Review-Chronicle of Human Rights Violations in March 2013
March was marked by the
activation of the diplomatic relations between the EU countries and
the Belarusian authorities, which was an important aspect for
understanding the perspectives of the development of the situation of
human rights, taking into consideration the strong dependence of this
sphere on the external policy factor. Despite the voiced statements
of the EU officials on the results of the contacts with the
Belarusian side, there were no changes in the main principal issue –
the release of political prisoners.
Among the positive steps on the part of the Belarusian authorities noteworthy are the closing of the criminal case on the defamation of president against journalist Andrei Pachobut, as well as the refusal of the Financial Investigations Department from bringing a criminal case against the "Arche-Pachatak" magazine. Thus, the Belarusian side took an intermediate position: it didn't undertake practical measures to solve the main issue, stated by the EU as the precondition for restoring full-scale relations with the official Minsk, but also stopped the practice of further confrontation, marking its readiness to refrain from the extension of the list of political prisoners.
The most optimistic statements concerning the perspective of the release of the political prisoners were voiced by the Rapporteur on Belarus of the European Parliament, Yustas Paletskis, who visited Minsk on 18-21 March to gather materials for his report for the EU Parliament. On the results of his visit Mr. Paletskis stated that he had raised the problem of political prisoners at all meetings, first of all with Belarusian officials. "At present, as far as I understand, Minsk is no longer impetinent and unready to solve these issues. To my mind, it is completely possible, but it is hard to tell when and how it will happen." Commenting on the content of the report, Yu. Paletskis noted the key problem in the relations of Belarus with the EU: "The situation of the political prisoners will be surely spoken about in the report. It is clear – as far as there are political prisoners in Belarus and the authorities are reluctant to solve these issues, the cooperation with the EU will be accompanied with great obstacles and losses for the both sides." The press-secretary of the Belarusian MFA Andrei Savinykh, in his turn, stated that the Belarusian side expected Paletski's report to foster the activation of the dialogue between Minsk and Brussels or "will at least increase the mutual understanding", specifying that "we are interested in the development of the relations with the European Union on an equitable and transparent basis."
The meaning of these MFA statements wasn't explained, but if it is a continuation of the assertion of the pragmatic position in the dialogue, it decreases the possibility of positive changes, as far as the existence of political prisoners still remains the main obstacle to the normalization of the relations between the European Union and the official Minsk.
That this position remains unchanged was confirmed by the Italian Ambassador Arlod Abetti during his meeting with journalists on 22 March in Minsk: "Not only the EU, but also the whole world is waiting for the release of the Belarusian political prisoners." He also noted that while continuing to insist on the release of political prisoners, the EU was also looking for "other ways to improve the situation which wasn't beneficial for anyone." The situation of the relations of Belarus and the EU was discussed on 25 March, during a meeting with the deputy head of the Belarusian MFA Alena Kupchyna with the head of the EU mission to Belarus Maira Mora. Though the Belarusian Foreign Ministry confined itself to a short statement that "during the talk the sides exchanged their thoughts about the situation and the perspectives of the development of the relations between Belarus and the European Union", there are reasons to believe that the issue of political prisoners was one of the key ones in the talk. The situation of human rights and the issues of the release and rehabilitation of political prisoners in Belarus were also discussed during the Belarusian-Lithuanian consultations between the MFAs on 28 March in Minsk.
In the beginning of March the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH) and the Human Rights Center "Viasna" expressed their deep concern with the fact that the political prisoners are still kept behind bars and dissent at the massive and systemic cases of pressurization and reprisals, to which they were subjected. In March 2013 11 political prisoners were kept in penitentiaries: I. Alinevich, M. Autukhovich, A Bialiatski, Dz. Dashkevich, M. Dziadok A. Frantskevich, E. Lobau, A. Prakapenka, P. Seviarynets, M. Statkevich and Ya. Vaskovich; 2 people were serving terms of personal restraint without being put in open penitentiaries (Dz. Miadzvedz and S. Baranovich); 8 people were under conditional or deferred imprisonment (A. Dzmitryieu, A. Fiaduta, I. Khalip, S. Martsaleu, U. Niakliayeu, A. Pachobut, V. Rymasheuski and S. Vazniak); 3 people remained in the status of accused on criminal cases (S. Basharymau, A. Mikhalevich and A. Surapin); A. Haidukou, the charges against whom can be politically motivated, was still kept in the KGB remand prison; 3 former political prisoners were still under preventive surveillance imposed by the court (V. Parfiankou, P. Vinahradau, U. Yaromenak); prophylactic supervision was applied towards 25 people who had been pardoned or released on parole. FIDH and "Viasna" prepared an appropriate analytical note, which was passed to the Special Rapporteur on Belarus at the UN Human Rights Council, the European Commissioner on the Issues of the Extension and Neighborhood Policy Stefan Fule, the appropriate topical instances of the UN, OSCE and other international tools for the protection of human rights. The International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH) and the Human Rights Center "Viasna" demanded that the Belarusian authorities stop the shameful repressive practice, release and rehabilitate all unlawfully sentenced prisoners, review the cases with evident political motivation and remove all restrictions of rights concerning the already released victims of political repressions.
