Review-Chronicle of Human Rights Violations in Belarus in December 2012
December, the foreign policy still played a decisive role in the
situation of human rights in Belarus. The general stagnation in the
relations between the Belarusian authorities and the European
democracies determined the stably bad situation of human rights and
fundamental freedoms without significant deterioration during the
12 political prisoners were still kept behind bars and the question of their release was consistently stated as by the EU and the US as a fundamental condition to resume dialogue with the Belarusian authorities.
During the 5 December meeting with the Belarusian human rights activists in Brussels, the European Commissioner for Enlargement and Neighborhood Policy Štefan Füle again confirmed that the release of political prisoners was a prerequisite for beginning a dialogue of the European Union with the official Minsk.
The statement of the US Department of State of 19 December also contained the demand of immediate and unconditional release of political prisoners, and reminded about the joint statement of Belarus and the US of 1 December 2010, which confirmed that "great respect for democracy and human rights remains a central topic in improving bilateral relations. " "We regret that the Belarusian authorities stepped on the path of isolation instead of it, starting repressions against their own people", says the document.
At the same time, the official Minsk was still trying to push its concept of pragmatic dialogue, ignoring the key political requirements of the EU. December saw a number of notable talks of the Foreign Minister of Belarus Uladzimir Makei with representatives of the EU and the EU institutions.
On 17 December the press service of the Belarusian Foreign Ministry stated that during the meeting of the Director of the Department of Russia, Eastern Partnership, Central Asia, regional cooperation and the OSCE European External Action Service Gunnar Wiegand, with the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Belarus Uladzimir Makei "the sides discussed a range of issues relating to the current state of relations between Belarus and the EU and the ways to normalize them. " During his visit to Belarus G. Wiegand also met with relatives of political prisoners and human rights defenders and assured them that the topic of political prisoners was still on the EU agenda and is constantly stressed in the talks with the Belarusian authorities.
The same day Uladzimir Makei had a telephone conversation with the Czech Foreign Minister Karel Schwarzenberg on the occasion of the 20th anniversary of diplomatic relations between Belarus and the Czech Republic. According to the press service of the Belarusian Foreign Ministry, the ministers discussed the subject of the relations with the European Union and the ways of their normalization, as well as "the achievements and prospects of further development of Belarusian-Czech cooperation". Meanwhile, the press service of the Czech Foreign Ministry issued a more detailed message: "The Ministers agreed on the importance of mutual relations and expressed their interest in expanding relations not only at the bilateral level, but also at the EU level. Mr. Schwarzenberg reiterated that the Czech Republic was interested in cooperation with Belarus in the Eastern Partnership. The poor human rights situation in Belarus, including the issue of political prisoners, was discussed as well."
A few days later, Uladzimir Makei had a series of meetings with ambassadors of Finland, Estonia and the UK. Despite the fact that the press service of the Foreign Ministry reported only that the talks concerned issues of cooperation, economic and trade cooperation, the development of contacts (both bilaterally and through the European Union), it can be assumed that the release of political prisoners topic as a prerequisite for the establishment of relations in all spheres was discussed too.
These meetings give reasons to believe that some negotiations are being conducted between the official Minsk and Brussels which could lead to the release of political prisoners in exchange for some steps towards Belarus on part of the EU. However, no visible results or signs of Belarus' readiness to make any concessions to the EU were noticed by the end of December.
The situation of civil and political rights remained stably poor. Cases of arbitrary detention and politically motivated administrative penalties against activists of social and political organizations and movements were registered. In fact, it was impossible to enjoy the right to peaceful assemblies, whose participants intended to express alternative views and draw public attention to the human rights situation in the country. In particular, none of the applications for the authorization of street actions on the anniversary of the events of 19 December 2010 were satisfied. The practice of harassment of journalists and human rights defenders in connection with their professional activities continued, as well as the pressure on the independent media and organizations.
Political prisoners. Prosecution of public activists
On 3 December it became known that letters of the political prisoners Zmitser Dashkevich were burned in the Hrodna prison. Here's an excerpt from his letter to Tatsiana Seviarynets: "I am ready to greet you once again Once again, as my previous letter to you was burned. They say it was very cold in the prison, and according to the decree on saving of energy, one shall warm oneself up with materials at hand. This is where letter came into play." On 26 December in Hrodna Zmitser Dashkevich married Nasta Palazhanka who took his surname. After the procedure, they were allowed to stay together for some 5 minutes. The marriage gave them the right to meet – for the first time in two years – two hours through a glass window. Before this, Zmitser and Nasta made several attempts to get married, but did not succeed, as Zmitser was either transferred from one prison to another or some other obstacles were created. Moreover, during a year there remained one formal obstacle – Zmitser was not returned his passport after the trial. His relatives and lawyer kept writing complaints to various state institutions for more than six months. Eventually the prosecutor's office answered that "it was impossible to find or confirm the exact location of the passport". This answer became the former reason to require the issue of a new passport to the prisoner. After this, there were numerous postponements, delays and disruptions of the marriage. At the end, the registry office informed Nasta Palazhanka that the procedure of marriage would be held on 19 December. Afterwards, the date was transferred to 26 December. Zmitser Dashkevich was convoyed to the registry office.
