Review-Chronicle of Human Rights Violations in Belarus in April 2013
April, the human rights situation in Belarus remained consistently
poor with a clear tendency to deteriorate. 11 political prisoners
(Ihar Alinevich, Mikalai Autukhovich, Ales Bialiatski, Dzmitry
Dashkevich, Mikalai Dziadok, Aliaksandr Frantskevich, Eduard Lobau,
Artsiom Prakapenka, Pavel Seviaryents, Mikalai Statkevich and Yauhen
Vaskovich) were still kept in jail; 2 persons continued to serve
their terms of personal restraint (Sviataslau Baranovich and Dzmitry
Miadzvedz); 8 more still had suspended or conditional prison terms
(Andrei Dzmitryieu, Aliaksandr Fiaduta, Iryna Khalip, Siarhei
Martsaleu, Uladzimir Niakliayeu, Andrei Pachobut, Vital Rymasheuski,
Siarhei Vazniak) yatoslav Baranovitch). 3 persons remained in the
status of defendants in politically motivated cases – Siarhei
Basharymau, Ales Mikhalevich and Anton Surapin. Andrei Haidukou, the
charges against whom can be politically motivated, continued being
kept in the remand prison of the KGB. Preventive supervision was used
as a means of control and pressurization towards 3 former political
prisoners (Vasil Parfiankou, Pavel Vinahradau and Uladzimir
Yaromenak) and 25 persons who wer pardoned and released on parole
were still under prophylactic supervision.
A dangerous trend in April was that KGB and the prosecutors' offices issued warnings to social and political activists about the possible criminal punishment for activities on behalf of unregistered organizations. During the month, such warnings were received by human rights activist Tamara Siarhei (Minsk), BCD activist Aleh Aksionau (Mahiliou) and an activist of the civil campaign "Tell the Truth" Aliaksandr Kuzmin (Belaaziorsk). Following these warnings, criminal cases under Article 193.1, which envisages up to two years of imprisonment, can be instigated against the activists.
Arbitrary detentions and arrests of social and political activists and journalists continued, freedom of assemblies and expression was considerably restricted. All peaceful assemblies were banned except for the "Chernobyl Way" rally held in Minsk on 26 April and May Day rally in Brest on 1 May. Belarusian MFA for the third time refused to accredit the independent television channel "BelSat", which continued the practice of unfavorable working conditions for journalists. A dangerous tendency with possible long-term consequences was started by recognition of the photo album "Press Photo 2011" as extremist on apparently frivolous and absurd grounds. Dismissals of activists of independent trade unions and the practice of closing public organizations continued.
Due to the lack of effective mechanisms to influence the situation with human rights and freedoms in the country and given the high dependence of this sphere on the foreign policy factor much attention was paid to the relations of the official Minsk with the Western countries, especially the European Union and the United States. During the month, representatives of the Belarusian Foreign Ministry showed increasing contacts with European diplomats and politicians.
On 1 April, Foreign Minister of Belarus Uladzimir Makei said in an interview to "RIA Novosti" and BelTA that Belarus was ready to dialogue with the EU, but without any pressure and sanctions. On 9 April Uladzimir Makei discussed the issues of interaction between Belarus and the EU, including the context of the forthcoming presidency of Lithuania in the European Union, with the Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the Republic of Lithuania in Minsk Evaldas Ignatavicius. On 10 April in Vitsebsk U. Makei held talks with Foreign Minister of Latvia Edgars Rynkevichs, on the results of which he stated that "the relations between Belarus and the EU are not at an impasse" and "There is a clear understanding that we must always find a sequence of actions that will allow us gradually move in the possible directions, solving fundamental issues." It is impossible to settle all disputes between Belarus and the European Union overnight, but the dialogue is very important – this is the view expressed by Edgars Rynkevichs. "Here we have so many more questions that need to be worked at. This is the vision of the EU on certain aspects of democratic rights and freedoms, but it is very important that we move on to a discussion of these issues, to dialogue, and I think there are some issues that will be promoted in a positive way. We will continue these negotiations", he said.
