 14 institutions to which the public association “Young Democrats” had applied with the request for lending room for its constituent assembly on 3 November, answered with refusals. In all cases it was written that all halls would be occupied on that day, and the Palace of Military Officers didn't even explain the reasons for the refusal.
On 29 October the Homel activists of the initiative “Stop drinking – start living!” stated that they were unable to get a legal address in order to get their NGO registered with the state. “We receive agreements and promises to supply us with guarantee letters during preliminary meetings”, says the initiative coordinator Kanstantsin Zhukouski. “However, the following day we receive telephone calls with refusals for various reasons”. He believes that those who provide legal addresses to organizations must have received instructions from the authorities to inform them about such requests. That's why some organizations easily receive legal addresses, whereas some other, “disloyal” ones cannot receive them at all.