On 3 December the Baranavichy civil activist Ryhor Hryk tried to pass about 40 books of Belarusian and foreign authors to the pre-trial prison #6 in Baranavichy, where the political prisoner Vasil Parfiankou is kept. The deputy head of the prison, major Aliaksandr Pupko, refused to call the librarian to test, evaluate and deposit the brought literature. After consulting with the prison administration he stated to Ryhor Hryk that "our institution does not need books". establishment of our books are not necessary." On 13 December a sitting of the commission on parole took place in the prison. Vasil Parfiankou was denied release on parole as he "did not mend his ways". Before the sitting, he kept receiving penalties for insignificant violations of the regime. On 26 December a solicitation for changing the commission's decision was passed on behalf of Mr. Parfiankou.
On 4 December an ambulatory sitting of the Shklou District Court concerning the political prisoner Mikalai Dziadok was held. This information was spread by his father Aliaksandr Dziadok with reference to the son's counsel. Aliaksandr Dziadok, a former judge of the Minsk Region Court, stated that his son had already 22 penalties for various violations of discipline, and the special commission voted for his transfer to a cell-type prison facility. On 10 December it became known that he was kept in the cell-type prison #4 in Mahiliou. The father didn't manage to find when Mikalai had been transferred from the Shklou colony to the Mahiliou prison.
On 6 December the relatives of the civil activist Andrei Haidukou, charged with "high treason", received the first letter from him, dated 29 November. He asks the relatives to find a new counsel for him and states that the falsifications in his case can reach the scale of absurd. The operator of the Navapolatsk oil-processing plant "Naftan" was detained on 8 November in Vitsebsk. At first he was kept in custody in the KGB pre-trial prison in Minsk, and then was transferred to the Vitsebsk pre-trial prison #2 for unknown reasons. Haidukou's counsel found about this transfer on 27 December, when she came to the prison to meet with him. As it became known on 27 December, another suspect appeared in the "high treason" case, Navapolatsk activist of the organizing committee of the Belarusian Christian Democracy Illia Bahdanau who initially had had the status of a witness. That day he was interrogated at the Vitsebsk Region KGB Department by the investigator Aleh Barysevich who investigated Haidukou's case. The interrogation lasted for more than 4 hours and I. Bahdanau was warned that the following interrogation would take place on 9 January 2013. and he would have confrontations with Andrei Haidukou due to discrepancies in their testimonies.
On 8 December Mikalai Statkevich phoned his relatives from prison for the ninth time in 2012. His wife Maryna Adamovich said that he was in a good mood and talked cheerfully. He said he read a lot and did physical exercises. According to Mr. Statkevich, by the end of the year there could be held a sitting of a special commission which could change the regime of imprisonment for him. On 14 December the prisoner was visited by his counsel. On 16 December the prisoner was awarded with the International Prize of Willy Brandt. The award was founded by the Social Democratic Party of Germany and is awarded contribution to mutual understanding and peace among peoples. It consists of two parts. The main part was awarded to the Norwegian Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg, whereas Statkevich was awarded "For personal political courage". On 29 December the prison administration allowed Mikalai Statkevich a two-hour meeting with his wife as a result of the Supervisory Board of the penitentiary institution about the mitigation of the prison regime for him, as a result of which he got the right to another meeting with the family.
On 8 December the political prisoner Yauhen Vaskovich was released from the penal cell after serving a ten-day arrest. The administration of the Mahiliou prison #4 refused to inform the relatives about the reasons for the penalty.
On 19 December it became known that in the course of its 64 session the United Nations Working Group on Arbitrary Detention (WGAD) adopted decision A/HRC/WGAD/2012/39 in which it found that the detention of Mr. Ales Bialiatski, President of the Human Rights Centre (HRC) “Viasna” and FIDH Vice-President, was arbitrary, “being in contravention of article 20, paragraph 1, of the Universal Declaration on Human Rights [UDHR] and article 22 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights” (ICCPR). The WGAD emphasized that “the adequate remedy is to release Mr. Bialatski and accord him an enforceable right to compensation pursuant to article 9, paragraph 5, of the [ICCPR]”. This decision follows a communication which had been addressed by the Observatory to the WGAD on April 2, 2012 to contest the legality of Mr. Bialiatski’s detention. The news was passed to Mr. Bialiatski by his wife Natallia Pinchuk who had a two-hour meeting with him on 20 December in the Babruisk colony #2. N. Pinchuk said that Ales looked and kept well and didn't complain about his health. She had passed him a food parcel on 30 December. On 30 December charter97.org website announced the winners of the National Award in the field of protection of human rights in 2012, among which there was listed Ales Bialiatski.