On 11 April, during her visit to Brussels, Deputy Foreign Minister of Belarus Alena Kupchyna had a number of meetings, including with the member of the European Commission for Enlargement and European Neighborhood Policy Štefan Füle and the director of the EEAS on Russia, "Eastern Partnership" Regional Cooperation and the OSCE, Gunnar Wiegand.
On 26 April Uladzimir Makei had an audience with the Charge d'Affaires of the US in the Republic of Belarus, Ethan Goldrich. During the meeting, Mr. Godlrich passed Mr. Makei a message of the U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, outlining the prospects of the Belarusian-American relations.
The extraordinary activation of contacts between the EU and the U.S. with the Belarusian authorities, the contents of which remained closed to the public, raised an issue regarding the possible change positions and strategies of the Western democracies. First of all, there is the question whether they refuse from or they refuse from their earlier position of principle, which is to restore relations with the official Minsk only after the release of political prisoners. This issue became particularly acute after the conference "Dialogue on the modernization of the Belarusian society" on 9 April in Brussels, at which representatives of the European Parliament supported the need for dialogue with the Belarusian authorities. As a result, on 11 April Peter Stana, press-secretary of Štefan Füle, had to explain that the release of all political prisoners in Belarus remained the sine qua non of Brussels returning to normal relations with Belarus, and the conference was not a serious turning point in the relationship.
Intensification of the relations between the EU and the U.S. with the Belarusian authorities gave some hope to the possibility of achieving positive agreements in release of political prisoners. However, there were no real signs of improvement in this direction during the month. The effectiveness of diplomatic measures was put to doubt after Lukashenka's speech on April 26, when he said: "I can definitely say that Europeans and enlightened representatives of our fifth column have clearly understood that the sanctions regime and the ultimatum are not only counterproductive, but also harmful for the European Union itself." According to him, today there is a question: "How to get out of the impasse in which we got with Europeans not through our fault". "They start: there are political prisoners. I say it again: we don't judge anyone for politics, we have no political articles. They are plain criminals. I have already said how to get out of this situation and there won't be any retreat. Those who want to be in jail and get out as heroes – God be with you, stay there," he said. Thus, A. Lukashenka factually stated that the Belarusian authorities did not intend to compromise on the most fundamental issues for the EU, which casts doubt on the possibility of resuming full-fledged dialogue between Belarus and the EU.
Political prisoners, criminal prosecution of activists
On 3 April 3 Navapolatsk member of the organizing committee of the Belarusian Christian Democracy Illia Bahdanau stated that at the end of March he had been transferred from the status of an accused to the status of a witness in the case of "high treason" after an appropriate petition of his counsel. Bear in mind that at first he was a witness in the case, but during an interrogation at the end of 2012 investigator Aleh Barysevich said that he was transferred to the status of an accused. At present the only accused in the case is 23-year-old operator of the "Naftan" enterprise Andrei Haidukou. On 8 April his term in custody was extended for another month. No details are known about the investigation which has lasted for six months already. On 29 April it became known that Haidukou's case would be soon passed to court.
On 4 April it became known from a letter of political prisoner Yauhen Vaskovich to his grandmother Tamara that he started receiving letters. In particular, he received many letters of support and congratulations of the Freedom Day. He also received a food parcel from relatives, whose fate had remained unknown for a long time. Yauhen also explained the reasons for refusing from advocatory services. He said that no counsel would be able to help him and there is no use wasting money on finding about his health if he could write about it in his letters.
On 6 it became known that political prisoner Aliaksandr Frantskevich had been transferred to a cell-type facility more than a month ago. He started writing and sent two stories to Aliaksandr Fiaduta. One of them is philosophical and the other is fiction.
On 6 April Eduard Lobau allowed to meet with a priest. It happened after the intervention of the Apostolic Nuncio Archbishop Claudio Gugerotti. The procedure of confession was watched by several officers of Ivatssevichy penitentiary, that's why it was held almost in silence.