The most important event not only for the Belarusian, but also for the universal human rights community was the adoption on 21 March by the UN Human Rights Council of an unprecedented resolution with the aim to put an end to the financial smothering of human rights NGOs. This resolution became a strong answer to the ongoing tendency to curtail or even criminalize the activities of human rights defenders by restricting their access to financing, especially when it comes from foreign countries. The resolution, passed by Norway in co-authorship with 62 other states, states that "no law should criminalize or delegitimize activities in defene of human rights on account of the origin of funding thereto”. This resolution confirmed and strengthened the preliminary conclusions of the human rights tools of the UN concerning the incompatibility of restrictive and repressive techniques and laws with the international legislation in the sphere of human rights. This was shown by the recent decision of the Working Group of the UN on Arbitrary Detentions concerning the case of Ales Bialiatski, which confirmed that Belarus interfered with the financing of the activities of human rights NGOs in violation of its international undertakings, and urged Belarus to immediately release A. Bialiatski, whose arrest was deemed as arbitrary. Since then all appropriate mechanisms of the UN are to be guided by this text for strengthening the protection of human rights defenders who have become a target for the legislation and the restrictions of their lawful activities in many countries.
Before the resolution was adopted by the UN Human Rights Council, the Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders, a joint programme of the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH) and the World Organization against Torture (OMCT) issued a comprehensive report on the restriction of the access of human rights defenders to financing, which shows that the governments tend to increasingly create obstacles to the access of NGOs to financing, especially from the abroad. The states make use of restrictive laws, defamation campaigns and court prosecution of human rights defenders as ways to suppress any critique: among such states there are Alger, Bangladesh, Bahrain, Belarus, Egypt, Russia, Azerbaijan, Ethiopia, India and many others in different parts of the world.
Political prisoners, criminal prosecution
of civil and political activists
On 1 March Valiantsina Alinevich, the mother of the political prisoner Ihar Alinevich, stated that the administration of Navapolatsk penitentiary #10 was delaying his mail correspondence. She said that there had been some problems with the correspondence even earlier and she didn't known why it happened so when they were writing to one another about general and neutral topics. In the middle of March Alinevich's book "Going to Magadan" was published, in which the author tells about the events in Belarus since the end of 2010 in the form of a diary: about the judiciary system, political prisoners and anarchist movement, his arrest and imprisonment in the KGB jail.
On 6 March the wife of former presidential candidate Andrei Sannikau Iryna Khalip, sentenced to 2 years of imprisonment with a 2-year determent for taking part in the protest action in Minsk on 19 December 2010, flew to Warsaw. She received a permission to temporary leave Belarus to visit her husband and the editorial office of "Novaya Gazeta" in Russia, a correspondent of which she was. The permission was issued to her on 13 February by the criminal-executive inspection of Partyzanski District Police Department of Minsk where she was registered. I. Khalip returned to Belarus on 3 April.
In the beginning of March Amnesty International summed up the results of the Marathon of letters to Ales Bialiatski which was held all over the world. All in all, 104,731 actions were taken on the globe to support the Belarusian human rights defender whom the organization declared a prisoner of conscience. Participants of the global campaign expressed their support to the imprisoned head of the Human Rights Center "Viasna", vice-president of the International Federation for Human Rights by various means – writing letters of solidarity, signing petitions to Belarusian authorities and artistic actions including live concerts and light projections. On 6 March the presentation of Ales Bialiatski's book "Enlightened by the Belarusian Issue", consisting of literary critique essays about Belarusian writers, took place in Minsk. The author wanted to date the book to his 50th anniversary, but it was published during the time of his imprisonment. A part of the essays was written by Ales already in prison. On 30 May the bailiffs started taking the earlier attached items from the apartment of Ales Bialiatski. His wife Natalllia Pinchuk stated that before this a bailiff also took out of the apartment a TV set which had been attached yet before the trial.
As it became known on 11 March, the investigation into the case of Navapolatsk activist Andrei Haidukou charged with "high treason by means of intelligence activities" was extended for another month – up to 8 April. This was stated by his mother, Volha Haidukova, who added that she didn't know any other details of the case. The investigation has lasted for five months already. The only positive change is that the council was finally given an unimpeded access to Andrei Haidukou.
On 11 March political prisoner Aliaksandr Frantskevich was transferred to the cell-type facility of Ivatsevichy penitentiary #22 after serving 20 days in the penal cell. The prisoner is to be released in September 2013. He has also been deprived of food parcels and meetings until the end of the term and can receive only small parcels. 4 people are kept in the cell-type facility and walks are allowed for an hour a day.
On 13 March Viyaleta Prakapenka, the mother of political prisoner Artsiom Prakapenka, stated that the administration of Mahiliou colony advised her son to write a pardon petition for Aliaksandr Lukashenka, but he refused. A week after it, on 20 March, the relatives stated that Artsiom had been put in a penal cell for 5 days an alleged violation of the prison regime and deprived the 30-kilo food parcel. The boy kept a hunger-strike of protest during the five days in the penal cell (he is a vegetarian and eats only porridge among all prison food).