On 24 December Pavel Seviarynets was allowed a 3-day meeting with his parents in the open penitentiary institution #7 in the village of Kuplin in the Pruzhany district of Belarus. On 30 December Mr. Seviarynets celebrated his 36th birthday. More than 30 guests came to him, including people from Minsk, Hrodna, Salihorsk and Valozhyn. At that time a parcel prepared by the Polish Embassy was delivered to his home address in Vitsebsk.
On 24 December the mother of the political prisoner Ihar Alinevich, Valiantsina Alinevich, stated that her son was prohibited to put on a sweater despite the freeze. He wrote about it in a letter from prison: "They think that a T-shirt, the prison robe and a padded jacket are enough for a man to keep warm. By the way, it is not allowed in prisons either, but at the pre-trial prison of the KGB I had three sweaters. I am 100% sure I would have died there without them."
On 24 December the administration of the Mahiliou colony #15 allowed a long-term meeting (one day) with father to the political prisoner Artsiom Prakapenka. At the same time, the former was not allowed to pass warm clothes and was ordered to take away a part of the foodstuffs he had brought with him. The prisoner's mother Vialeta Prakapenka stated that the son started having problems with his teeth, though everything used to be alright. nerve in his back, causing great pain.
On 26 December Tatsiana Frantskevich, mother of the political prisoner Aliaksandr Frantskevich, received a telephone call from a guy who had been serving a term in the Ivatsevichy colony. He said that Aliaksandr Frantskevich had been put in the penal cell for ten days after refusing to clean the territory (a job considered insulting among prisoners). Tatsiana Frantskevich expressed concern with the state of the son's state of health, as he has just one kidney and placement in the penal cell could do a serious harm to his state. It is already the third placement in the penal cell for Aliaksandr Frantskevich during 2012. On 30 December Tatsiana Frantskevich visited her son in prison together with the counsel. As it became known to her, the son was denied a short-time meeting with relatives, scheduled for the middle of January 2013 for paying a visit to another brigade, which is prohibited by the prison rules. After the placement in the penal cell the state of the prisoner's health considerably deteriorated.
On 26 December the photojournalist Anton Surapin said that he was still under house arrest, but knew nothing about his status. The photographer was released from the KGB pre-trial prison four months ago and wasn't called for interrogations after this. He thinks that the situation will get clearer after the end of the trial over the border guard who had let the Swedish "Teddy Troopers" in Belarus. Mr. Surapin continues studying on the fourth year of the journalist faculty of the Belarusian State University. He has no problems with his studies and had no talks concerning the imprisonment with the administration of the faculty. Anton Surapin was the first journalist to upload to the Internet the photos of the teddy bears who had been thrown down from a plane by Swedes. He was arrested and charged under Article 6 part 16 of the Criminal Code (assistance in committing a crime), and Part 3 of Article 371 (illegal crossing of the state border of the Republic of Belarus).
On 27 December the political prisoner Eduard Lobau was visited a priest, Father Dzmitry from the Pinsk diocese. According to his mother Maryna Lobava, the visit was to have taken place on the eve of Christmas, but the priest did not manage to come in time as he was too busy. E. Lobau confessed and took communion. The meeting was watched by the political officer. According to Maryna Lobava, the priest was assigned to the colony and will have an opprtunity to visit Eduard Lobau and other prisoners of the Catholic denomination.
On 10 December there was held the traditional award ceremony for outstanding achievements in the field of human rights. Liubou Kavaliova, mother of Uladzislau Kavaliou (executed by shooting for the alleged engagement in the explosion in the Minsk metro), was declared the human rights defender of the year. The prize was passed to her by the member of the Belarusian Helsinki Committee Hary Pahaniaila. He stated that Liubou Kavaliova has demonstrated a great courage and dedication in the struggle against the repressive state apparatus which still practices savage executions. The psychological pressurization on her continues, but she doesn't give up and Hary Pahaniaila stated that the issue of the death penalty can be eventually resolved in Belarus thanks to her efforts. Liubou Kavaliova remains one of the most active members of the campaign "Human Rights Defenders against Death Penalty".
On 20 December the head of the Commission on Legislation of the House of Representatives Mikalai Samaseika stated that a Working Group on Death Penalty had been established at a sitting of the Soviet of the Republic in the National Assembly. The group consists of seven persons including five members of the Chamber of Representatives and two members of the Soviet of the Republic, and is headed by Mr. Samaseika. The MP stated that the first meeting of the Working Group will be held after the New Year: "The issue of the death penalty is a general one. The Belarusian people has expressed its view on it at the referendum, but the situation has changed since then. Our group will deal with studying all issues related to the death penalty, including the attitude of the population of the Republic of Belarus to them".
Harassment of human rights defenders and human rights organizations
On 1 December the leader of the "For Freedom" Movement Aliaksandr Milinkevich stated he would provide office space for the reception room of the Human Rights Center "Viasna". At the end of November the apartment where the Minsk office of "Viasna" was situated was confiscated by court according to the verdict to the head of the organization Ales Bialiatski. The apartment had been registered as his property, which allowed the office to exist in that place for about 12 years (2000-2012).