On 13 April the mother of political prisoner Ihar Alinevich reported that she had stopped receiving letters from him after the release of his autobiographical book "I'm Going to Magadan" about the detention in the remand prison of the KGB in Valadarski Street. Nevertheless, the book was released on Ihar's own wish. Its presentation was held in Minsk on 19 April. On 22 April it became known that Ihar had spent 20 days in a punishment cell. On 26 April the prisoner was visited by his counsel. As a result the reasons for the punishment became known: Ihar Alinevich was sentenced to ten days in the penal cell for refusing to clean the toilet (a job which is considered as humiliating among prisoners). Then he received several more days for greeting a fellow prisoner on entering the punishment cell, which was considered as unlawful talking, and a few more days – for minor offenses.
On 14 April former presidential candidate Mikalai Statkevich said in a letter that prisoners of prison No. 4 in Mahiliou had been finally issued with the statutory hygiene means he had struggled to receive. On 20 April it became known that a new wave of pressurization of Mikalai Statkevich had started. He passed the information according to which prison guards gave him food in specially marked plates which could hint on attempts to poison him.
On 2 April Liubou Kavaliova, the mother of Uladzislau Kavaliou (executed by shooting on charges of bombing the Minsk subway in April 2011), reported about her actions to find out which institution had implemented the death verdict, issued to her son by the Supreme Court. Liubouu Kavaliova filed her inquiries to several state institutions at once. "At first, I wrote to the chairman of the KGB, as Ulad had been kept there until the end. I received a letter signed by the chairman himself, Valery Vakulchyk, where it is stated that this question is beyond the competence of the KGB and that it is necessary to apply to the Supreme Court, as far as the information about the implementation of the death verdict is sent there under Article 175 of the Criminal-Executive Code. However, the deputy head of the Supreme Court, Valery Kalinkovich, also answered that it was beyond their competency and proposed to apply to the Department of Corrections. The answer of this department again contained only a reference to Article 175 of the Criminal-Executive Committee, according to part 5 of which the "institution which implements the death verdict" must inform the court which issued the sentence, which, in its turn, must pass the information to the relatives. We received a message from the Supreme Court, but didn't manage to find out which institution implements death verdicts," said Liubou Kavaliova. On 24 April Liubou Kavaliova and Uladzislau's sister Tatsiana Kaziar applied to the Presidential Administration, the Ministry of Internal Affairs and the State Security Committee (KGB) demanding they reveal the burial site of Uladzislau. They referred to the ruling of the UN Human Rights Committee, which recognized a violation of Uladzislau Kavaliou's right to life and applied to the Belarusian authorities with the demand to reveal the location of the grave, regarding the concealment of this information as ill-treatment of the convict's relatives.
On 2 April the investigative committee sent a response to the joint request of the United Civil Party and human rights activists about the prospects of investigation into the disappearances of former Interior Minister Yury Zakharanka, politician Viktar Hanchar, businessman Anatol Krasouski and journalist Dzmitry Zavadski. The answer did not contain any information on the merits investigation and its results, and was a usual come-off without any hint of interest in the investigation of these crimes.
Harassment of human rights defenders and human rights organizations
On 1 April the official opening of the new office of the Human Rights Center "Viasna" was held. It was very hard for the organization to find a new office room after the confiscation of the previous one. The deputy chairman of "Viasna" Valiantsin Stefanovich said that, despite the obstacles of the authorities the organization would continue all directions of its activity. "Viasna" continued working non-stop despite the confiscation of the office in November 2012. The public reception worked at the office of the Movement "For Freedom" and the Committee on Assistance to the Repressed "Solidarity." Such analytical publications as the annual review-chronicle "Human rights situation in Belarus" and the Report on the monitoring of penitentiary institutions in the Republic of Belarus were presented during the opening of the office.