On 15 March Pershamaiski District Court of Minsk extended the preventive supervision over the former political prisoner, "Young Front" activist Uladzimir Yaromenak for six months, up to 15 September 2013. The preventive supervision over U. Yaromenak was established on 15 March 2012. Since then the activist has received two administrative penalties for alleged violations of the public order. The decision was issued by Judge Yarmolenkava with the participation of prosecutor Yermakova. On 20 March Pershamaiski District Court of Minsk repeatedly considered the case of Uladzimir Yaromenak who on 24 January had been sentenced to 12 days of arrest for violation of the preventive supervision. Mr. Yaromenak disagreed with the court ruling and appealed it at Minsk City Court, which abolished the verdict and returned the case for the second trial by another judge. During the repeated consideration, Judge Hanna Paskevich added another violation of the public order to the previous two and sentenced him to 15 days of arrest. As far as Uladzimir Yaromenak had already served the 12-day arrest, he had to serve just three days and was to have been released on 24 March. However, instead of his release from the delinquents' isolation center, police took him to Pershamaiski District Police Department of Minsk, where he was kept until 3 p.m. which prevented him from taking part in the Freedom Day rally.
On 15 March Hrodna Regional Department of the Investigative Committee completed the investigation into the criminal case of the journalist of the Polish edition "Gazeta Wyborcza" Andrei Pachobut on charges of defamation of President. "Due to the fact that the conclusions of the linguistic expertises differ and no objective data confirming the commitment of the crime by Pachobut had been found, there was issued the ruling about the cessation of the preliminary investigation due to the failure to prove the participation of the accused in commitment of the crime". That's why the restraint towards Pachobut in the form of a written undertaking not to leave the place was lifted.
On 22 March political prisoner Eduard Lobau was deprived of money in the penitentiary for alleged violations of the regime. His mother, Maryna Lobava, noted that he had already been punished in such a way for violations of the regime, and the term of the penalty was coming to an end, but then the prison administration recalled the violations which had allegedly taken place in the beginning of the year. According to her, E. Lobau will be able to receive only 100,000 rubles a month (10 Euros) during the next six months. M. Lobava stated that Eduard was being denied the medical treatment of his teeth for more than 1,5 years. The mother received the agreement of the prison dentist to buying good plumbs (Eduard needs two of them). At first the prison administration agreed to accept the parcel, but then changed its mind.
On 28 March political prisoner Mikalai Dziadok was visited by a counsel in Mahiliou prison. As a result it became known that the prisoner had served 6 days in the penal cell. The penitentiary administration called no reasons for the penalty, confining itself to the statements that Mikalai had allegedly moved in the cell and violated the public order. According to the counsel, M. Dziadok doesn't complain about his health.
On 27 March Siarhei Martsaleu, who is serving a 2-year prison sentence with the 2-year probation period for the participation in the post-election protests of 19 December 2010, was denied permission to go abroad for a course of medical treatment. S. Martsaleu was judged together with Iryna Khalip, who was allowed to travel abroad to meet her husband, that's why Siarhei also hoped to receive a permission for it. There are three reasons for which convicts on probation can be allowed to leave abroad: the death of a close relative abroad, the participation in a trial in another state and the state of health. Mr. Martsaleu attached medical documents to his application. However, in the answer of the penal inspection it was stated that Minsk polyclinic #9 saw no reasons for his medical treatment abroad.
On 13 March, the anniversary of the execution of Dzmitry Kanavalau and Uladzislau Kavaliou, punished with death on charges in committing a terrorist act in Minsk metro in 2011, a press-conference with the participation of Uladzislau Kavaliou and human rights defenders was held. Liubou Kavaliova stated that she had finally received an answer to her review appeal to the Supreme Court, filed back in September 2012. The answer, signed by the head of the Supreme Court, was eventually found at the of Leninski District Bar Association of Minsk, where her lawyer works. At it turned out, the answer was given in November 2012. "The Supreme Court, on behalf of its chairman Sukala found no violations of the norms of the Criminal-Process Code in the case of Uladzislau Kavaliou," reads the answer. Human rights defender Raman Kisliak pointed that it was important to find out which institution implemented the death verdict to Kanavalau and Kavaliou: it can be either remand prison #1 of the Ministry of Internal Affairs where death convicts are usually kept, or the remand prison of the KGB where Kavaliou was kept. "It is necessary to establish which agency executed the verdict in order to understand what further actions should be taken, from whom further answers are to be required," said R. Kisliak. According to him, the next action will be the demand to disclose the place of burial of U. Kavaliou. R. Kisliak also stated that human rights defenders intend to demand the elimination of the legal norm according to which the bodies of the executed convicts aren't issued to their relatives: according to the decision of the UN Human Rights Committee the concealment of such information from relatives is considered as "inhumane treatment".