On 16 December the head of the human rights institution "Platform" Andrei Bandarenka was detained while passing the passport control at the National Airport Minsk-2. He was returning home from Warsaw. A customs officer phoned somewhere and took away his passport. After 20 minutes, Andrei Bandarenka was approached by two senior lieutenants of the customs office, Hardzei Kazakovich and Artsiom Hryshkevich who told him that it was necessary to conduct some "additional measures" towards him. After this, they examined Bandarenka's belongings. The procedure was carried out by the head of the shift of the customs control who blankly refused to introduce himself. However, Andrei Bandarenka managed to register the number on his badge – 050-0350. As stated by the head of the shift, random customs control was carried out towards Mr. Bandarenka. The examination was conducted in presence of a medic and witnesses. A report of personal search was drawn up, after which Andrei Bandarenka was released.
On 18 December the human rights defenders from Hrodna Uladzimir Khilmanovich, Viktar Sazonau and Raman Yurhel were questioned at the city police department "Center". In the evening of 19 December the reports about an alleged violation of Article 23.34 of the Administrative Code (participation in unsanctioned picket) were drawn on all of them at that police station. The formal reason for persecution became the placement of an article about the international Human Rights Day, 10 December, on the website of the Human Rights Center "Viasna". The Hrodna human rights defenders could be seen holding photos of their colleague, political prisoner Ales Bialiatski in one of the photos.
On 24 December activists of the human rights institution "Platform" which dealt with the protection of the rights of prisoners and was dissolved by the authorities, announced the beginning of activities on behalf of a new human rights institution, "Platform Innovation". As said by the human rights defender Andrei Bandarenka, the new institution will continue dealing with the protection of rights, but will no longer be confined to the protection of prisoners' rights. "Platform Innvation" has already acquired registration. Its offices work not only in Minsk, but also in Brest Homel and Vitsebsk. The institution intends to establish offices in all region capitals of Belarus by the end of 2013. "Platform" got registered with the state in June 2011 and closed down in autumn 2012. According to the founders, a well-known politician and civil activist Henadz Hrushavy joined the new "Platform".
Pressurizatin of social and political activists by secret services
On 18 December the judge of the Leninski District Court of Mahiliou Yurchanka, supported by the prosecutor Paliakova, dismissed the appeal of the activist of the organizing committee of the Belarusian Christian Democracy Aleh Aksionau against the establishment of preventive surveillance over him by the KGB. The judge stated that KGB acted without exceeding its powers, competently implementing its functions. During the whole court sitting the judge, the prosecutor and the KGB officers tried to convince Mr. Aksionau that the establishment of preventive surveillance over him didn't mean anything as none of his rights were restricted and no sanctions were applied towards him. Meanwhile, part 2 of Article 28 of the Law "On Prophylactics" in which it is stated that KGB officers study the the conditions and way of life and control the behavior of the people who are subject to preventive surveillance. It means that the KGB receives the right to watch the activist without prosecutor's warrant, as well as temporary prohibit him to go abroad. Preventive surveillance was established over Aleh Aksionau on 22 October 2012. The reason for this was his alleged activities on behalf of an unregistered political organization, the Belarusian Christian Democracy, as well as other socio-political activities. KGB were unable to give any answers as what exactly was criminal in such activities and what negative consequences they brought to the society. In Mahiliou, preventive surveillance was also established over the leader of the Mahiliou organizing committee of BCD Tatsiana Shambalava and the leader of the Mailiou regional branch of the Belarusian Popular Front Zmitser Salauyou.
Administrative prosecution of social and political activists, arbitrary detention
On 4 December the head of the Hrodna branch of the Belarusian Popular Front Vadzim Saranchukou and a member of its council Iryna Danilouskaya were familiarized with an administrative report under Article 23.34 of the Code of Administrative Offenses, "participation in an unauthorized mass event", drawn on them for participation in a commemorative action inhonor of the insurgents Kanstantsin and Viktar Kalinouski in Svislach. On 13 December the Svislach District Court fined the Biaroza activist Siarhei Trafimchyk 800,000 rubles. According to the court, Mr. Trafimchyk violated the Belarusian legislation by paying visits to the graves and monuments to participants of the anti-Russian insurgency. Several trials were to have taken place in Svislach on 20 December. The BPF member Iryna Danilouskaya was to have been tried at 9 a.m., but was unable to come to the trial in time. As a result, she was tried in absentia and fined 800,000 rubles. The "Young Front" activist Ales Kirkevich, summonsed to court over the phone that day, didn't go there. He phoned to the Svislach Distrit Court and was told that the trial had taken place in his absence and he had been fined 800,000 rubles as well. The head of the Hrodna city BPF council Vadzim Saranchukou was tried in absentia as well, and sentenced to a fine of 1 million rubles. The case of another member of the Hrodna BPF council, Valery Kisel, is even more absurd. He was also charged with "participation in an unauthorized mass event", though on 27 October he had been in Minsk, not in Svislach. There was no new information about the developments in his case by the end of December. There were no news about the case of a UCP activist Viktar Babkin either. Thus, the persecution of participants of the Svislach event has a long history. Four people were detained back on the day of the event: Vitold Ashurak from Biarozauka, Ales Krot from Minsk, Stanislava Husakova from Vitsebsk and Vital Lopasau from Hrodna. Three of them were sentenced to imprisonment and one – to a fine. The Svislach activists Yury Hlebik, Viktar Dzesiatsik and Anatol Valiuk were fined almost a month after the event. The Hrodna Region Court upheld the initial verdicts and did not grant any cassation appeals. On 3 December such decision was issued on the appeal of the UCP member Vital Lopasau (judge Piotr Bandyk), on 20 December – on appeals of three civil activists from Svislach – Viktar Dzesiatsik (judge Piotr Bandyk), Yury Hlebik (judge Mikalai Rychynski) and Anatol Valiuk – (judge A. Kozel).