In the evening of 2 March unidentified persons gained unauthorized access to the website of the Mahiliou branch of the Human Rigths Center "Viasna". They published three provocative articles including a publication with threats to independent journalist Ales Burakou on behalf of human rights defender Barys Bukhel. The unidentified offenders cracked the security system of the website and changed the access passwords to the administrator's panel (back-office). Moreover, the human rights information for the last two years was destroyed. On 5 April the website mahilyowspring.org completely restored its work. The deleted information was returned, the libelous articles were deleted and professionals started working on indreasing its security.
On 9 April 2013 the private house of human rights defender Uladzimir Tseliapun was robbed. The thieves broke into the house through a window, having smashed the glass in two windowpanes. They stole some carpenter tools and the Order "Chernobyl Cross: Courage, Dignity, Humanity", with which Mr. Tseliapun was awarded by the All-Ukrainian civic organization "All-Ukrainian public organization "Union Chernobyl Ukraine" in 2011 on the occasion of the 25th anniversary of the Chernobyl accident. In 1986 Uladzimir Tseliapun took part in the liquidation of the consequences of this man-made disaster. On 26 April Uladzimir Tseliapun was summonsed to the Investigative Committee which investigated the robbery, and was returned the stolen Chernobyl award. All other items haven't been found so far.
On 18 April human rights activist Leanid Sudalenka filed a lawsuit against the State Treasury concerning the failure of the authorities to implement a decision of the UN Human Rights Committee concerning the compensation of the moral damage to him which he considered to be equal to the wage of an MP during his 4-year term at office. During the parliamentary elections of 2004 the human rights activist was not registered as a candidate for deputy, although he collected the required number of signatures. The district election commission and the CEC decided that he lawyer had incorrectly indicated his place of employment. The Supreme Court sided with the Central Election Commission, that's why Leanid Sudalenka filed a complaint with the Human Rights Committee of the UN. In 2010, the Committee concluded that Sudalenka's right to take part in the conduct of public affairs through the election was violated. The Committee also stated that this was politically motivated discrimination. The Committee ordered Belarus to provide the author with an effective remedy, and to consider his future applications for his nomination as a candidate for deputy with a full abidance by the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.
On 19 April activists of the initiative "Against Lawlessness at Courts and Prosecutors' Offices" tried to pass a petition to Aliaksandr Lukashenka who was holding a speech before the National Assembly. They wanted him to facilitate the consideration of their appeals concerning against verdicts to their relatives, ignored for many years by state officials and judges. Human rights activist Tamara Siarhei and more then ten activists of the initiative weren't let in the building of the National Assembly by the guards. Police made them leave Nezalezhnasts Square with the use of pushes and threats. On 24 April the General Prosecutor's Office warned defender Tamara Siarhei about the possibility of criminal punishment for activities on behalf of an unregistered organization under Article 193.1 of the Criminal Code of the Republic of Belarus.
At about 9 p. m. on 25 April the website of the Human Rights Center "Viasna" was hacked. The sense of certain publications was changed to the opposite. It was done simultaneously at the Belarusian, English and Russian versions of the website. In particular, the information about signing of the petition against the death penalty by playwright Andrei Kureichyk was changed – it was written that he supported the death penalty. The codes for the youtube video were replaced: the offenders inserted a link to a video in support of the death penalty instead of Kureichyk's speech. They also changed the information about the position of the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH) – it was written that FIDH supported the state policy of Belarus. Changes were also made in some other publications. Within 30 minutes the informational service of "Viasna" managed to correct the false information and prevent new attacks.
On 25 April the Hrodna human rights defender and journalist Uladzimir Khilmanovich was summonsed to the Hrodna Regional KGB Department for 2 p.m. on 26 April. A KGB officer explained the reason for the call as follows: "within the competence of the KGB." Uladzimir Khilmanovich received a warning for certain publications in the weekly newspaper of the Belarusians in Poland "Niva". KGB believes that some of them border on discrediting Belarus.
On 29 April human rights observer Viachaslau Dashkevich, detained in Minsk in the evening of 26 April, after the end of the authorized rally "Chernobyl Way", was sentenced to five days of administrative arrest. The verdict was issued by Judge of the the Savetski District Court of Minsk Dzmitry Pauliuchenka. The observer was detained while heading to the Savetski District Police Department to keep track on the transportation of the detained participants of "Chernobyl Way". According to the court verdict, V. Dashkevich was found guilty of disobeying the lawful demands of police officers ( Article 23.4 of the Administrative Code).