On 16 March an event dedicated to the memory of the missing politicians and journalists Yury Zakharanka, Dzmitry Zavadski, Viktar Hanchar, Anatol Krasouski and Henadz Karpenka who died in strange circumstances was held. Signing of a petition to the General Prosecutor's Office, composed by human rights defender Hary Pahaniaila and demanding an investigation into these cases started there.
Persecution of human rights defenders and human rights organizations
As it became known on 4 March, a criminal case can be brought against the head of the human rights institution "Platform" Andrei Bandarenka for "libel against police officers" in connection with the publication of the information about the torture of Bahdan and Ivan Shkurko by policemen of Lida District Police Department. On 4 March Andrei Bandarenka learned that he was wanted by the police in the city of Kirausk where he was officially registered. Meanwhile, he received no official notices, the police phoned to his father and insistently asked to tell the son that he was awaited in the district police department. When A. Bandarenka didn't appear at the DPD, the police forwarded his case to Lida.
On 14 March Baranavichy human rights defender Siarhei Housha was mailed the ruling of the head of the Supreme Court V. Sukala, which abolished the ruling of Brest Regional Court of 4 October 2012 concerning the refusal to consider the cassation appeal of Mr. Housha due to the alleged expiry of the terms of consideration. The ruling of the head of the Supreme Court prescribes to direct Housha's appeal to the regional court for consideration by another judge. The case concerns the administrative prosecution of the human rights defender during the parliamentary elections, when Mr. Housha was charged with using obscene language and punished with a fine of 1.5 million rubles after revealing the rigging of an election protocol by the election commission of Baranavichy-Western election constituency #5, where he was registered as an observer. S. Housha appealed the court verdict at Brest Region Court and the same time applied for being freed from paying the state fee. The court decided not to consider the application for the exemption from the state fee and simply returned the human rights activists all materials and refused to consider the case due to the failure to pay the fee and later – due to the expiry of the time limits of appealing. Brest Regional Court refused to consider the case on its merits and didn't grant Housha's petition for the resumption of the appeal term. On 17 March Siarhei Housha received a writ from Brest Regional Court with the information that the hearing was appointed on 21 March. The court turned the cassation appeal down.
On 21 March the wife of Homel human rights defender Leanid Sudalenka received an official inquiry from Savetski District Inspection on Dues and Taxes of Homel whether she had lent any money to her husband. The tax inspection has been holding various check-up concerning the human rights defender and his family for several months already, including the son who is serving in the army. The couple answered that the people who are married and run a common household don't lend money to each other. What concerns the son, the tax inspectors argued that his expenses exceed his income (the tax inspectors counted as expenses the tickets to Poland where the boy studied). In his answer to the tax inspection concerning the son's expenditures Leanid Sudalenka stated that it was impossible to provide the necessary documents as the son was in the army. He reminded the tax inspection that during the period for which the tax inspectors demanded to report about the income and assets his son wasn't a tax resident of the Republic of Belarus.
On 25 March Biaroza journalists and human rights defender Tamara Shchapiotkina hanged out a white-red-white flag on her balcony, which attracted the attention of the police. Police inspector Siarhei Nestsiarovich came to her apartment and demanded that she remove the flag, warning that she could receive a summons to the police.
On 27 March Hrodna human rights defenders Viktar Sazonau, Raman Yurhel and Uladzimir Khilmanovich received an answer to their complaint from the head of Hrodna Regional Court. The human rights defenders appealed the verdict of Leninski District Court of Hrodna which had fined each of them 1.5 million rubles for a photo of solidarity with human rights defender Ales Bialiatski on the Internet, and the ruling of Hrodna Regional Court concerning the results of the consideration of their appeal. The head of the regional court Aliaksandr Hrynkevich upheld the position of the court, stating that photographing of human rights defenders on the International Day of Human Rights and placing the photo on the Internet was an unauthorized public event for which they were rightfully punished.
Torture and other kinds of cruel and inhumane treatment
On 5 March a criminal case was brought against five officers of Lida District Police Department under Article 426, part 3 of the Criminal Code (abuse of authority or official powers, committed by a responsible official, or which ensued grave consequences, or intentional commitment by a duty official of the actions which evidently exceed the limits of the rights and powers provided by the duty position, accompanied with violence, suffering or insult of the victim or the use of arms or police gear). The ruling about the bringing of the criminal case was issued by the head of Lida District Department of the Investigative Committee, Aliaksandr Urbanovich, after the information about the unlawful actions of the police towards Lida residents Ivan and Bahdan Shkurkos had been published by the human rights institution "Platform". The incident took place on 18 November 2012 and the information about it was published at the "Platform" website on 19 February.