On 6 December the car of a Zhlobin activist of the Belarusian Leftist Party "Fair World" Ilona Tkachova was detained at the border crossing point "Novaya Huta" on the Ukranian-Belarusian border. The activist was returning home from Egypt together with her husband and ten-year-old daughter. Their belongings were searched, a photo camera and a laptop were confiscated. The border guards showed Mrs. Tkachova a scanned copy of the order for the search of her car. The procedure of the detention and search lasted from the afternoon till 10 p.m. The following day Ilona Tkachova wrote an appeal to the head of the border crossing point against the unlawful detention of her family and confiscation of her things.
On 8 December the police burst in the private house in Tyrazhny Passage 22 in Minsk where the theatric play "Silence Zone" was being shown by the Free Theater. The police came there at the beginning of the play, stopped it and started putting down the passport numbers of the present people. The play continued after the police went away. The day before, on 7 December, the police also visited another show of the Free Theater and also put down the passport data of the spectators.
On 12 December the leader of "Zmena" ("Change"), the youth wing of the "Tell The Truth!" civil initiative Pavel Vinahradau was summonsed to the Maskouski District Penal Inspection of Minsk where he is kept under surveillance and has to get registered. The police took him to the Pershamaiski District Police Department of Minsk, where he was presented charges under Article 23.34 of the Code of Administrative Offenses. After this Mr. Vinahradau was taken to court, but the trial was postponed as his counsel was unable to attend the hearing. On 17 December the judge of the Pershamaiski District Court of Minsk Yury Hrabouski sentenced Pavel Vinahradau to 5 days of arrest for the "toy rally", held near the National Library on 10 Deember. All in all, the activist spent 66 days behind bars in 2012.
On 18 December the trial of the socio-political activist from the town of Varniany, Mikalai Ulasevich, came to an end. The Astravets District Court fined him 4 million rubles. The trial established a record in the Hrodna region – it took the court 9 (!) sittings to punish Mr. Ulasevich, as far as the latter kept struggling for his rights as hard as he could, first alone, and then – with the assistance of a counsel. Mikalai Ulasevich had been detained during the latest local elections, two days before the main Voting Day – on 21 September 2012, and charged with the distribution of unlawful agitation production. Later the charges were changed to "insubordination to the police".
In the evening of 19 December, the second anniversary of the post-election protests in 2010, the social activist Nina Bahinskaya was detained on Kastrychnitskaya Square in Minsk while trying to raise the white-red-white flag. The activist was taken to the Tsentralny District Police Department, questioned and released after 3 hours, the flag was taken away.
At about 11 a.m. on 19 December in Vitsebsk the members of the organizing committee of the Belarusian Christian Democracy Aliaksei Kishchuk and Aliaksandr Laurenau were detained. Their car was stopped by traffic police. The registration certificate of the car was invalid, that's why Stanislau was fined 650,000 rubles as the owner of the car. Then the detainees were guarded to the Pershamaiski District Police Department and charged with "disorderly conduct" (they allegedly insulted the road policemen who detained them). The same day the detainees were taken to court, but the trial didn't take place. A. Kishchuk and S. Laurenau were taken to the pre-trial prison. On 20 December the judge of the Pershamaiski District Cour tof Vitsebsk Valiantsina Kismiaroshkina fined each of them 300,000 rubles. The accusation was grounded on testimonies of four road policemen. A teddy bear with the poster "Future President" was taken to the Pershamaiski DPD together with the activists, but wasn't returned to them.