Pressurization of civic and political activists by security services
On 25 April the Navapolatsk activist Yauhen Parchynski received a telephone call from a man who didn't introduce himself and invited him to a "prophylactic conversation". The activist was proposed to meet outdoors and then was told to get into a car in which two men were sitting while one more was walking around. None of the three introduced themselves despite persistent demands. According to Mr. Parchynski, he was asked many questions about other Navapolatsk oppositionists and the aims of the public association "Free Region". At the end of the talk the activist warned about the possibility of criminal punishment for activity on behalf of an unregistered organization, and for the content of articles on the site http://freeregion.info if they would contain offensive and defamatory information about the Republic of Belarus. Ya. Parchynski was also warned he would receive administrative punishment if he decided to organize an action on the anniversary of the Chernobyl accident. According to the activist, he recognized one of the interlocutors. The latter often visited opposition's events in Navapolatsk, but wasn't acquainted with anyone. Therefore, the activists had the impression that he was an agent of the security services. Mr. Parchynski said that no papers were drawn up during the conversation and he wasn't proposed to sign any documents.
On 29 April an activist of the Belarusian Christian Democracy Aleh Aksionau received a second warning from the Mahiliou KGB for activities on behalf of an unregistered organization. That morning he received a telephone call from KGB investigator Makhunou, who invited him to a meeting at the KGB office. A few minutes after it the activist was presented with a summons. The head of the Mahiliou regional branch of the Belarusian Popular Front "Adradzhenne" Dzmitry Salauyou wasn't allowed to represent Aksionau's interests during the talk. The conversation with the KGB investigator lasted for about an hour. Makhunou told Aleh Aksionau that the reason for establishing preventive supervision over him was his activity on behalf of the unregistered organization "Belarusian Christian Democracy", the election observation campaign "For Fair Elections" and the Mahiliou Regional Coalition of Democratic Forces. The investigator supported his words by presenting printouts from various websites where Aksionau's surname was mentioned. The activist tried to convince the investigator that the party BCD acted on behalf of its organizing committee, but the latter refused to understand it. Apart from Aleh Aksionau, the Mahiliou Regional KGB Department established preventive supervision over the BCD activist Tatsiana Shambalava and the head of Mahiliou regional branch of the Belarusian Popular Front "Adradzhenne" Zmitser Salauyou.
Administrative prosecution of political activists, arbitrary detention
On 3 April the members of the Slonim coalition of democratic forces Ivan Bedka and Ivan Sheha were summonsed to the Slonim District Police Department. Ivan Sheha was presented the summons at work and Ivan Bedka – at home. Police major Aliaksandr Khudzio stated they were to write explanations about launching air balloons on Freedom Day. Bedka and Sheha refused to write such explanations. On 18 April police major Vadzim Shchurski questioned at the Slonim DPD the local activists of the United Civil Party, brothers Andrei and Siarhei Bialko in connection with their participation in the Freedom Day celebration. Pensioner Mikalai Barysik was questioned by police major Ihar Klybik. He refused to give any explanations, stating that the celebration of Freedom Day was his private business. On 22 April two more people, Albert Hlinnik and Viktar Marchyk, were summonsed to the Slonim DPD and interrogated by police major Ihar Klybik concerning the participation in Freedom Day. They refused to write explanatory notes. All participants of the celebration were identified by the police on the basis of the photos which appeared on the Internet after the event.
On 4 April former political prisoner Vasil Parfiankou, who on 9 February had been released from the detention facility of Baranavichy remand prison No. 6 after serving 6-month arrest term for violating the regime of preventive supervision, was again charged with violating the regime of the preventive supervision and fined 800,000 rubles by Judge of the Pershamaiski District Court of Minsk Yury Harbatouski.