On 17 March an incident took place in Dziarzhynsk, about which the press service of the Police Department of Minsk Regional Executive Committee wrote that two hooligans had violently beaten a police patrol. As it followed from the information, two youngsters, Siarhei Khachaturan and Vital Hanchar, started provoking the police officers on duty late in the evening in the streets of Dziarzhynsk. In response, the police officers used police gear and guarded them to the police department. Human rights defenders of the "Platform" found a witness, Andrei Kalatsei, who told a different story. He was detained by the police outdoors in the evening. When S. Khachaturan and V. Hanchar were being detained and loaded in the police car, he was already there. Then he became a witness of the beating of Siarhei Khachaturan at the police station. Later there were found some other witnesses who were together with the guys. The head of Dziarzhynsk District Police Department Sviataslau Darashevich stated that none of the participants of the incident had been hospitalized – neither Siarhei Khachaturan, nor Vital Hanchar, the investigation into this fact was held by the Investigative Committee and a criminal case was brought against these people for resistance to the police. However, human rights defenders discovered that Siarhei Khachaturan was hospitalized with a brain concussion. The same diagnosis was given to Vilta Hanchar who lost the consciousness several times, being hit in the head with police batons.
Pressurization of civic and political activists by security services
At about 10.30 a.m. near the building of Klimavichy District Executive Committee, "Tell The Truth" activist Aliaksandr Balobin was detained by two unidentified persons who introduced themselves as KGB officers. They put him in a car and drove to another city – to Krychau Inter-district KGB Department for a "talk". There he was taken to the office of the head of the KGB department Illia Krautsou, who charged him with a violation of Article 193.1 of the Criminal Code, "activities on behalf of an unregistered organization" and showed many photos and other materials which allegedly proved it. I. Krautsou proposed the activist to collaborate and "consult KGB officers on certain issues", from which the latter refused. A. Balobin was warned that the information about the meeting with the KGB officers mustn't be publicized, threatening with a great trouble otherwise. After composing the minutes of questioning the KGB officers let Aliaksandr Balobin go. However, he had to get back home, to the village of Paulavichy in Klimavichy district at his own expense. At present the military enlistment office is trying to draft 23-year-old Aliaksandr Balobin into the army though during the previous years the medical commission twice found him unfit for army service due to a skin illness. On 28 March the activist was summonsed for a medical examination.
Administrative prosecution of civil and
political activists, arbitrary detentions
On 2 March Hrodna members of the Belarusian Christian Democracy tried to hold a picket in support of the small trans-border movement with the neighbor countries. The picket organizer Halina Kotava mistakingly understood that the picket was authorized in Rumlyouski Park. When the action was about to begin, there appeared people in mufti who started videoing the present people. They didn't say that the picket hadn't been authorized. When it was found out, the BCD members dispersed, that's why the picket factually wasn't carried out. However, later Halina Kotava was presented administrative charges. On 18 March Judge of Kastrychnitski District Court of Hrodna Zinaida Bartsevich fined her 2.5 million rubles.
On 5 March Judge of Minsk City Court Aliaksei Bychko left standing the ruling of Judge of Frunzenski District Court of Minsk Liudmila Lapo, who on 21 February had sentenced sculptor Henadz Loika to 5 days of arrest for an action in support of the mother tongue. The artist called the trial politically motivated and emphasized that he would continue struggling against the discriminatory Russification of the national educational system and outrageous actions of the judges who refused to hold the trial in Belarusian, a state language.
On 5 March Slutsk activist Vital Amialkovich received a ruling about dropping of the administrative case against him, issued on 28 February by the administrative commission at Slutsk District Executive Committee. The activist was charged with posting leaflets at a lamp-post near a shop. The commission had twice found the activist guilty of violating the urban maintenance rules, adopted by a ruling of Slutsk District Executive Committee. Vital Amialkovich didn't agree to it and appealed the ruling at Slutsk District Court. As a result, the case was dropped due to the impossibility to prove his guilty. Thus, it took Vital Amialkovich seven months to prove his innocence.
On 8 March an activist of the "European Belarus" Valiantsina Tsiurava was detained at Kamarouski market in Minsk for holding a one-person picket, holding a poster 'Where's my holiday? Where's my freedom?" In such a way she tried to draw the public attention to problems of the Belarusian women. Valiantsina Tsiurava was tried on 11 March. Judge of Savetski District Court of Minsk Dzmitry Pauliuchenka found her guilty of holding an unauthorized picket and sentenced her to three days of arrest, which she had already served in the detention center awaiting the trial. Thus, the activist was released from the custody right in the court room.
On 12 March in Hrodna police officers detained a member of the Belarusian Christian Democracy Siarhei Verameyenka who was going to the party office with a bag of leaflets. At the entrance he was stopped by two people in mufti who introduced themselves as policemen. S. Verameyenka was detained in front of the eyes of fellow party members and guarded to the police station. In his bag there were leaflets in support of political prisoners. BCD members intended to distribute them within the framework of the solidarity campaign "Write a letter to a political prisoner".
On 18 March in Brest three members of the organizing committee of the Belarusian Christian Democracy party, Ulad Barouski, Yauhen Khaziakhmetau and Andrei Sharenda were detained during an action of the campaign "Wave of Solidarity", launched by the BCD, while hanging out white-red-white flags. On 22 March Maskouski District Court of Brest fined A. Sharenda 2.5 million rubles and Ya. Khaziakhmetau – 1 million. The case against 17-year-old Barouski was passed to the commission on affairs of minors at Maskouski District Executive Committee of Brest.