On 27 December the Maskouski District Court of Minsk tried the entrepreneur Aliaksandr Makayeu under Article 23.34, part 3 of the Code of Administrative Offenses (repeated participation in an unauthorized mass event during a year's period) for participation in the celebration of an anniversary of the anti-Bolshevik insurgency in Slutsk. His car had been stopped by traffic police during the action, on 1 December, in the village of Hrozava. On 13 December officers of the Slutsk District Police Department found Mr. Makayeu at the "Rakauski Kirmash" market, took explanations from him and handed him a police report signed by the police major H. Shapashnikau. The judge Khatkevch declined Makayeu's solicitation to interrogate the witnesses of accusation at the court sitting and ruled that their testimonies were to be read. The solicitation to interrogate additional witnesses from the side of Mr. Makayeu was dismissed too. Skryhan from the Hrozava Village Soviet stated that nobody had applied for the authorization of the rally, but there were no slogans, people prayed and sang songs. The witness Taisiya Datashevich pointed that there were people with flags near the cross, there were no banners and slogans and the public order wasn't violated. The traffic policeman Davidouski stated that people sang songs in Belarusian, that Makayeu had approached the police and told that he had been the organizer of the rally. The rally was stopped in five minutes after the appropriate police order. The same was written by the police officer Kazhura. The judge Yauhen Khatkevich found the activist guilty and sentenced him to a fine of 5 million rubles.
Restrictions on freedom of speech and the right to impart information, persecution of journalists
On 2 December there took place the sitting of the Slonim District Executive Committee at which the heads of the enterprises and organizations of the Slonim district were ordered to personally subscribe to two state-owned newspapers for 2013 out of the following list: "Sovetskaya Belorussiya", "Zviazda", "Respublika", "Hrodzenskaya Prauda" and the district newspaper. They were ordered to bring the subscription receipts to the executive committee. All common workers of state institutions and enterprises were ordered to subscribe to one newspaper for 2013. The post offices of the city were also ordered to make visitors subscribe to the necessary number of copies of the state-owned press. As a result, many workers of post offices have to subscribe to several copies of the same newspaper to implement the order. On 19 December the chief doctor of the Slonim District Hospital Yury Piatselski ordered all heads of departments of the hospital to subscribe to the district newspaper "Slonimski Vesnik" for 2013 – five copies per department. In the morning of 20 December the senior nurse of the polyclinic started gathering 7,000 rubles from each worker for subscription to "Slonimski Vesnik".
On 3 December the chief editor of the "People's News of Vitsebsk" website Siarhei Serabro was detained for paying interest to the extraordinary activities in the vicinity of a woodworking plant, located on the outskirts of the city. The plant administration was getting ready to a visit of Aliaksandr Lukashenka. The journalist was detained by the police which were called by the guards. Mr. Serabro was released after a short talk. However, after the incident the guard was enforced with riot policemen.
On 10 December representatives of Belarusian human rights organizations called the names of the award winners for contribution to the protection of human rights in 2012. The "journalist" category winner is a Hrodna journalist, correspondent for the Polish «Gazeta Wyborcza» Andrei Pachobut. The journalist who had to give a written undertaking not to leave Hrodna because of a criminal case under Article 367, part 2 of the Criminal Code, "Defamation of President of the Republic of Belarus", communicated with the human rights defenders through Skype. His prize was passed to him virtually, by an earlier prize holder, the journalist of Radio "Liberty" Aleh Hruzdzilovich.
On 11 December the ideologists of the Bialynichy district passed the plan for subscription to magazines and newspapers to all organizations. The even specified which editions the citizens were to subscribe to first of all. The appropriate plan was given to the mailmen of the Bialynichy district post office. It lists the state-owned editions and the number of copies to whom each mailman must subscribe somebody. According to the workers of the post office, the greatest number of copies is for "Sovetskaya Belorussiya" and the local newspaper "Zara nad Druttsiu".
On 22 December Salihorsk human rights defenders stated about twofold pressure on citizens in connection with the organized subscription to state-owned press. On one hand, the pressure is applied by the high-rank officials who order their subordinates to subscribe to magazines and newspapers of some ministry or enterprise. Thus, the teachers of Salihorsk schools are forced to subscribe to "Nastaunitskaya Hazeta" newspaper and "Vesnik Adukatsyia" magazine. The administration of the open stock company "Belaruskali" forces workers to subscribe to its magazine "Kaliyshchyk Salihorska", "Bulding Trust #3" – to its newspaper "Stroitel Soligorska". The Salihorsk Department of Emergency States "distributes" the newspaper "Yunuy Spasatel", the ideologists of the Salihorsk District Executive Committee organize the sibscription to "Sovetskaya Belorussiya" and the district newspaper "Shatsyor". Subscription to these publications is conducted through a network of ideological workers at enterprises of Salihorsk and Salihorsk district.
As it became known on 24 December, the police are interested in the whereabouts of Alina Litvinchuk. This information was disseminated by the head of the Brest regional organization of the United Civil Party Uladzimir Vuyek, in whose apartment the journalist has lived lately. According to Mr. Vuyej, the police were coming to his home in his absence, asking the neighbors whether the Alina Litvinchuk was living there and where she worked. Moreover, some strangers tried to find where she was by phone. As Uladzimir Vuyek learned from the local police inspector, Litvinchuk was wanted by another policeman, Andrei Khomich, who was ordered to take her to the regional prosecutor's office where she was to be issued with an official warnng about the inadmissibility of journalist activities for foreign media without accreditation.