In the morning of 23 March at a bus stop in Talachyn an activist of "Our House" ("Nash Dom") campaign Raman Zabela was detained by the police. The detention was conducted by police major Karota. The formal reason for the detention was that Mr. Zabela allegedly looked similar to a man who was suspected in committing a crime. This could be a preventive detention on the eve of the celebration of the 95th anniversary of Belarusian People's Republic with the aim to prevent him from taking part in the officially authorized mass event in Minsk.
On 24 March, after the end of the authorized procession and rally on the occasion of the Freedom Day in Minsk, the police detained the leader of "Young Democrats" Dzmitry Kavalhin and an activist of the United Civil Party Stanislau Ramanovich. During the detention one of the police officers hit Mr. Kavalhin in the head several times. The both activists were searched. The police confiscated from them a large white-red-white flag they were carrying at the head of the column and 2 smaller flags, after which they were released. 9 detained participants of the action, including three citizens of the Ukraine were taken to Savetski District Police Department of Minsk. All detainees were charged with insubordination to lawful demands of the police. All detainees were kept behind bars until the trials. On 25 March Judge of Savetski District Court of Minsk Dzmitry Pauliuchenka issued a warning to the under-aged citizen of the Ukraine Nazar Zelinkovskyj. Two other citizens of the Ukraine, Yuliya Hryshchuk and Yuliya Slivinskaya were punished with 1 day of arrest. The "European Belarus" activist Aliaksandr Kavaliou was fined 4 million rubles, Anton Tsimokhau – 2.5 million rubles. Vital Stanisheuski was sentenced to 5 days of arrest, Siarhei Mokich was fined 3.5 million rubles, Aleh Astashonak was fined 4 million rubles, "European Belarus" activist Aleh Rahouski was sentenced to a fine of 3 million rubles.
On 25 March in Vitsebsk there was held a closed trial of activists of the Belarusian Popular Front Party Kastus Smolikau and Leanid Autukhou, detained on 22 March in the shopping center "Evicom" while handing out the samizdat magazine "Magistrate" with information about the planned event on the occasion of the Freedom Day. The sentence was delivered by Judge of the Kastrychnitski District Court of Vitsebsk Ina Hrabouskaya after the end of the working hours, about 9 p.m.: she ruled that the both activists were to be sentenced to 5 days of arrest on charges of violating the legislation on mass events. An adherent of the creation of the Belarusian Christian Democracy Party Alena Shabunia and a coordinator of its organizing committee Tatsiana Seviarynets were detained on the way to the trial. They were driving by the car of Aliaksandr Kuzniatsou, the head of the city branch of the BPF Party. The car was detained by the road police and the driver was fined 300,000 rubles for a violation of the traffic rules. However, the passengers weren't let go, but were made to wait for about two hours. Two more activists, Stanislau Laurenau and Aliaksei Kishchuk, were detained on the way to the trial: the police stated that they "looked similar to the thieves who had stolen a bottle of vodka". Thus, Kishchuk and Laurenau got to Kastryhnitski District Court at the end of the trial.
At about 8.30 p.m. in Vitsebk political prisoner Siarhei Kavalenka was detained on charges of crossing a road in the wrong place. He spent the night in a detention center. Two violation reports were drawn up on him – for crossing the street in the wrong place and for disorderly conduct. On 26 January Judge of Pershamaiski District Court N. Karablina granted Kavalenka's petition for admitting his counsel to the trial and released him from custody, having issued him with a writ for the next hearing. On 29 March Judge Valiantsina Kismiaroshkina fined Siarhei Kavalenka 1 million rubles, declaring him guilty of disorderly conduct.
On 27 March Belarusian LGBT activist Siarhei Androsenka was set down the train Vilnius-Minsk at Hudahai border crossing point while returning from Vilnius. At first 2 customs officers and a person in plain clothes searched his belongings, including his backpack, laptop and the magazine "Sexus", issued by "BelHazeta". In an hour the head of Ashmiany customs office Niviarkevich ordered to conduct a personal examination of Mr. Androsenka. After that the activist was issued with the copies of the search reports, returned his passport and let go. However, at the exit of the customs office Siarhei Androsenka was met by another officer, who told him to proceed with him to another building for solving a "technical issue". As a result, Androsenka's passport was confiscated again under the pretext that it was found in the database of invalid documents.
On 29 March Navabelitski District Court of Homel considered the violation reports drawn up by the police on the deputy head of the United Civil Party Vasil Paliakou and civic activist Uladzimir Shytsikau. In the morning of 29 March they were summonsed to Navabelitski District Police Department, where the police, directed by the head of the public order department Henadz Khilkevich composed a report about a violation of Article 23.34 of the Code of Administrative Offenses (unauthorized rally) and took Paliakou and Shytsikau to court. The trial lasted for 15 minutes, the opposition activists were found guilty of taking part in an unauthorized rally and fined 2 million rubles each. The police regarded as an unauthorized rally laying down flowers in Dzimitrau Street in Homel where an activist of the Belarusian Peoples Republic Paluta Badunova used to live. Each year Homel oppositionists hold such action on 25 March, the Freedom Day, in order to honor the memory of the prominent compatriot.
Restrictions of freedom of word and the right to distribute information, harassment of journalists
On 7 March the shop of Bialynichy entrepreneur and members of the Belarusian Popular Front Party Mikalai Miatselitsa was visited by an officer of Bialynichy District Police Department who paid interest to the independent press sold there. He insistently recommended that Mikalai Miatselitsa stop selling the small-circulation democratic press in his shop, threatening with troubles in business otherwise. Mikalai reacted calmly, saying he wasn't violating any Belarusian laws, the small-circulation newspapers "Rehiyon", "Pakhodnia" and "Mahliouski Vybar" were issued in line with the Law "On Mass Media" and those who wanted could take them in the shop without any restrictions.
On 14 March "Arche" magazine received the third registration denial. According to the acting head of the magazine, Ales Pashkevich, this time the officials explained the refusal with the absence of some telephone number in the registration documents. On 22 March it became known that law-enforcement agencies refused from bringing a criminal case against "Arche". This was found out by the counsel who applied to the State Control Committee in connection with the end of another term of checking the magazine's activities. On 25 March the Financial Investigations Department unblocked the bank account of the editorial board. However, the FID didn't issue a written confirmation concerning the refusal from bringing a criminal case.
On 11 March police inspector Siarhei Karytkin charged the former deputy of Bialynichy District Council, dweller of the village of Lebiadzianka with committing a disorderly conduct during the visit of the shooting crew of the TV channel "BelSat" to the "Lebiadzianka" farm on 28 February 2013. Then arrived the head of the farm accused the journalists of industrial espionage and demanded that they urgently leave the territory. On 22 March police inspector Siarhei Karytkin paid a visit to Bialynichy journalist Barys Vyrvich. He inquired how the democratic newspaper "Mahiliouski Vybar" was issued and distributed. According to Siarhei Karytkin, this was necessary for an objective consideration of the report of administrative violation, drawn up on the former deputy of Bialynichy District Council Valery Vusik. The local police inspector also asked whether Valery Vusik was a member of the Belarusian Popular Front party. Then the policeman started asking where and how the newspaper "Mahiliouski Vybar" was published and where its editorial office was located. On 29 March Bialynichy District Court punished Valery Vusik with a fine of 5 million rubles for allegedly slandering the head of the "Lebiadzianka" farm Piotr Bialou and the distribution of the independent newspaper "Mahiliouski Vybar".
On 15 March the presentation of Siarhei Chyhryn's book "By local core paths of Zelva area" was to have taken place at the district library of Zelva. However, on 13 March the author received a telephone call from the head of Zeva district library system Sviatlana Zhamoitsina, who told him that the presentation was canceled as the names of Larysa and Yanka Heniyush and the president of the Belarusian People's Republic Vasil Zakharka were mentioned many times in the book, it was written that the bells for the Khatyn monument were made out of the bell tower of Synkavichy church and many other things unpleasant for the present authorities and not correspondent to the modern life.
On 18 March all workers of Slonim District Hospital were forced to give 4,000 rubles for the subscription to the district newspaper "Slonimski Vesnik" for the second quarter. They were also forced to subscribe to the newspaper last year. At that time the chief physician of Slohim hospital Yury Piatselski personally ordered all heads of hospital departments to subscribe to the newspaper. The same oral order has been received from him this month. At the same time, it is impossible to subscribe to the independent "Hazeta Slonimskaya" as it still hasn't been included in the subscription catalog of the Belarusian post.
On 19 March the correspondent of Radio "Liberty" Mikhail Karnevich wasn't admitted to the construction site of Astravets Nuclear Power Plant, allegedly due to the absence of a necessary paper from the Ministry of Energetics. Before this, Mr. Karnevich had filed all necessary documents to the NPP administration and had received a permission. However, when he came to Astravets, he was told he couldn't visit the construction site.
On 24 March, during the celebration of the Freedom Day, cameraman of "Nasha Niva" newspaper Tatsiana Haurylchyk was detained in the pedestrian underground crossing of the metro station "Akademiya Navuk" ("Academy of Sciences") while making shots of police officers who disliked it. The policemen took away her journalist ID and took her to the police station at the metro station, from which she was released in several hours.
On 26 March the TV channel "BelSat" was again denied accreditation. The Belarusian MFA explained it by reference to repeated violations of the law by the journalists who collaborated with the channel. The MFA decision was passed to the official representative of the channel in Belarus, Mikhail Yanchuk.
Restriction of freedom of peaceful assemblies
On 7 March the head of the regional BPF branch Leanid Autukhou filed an application to Chyhunachny District Executive Committee of Vitsebsk in order to hold a rally at Vitsebsk stadium "Locomotive" on 25 March. The head of the regional branch of the movement "For Freedom" Khrystafor Zhaliapau proposed to organize the rally on 25 March, but at 30-hoddzia VLKSM Park. The both places are city parks which were determined as suitable for mass events by the local administrations. Another condition for receiving a permission is the conclusion of service agreements with the central city polyclinic, the regional police department and the public utilities. However, the aforementioned institutions used various pretexts to avoid concluding such agreements with opposition activists. The medics stated that all ambulance brigades were busy due to a peak of seasonal illnesses. The police answered that the agreement will be concluded only if the event was authorized by the district administration.