On 24 December five Minsk journalists came to an announced meeting with a member of the Smaliavichy District Soviet Yahor Lebiadok. None of them managed to get to the local Culture Palace where the meeting was held – all of them were detained by the police. A few minutes before the meeting the journalists Mikalai Petrushenka and Siarhei Vazniak, reporter Lola Buryieva, cameraman Viachaslau Piashko and the car driver were detained by the lieutenant-colonel Andrei Martysiuk and two police inspectors. Though the journalists showed their passports on demand of the police officers, they were guarded to the district department for "identification", and kept there for about two hours. Questioning reports were drawn on them. All information carriers were taken away, but then returned. After the 1.5 hour meeting with the electorate the member of the Smaliavichy District Soviet Yahor Leibadok came to the DPD to find why the journalists had been detained. They were being released at the time of his visit. Mr. Lebiadok stated that he didn't object to the presence of journalists at his meetings.
On 28 December the Rahachou District Prosecutor's Office issued an official warning to the social activist Dzianis Dashkevich concerning the inadmissibility of violation of the legislation of the Republic of Belarus. The talk at the prosecutor's office, held by the prosecutor Chuyeshava, lasted for two hours. Mr. Dashkevich was warned that he could be punished under Articles 369.1 ("Discredit of the Republic of Belarus"), Article 188, part 2 ("Libel") and Article 189, part 2 ("Insult") of the Criminal Code in case some articles with incorrect information about the political and economical situation in Belarus were published at the vrogacheve.ru website. The real reason for the warning is that some critical remarks about the local officials were published at the website. Before the talk at the prosecutor's office, the local KGB department tried to intimidate the activist as well.
Restriction of the freedom of assembly
As it became known on 2 December, December 2, the UN Human Rights Committee found that the Belarusian authorities had violated the rights of Homel public and political activist Uladzimir Katsora by sentencing him to administrative arrest for organizing peaceful assemblies in the city. During the last 6 years Mr. Katsora had to spend about 57 days in jail for such activities. In April 2006 he tried to organize a rally dedicated to the 20th anniversary of the accident on the Chernobyl nuclear power plant and distributed printed leaflets for that purpose. AS a result, the judge of the Chyhunachny District Court of Homel Vital Kozyrau sentenced him to ten days of administrative arrest. In February 2008 Mr. Katsora organized a meeting of Homel residents with the former presidential candidate Aliaksandr Milinkevich and was subsequently sentenced to 7 days of arrest by the head of the Savetski District Court of Homel Aliaksandr Kosrykau. Having depleted all domestic remedies, Uladzimir Katsora addressed the United Nations Human Rights Committee, which concluded that Belarus violated the rights of its citizens enshrined in Article 19 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights by persecuting him for disseminating information about upcoming peaceful events. Based on the recommendations of the Committee, the Belarusian government must provide "victims of violations with an effective remedy, including a full cost recovery and adequate compensation "and "avoid similar violations in the future".
Not a single mass event dedicated to the Human Rights Day, 10 December, was authorized in Belarus. On 5 December the civil activist Viktar Syrytsa and the human rights defender Siarhei Housha received a a letter from the deputy head of the Baranavichy City Executive Committee Dz. Kastsiukevich, prohibiting their picket on 10 December. The city officials didn't tell what legal requirements were violated by the picket organizers. On 7 December Viktar Syrytsa received another letter from Dz. Kastsiukevich, banning the same picket.
On 10 December Vitsebsk human rights defenders intended to hold a picket in the Park of Culture and Rest of Railwaymen (the officially determined place for mass events). Predictably enough, they received a denial. The deputy head of the Chyhunachny District Executive Committee Natallia Liapioshkina explained the ban with the failure of the applicants to conclude service agreements with the public utilities, medics and police.
On 10 December the Navapolatsk social activists Volha Hrytskevich, Uladzimir Ivankovich, Yauhen Parchynski, Natallia Valiayeva and Tatsiana Volkava wanted to hold a rally in front of the Culture Palace. However, thy received a refusal. As it was found out, almost a year ago the city authorities secretly amended the list of the places they had allowed for mass events. In the prohibition, signed by the deputy head of the Navapolatsk City Executive Committee Viachaslau Durnou it is stated that according to the ruling of the executive committee of 9 September 2012 “the ground in front of the Culture Palace” was excluded from the places allowed for picketing”. The Navapolatsk activists emphasize that this amendment was done secretly, as a result of which only one place was left for opposition's events – the ground at the entrance of the city's culture and recreation park, where there are almost no visitors or passers-by in winter.