On 7 March a member of the Conservative-Christian Party "Belarusian Popular Front" Yan Dziarzhautsau received a ban on holding a rally in honor of the 150th anniversary of the anti-Russian uprising. The activist intended to hold the rally on 10 March and asked applied for permission to the city executive committee, as far as the route of the event lied on the territory of three districts of the city. The written refusal is dated 4 March, but the post seal has another date – 6 March. At the same time, the law obliges the authorities to inform the applicants about their decision at least 5 days before the planned events. The organizer didn't manage to conclude service agreements with medics and the police. Chief medic of Vitsebsk city central polyclinic S. Tsitovich banned the event referring to the seasonal rise in illnesses and a great load on the ambulance. The deputy head of the public security of the Main Police Department of Vitsebsk Regional Executive Committee I. Skarynovich stated that in his opinion the route of the procession didn't correspond to the Law "On Mass Events" and explained his refusal to conclude the service agreement by it.
On 14 March Klimavichy activists of "Tell the Truth" received a refusal from the local district executive committee to their application for holding a picket on 25 March, dated to the Freedom Day. The reason for the refusal was that according to the officials "the application cannot be considered as it doesn't correspond to Article 5 of the Law "On Mass Events" of 30 December 1997.
On 19 March Slonim activists received a refusal from the district executive committee to their application for holding on 23 March a rally dedicated to the Freedom Day. The deputy head of Slonim District Executive Committee Mikalai Shykh stated that the applicants allegedly hadn't mentioned in which of the city parks their event would be held, in Opernaya Street in the city center or in Parkavaya street (in the suburb of Albiartsin). This answer was quite surprising for the applicants, as far as there are no parks in Slonim: there is the quay of Ahinski channel in Opernaya Street and a public garden near Puslouskiya's palace in Albiartsin. Nevertheless, the rally was banned.
On 20 March civic activist Viktar Syrytsa received a refusal to authorize the 25 March picket, dedicated to the 95th anniversary of the Belarusian People's Republic, signed by the deputy head of Baranavichy City Executive Committee Dz. Kastsiukevich. The applicant concluded service agreements with the medics and the public utilities, but the officer of Baranavichy City Police Department major Pavel Kulhavik refused to conclude with him a service agreement, as demanded by the law and a ruling of the city executive committee. V. Syrytsa paid two personal visits to the police and also had one telephone talk with them, but without any results. Thus, the Freedom Day event was banned by the city executive committee.
On 21 March Salihorsk District Executive Committee banned the picket dated to the 95th anniversary of the declaration of Belarusian People's Republic. The application for the action was filed by the local civic activist Uladzimir Shyla. It was intended to hold the picket at the "Budaunik" stadium, the only place determined for such actions by the city authorities. The acting head of Salihorsk City Executive Committee Valery Shamruk explained the ban by stating that the measures to protect the public order and security, stated by the organizer, didn't correspond to the Law "On Mass Events".
On 22 March the coordinator of the civil initiative "Stop Drinking – Start Living!" Zmitser Karashkou filed an appeal with Tsentralny District Court of Homel against the refusal of Homel City Executive Committee to authorize a picket against the alcoholization of the population. The reason for the ban is usual for all applicants for such events during the last four years: the applicant failed to conclude service agreements with the police, ambulance and public utilities. In his appeal to the court the activist asked to declare the decision of the executive committee unlawful and abolish the provisions which restrict the legal rights of citizens; and also find unlawful the decision of the executive committee to put a ban on the picket.
On 27 March the former head of Homel City Executive Committee Sviatlana Haldadze filed an appeal to the UN Human Rights Committee against the ban on the picket she intended to hold on 4 August 2012 together with human rights defenders Anatol Paplauny and Leanid Sudalenka in order to support the imprisoned human rights defender Ales Bialiatski. The district court where the ban was appealed, sided with the city executive committee and the regional court confirmed the ruling of the district one. Thus, the internal remedies were depleted. Sviatlana Haldadze asks the Committee to establish the fact of violation of freedom of peaceful assemblies on the part of the state and recommend to the Belarusian government to put the Law "On Mass Events" and the decision of the local authorities about the order of holding mass events in line with the international undertakings.
Restriction of freedom of association
On 26 March the preliminary hearings concerning the refusal of the Ministry of Justice to issue the state registration to the civic association "Young Christian Democrats". The trial was appointed on 9 April. The Ministry of Justice refused to register the organization referring to three points. First of all, the ministry believes that the list of the organization founders doesn't correspond to reality as the places of their employment are incorrect. Secondly, the ministry states that the founders haven't provided additional materials which are related to the assembly, in particular – the rent agreement with the owner of the premises and the registration list of its participants. The founders of the organization considered such demand to be unlawful and therefore decided not to implement it. Thirdly, the Ministry of Justice believes that the founders filled the registration documents with violations of the rules of orthography and punctuations concerning the use of capital letters and quotation marks.