As it became known on 12 December, the Navapolatsk City Executive Committee also banned a picket dated to the second anniversary of the events of 19 December 2010. The picket was organized by an activist of the organizing committee of the Belarusian Christian Democracy Siarhei Malashonak with the aim to express protest against the unlawful imprisonment of participants of the peaceful post-election protests of 19 December. In the denial, signed by the deputy head of the executive committee Viachaslau Durnou it is stated that the action could not be authorized as far as the stated place, the ground in front of the "Damalux" shop did not belong to the places which had been officially determined for mass events.
Representatives of the United Civil Party filed 91 applications across the country to hold pickets on 19 December under the slogan "They stole the elections to sell out the country". None of the pickets were authorized. The authorities banned the actions under various pretexts, but the restriction of the right to express alternative opinions by means of public actions is evident.
On 14 December the Salihorsk District Executive Committee banned a 19 December picket referring to the ruling of the Salihorsk DEC of 7 October 2004 "On measures to prevent accidents and ensure the rule of law during public events". The applicants, the UCP members Aliaksandr and Viktar Malochka, weren't allowed to hold the event "due to the incompatibility of the place of the action with the aforementioned ruling".
On 15 December the head of the Baranavichy UCP branch Anzhalika Kambalava received a letter from the Baranavichy District Executive Committee, signed by the deputy head, Dz. Kastrsiukevich, where it was stated that the committee did not agree to holding a picket on 19 December. The activist managed to conclude service agreements with the medics and public utilities, but failed to conclude an appropriate agreement with the police due to bureaucratic procrastinations, which became the formal reason for the ban.
On 16 December the head of the Babruisk UCP branch Viktar Buzinayeu received an answer from the Babruisk City Executive Committee, signed by its deputy head Aliaksandr Markachou. The activsit was not allowed to hold a picket on 19 December at the stadium of the sports complex "Slavianka". The official reason was that the applicant did not specify the kind of mass event, its route and measures for ensuring the public order, medical aid and cleaning of the territory. THe deputy head of the executive committee also wrote that the applicants violated Article 8 of the Law "On Mass Events" according to which they had no right to announce the place and time of the action in mass media before receiving an official permission to hold it.
Asit became known on 17 December, the city authorities banned nine pickets which applicants intended to hold on 19 December in different parts of the city. According to the head of the Brest regional UCP organization Uladzimir Vuyek, the authorities drew various reasons for the bans: "For instance, they wrote that we had indicated the places which didn't belong to the list of the places officially determined for such events. However, we were also prohibited from holding pickets in the places which belonged to this list. In particular, it concerns the "Locomotive" stadium: the acting deputy head of the Brest City Executive Committee Uladzimir Charnou stated that as far as the event would be held without the presence of the city authorities, the organizers were to conclude service agreements with the police, medics and public utilities. Moreover, according to his answer, the payment for these services must be done at least one day before the event." The absence of such agreements became the formal reason to ban the pickets.
On 18 December all four Barysau applicants for the pickets "They stole the elections to sell out the country" received identical written prohibitions to hold the actions signed by the head of the Barysau District Executive Committee Uladzimir Miranovich. "The Barysau District Executive Committee prohibits you to hold the picket on 19 December 2012 due to your failure to implement the requirements of paragraph 3 of the ruling of the Barysau District Executive Committee of 13 June 2010 #851 "About the order of holding mass events in the Barysau district". Paragraph 3 requires that applicants must supply their applications with service agreements with the police, medics and public utilities and pay for these services within ten days after the event. The peculiarity of the situation is that all these institutions blankly refuse to conclude service agreements with socio-political activists before the authorization of the appropriate events by the executive committee.
On 21 December the Brest City Executive Committee banned an action in support of the quicker ratification of the agreement on local border traffic with Poland. As stated by one of the initiators of the pickets Ihar Maslouski, the events were scheduled on 21, 22 and 23 December and were to have been held near the central department store of Brest. The authorities refused to authorize the action as the ground in front of the department store didn't belong to the list of the places that had been officially determined as suitable for such events. Meanwhile, there is no sense in holding such events in the "allowed" places – the "Locomotive" stadium or near the stage in the Park of Soldiers-Internationalists, as far as the both of them are unfrequented by people, especially in winter.
Restriction of freedom of association
On 2 December some more facts of harassment of the independent trade union activists at the "Granite" enterprise in Mikshevichy became known. The administration of the enterprise told the excavator driver Leanid Dubanosau to decide whether he would continue to pay dues to the union through the accountancy department of "Granite", and promised to find some reasons to terminate the labor contract with him provided he continued doing it. Leanid has been working at "Granite" for more than ten years and had no admonition from the administration before. On 17 December there also appeared information about the pressurization of the treasurer of the trade union organization Anatol Litvinka. The "Granite" officials demanded from him written explanations almost everyday. On the basis of these documents they made remarks which could serve as a formal reason for his dismissal from work. Before this, similar pressurization was used towards Anatol's wife, Liudmila, who also worked at "Granite" and was dismissed from it for relation to the independent trade union organization.