On 4 April juvenile commission of the Maskouski District Executive Committee of Brest fined 18-year-old Uladzislau Barouski 50,000 rubles under Article 23.34, part 1 of the Code of Administrative Offenses (participation in an unauthorized mass event). On 18 March U. Barouski was detained together with activists of the organizing committee of the party "Belarusian Christian Democracy" Yauhen Khaziakhmetau and Andrei Sharenda near the park of Soldiers-internationalists where a white-red-white flag was hanged out on an armored personnel carrier standing on a pedestal.
On 5 April a former political prisoner, activist of the "Young Front" Uladzimir Yaromenak was tried on charges in violating the terms of preventive supervision, imposed by the court. According to the judgment, Mr. Yaromenak was absent from home for some time during the period between 9 p.m. and 6 a.m. on 24 February. The case was considered by Judge Yury Harbatouski. Uladzimir Yaromenak was not present at the trial, as he was not informed about it. On 23 April the activist received a telephone call from a police inspector who told that he had been sentenced to 15 days of arrest and therefore needed to come to the police station. On 24 April Yaromenak was taken to the detention center in Akrestsin Street.
On 5 April the Vitsebsk Regional Court considered a cassation appeal of the chairman of the regional branch of the BPF Leanid Autukhou against the verdict of the Kastrychnitski District Court, according to which he had been punished with 5 days of arrest by Judge Ina Hrabouskaya for an alleged violation of the law on mass events. The judge considered as an offense the distribution by Autukhou and his alley Kanstantsin Smolikau of the "Magistrate" bulletin, dedicated to Freedom Day. The appeal was considered by Judge Iryna Smaliakova. Leanid Autukhou solicited for holding court proceedings in Belarusian, but the judge dismissed the petition, as far as the recusation to the court he stated later. The verdict of the court of first instance was left in force.
On 9 April activist of the movement "For Freedom" Yan Melnikau, who had congratulated passers-by on Freedom Day on 25 March on Yakub Kolas Square in Minsk, was summonsed to the Savetski District Police Department of Minsk and presented charges under Part 2 of Art. 23.34 of the Administrative Code (organizing an unsanctioned event). On 10 April Judge of the Savetski District Court of Minsk Aksana Reliava sentenced him to a fine of 2.2 million rubles.
On 10 April the Maskouski District Court of Minsk found social activist Nina Bahinskaya guilty of holding an unsanctioned event and fined her 2.5 million rubles. The activist was detained during a prayer near St. Symon and Alena Church in Minsk for raising a white-red-white flag. The verdict was issued by Judge Tatsiana Motyl.
On 12 April local activist Piatro Ivanou was detained at the police department of the Vitsebsk Regional Executive Committee. Before this, he was giving explanations at the regional road police department to colonel Stsiapanau in connection with the detention of the BCD members Aliaksei Kishchuk and Stanislau Laurenau on 16 February for holding a poster with the word "Freedom!" in the center of Vitsebsk. Ivanou asked to punish the policemen who had violated the traffic rules during the detention. Instead of it, Piatro Ivanou was charged with giving a knowingly false testimony. Ivanou was taken to the Pershamaiski District Court, but then the police car turned around and took him to Pershamaiski District Police Department of Vitsebsk, where he was also charged with disobedience to lawful demands of the police. The trial of Ivanou started at the Pershamaiski District Court of Vitsebsk on 15 April. On 17 April the activist was fined 2 million rubles on charges of giving a false testimony about a violation of the traffic rules by the driver of a police car, and 2 more million rubles – for disobedience to lawful demands of police officers. Piatro Ivanou pleaded innocent in both cases.
On 12 April the chairman of the Minsk City Court dismissed the cassation appeal of the leader of the United Civil Party Anatol Liabedzka against the verdict of Judge of the Savetski District Court of Minsk Dzmitry Pauliuchenka, according to which he had been sentenced to a fine in absentia on 15 January. The politician was fined for handing out informational leaflets about the attitude of the United Civil Party and its supporters to the privatization of state property. Anatol Liabedzka appealed the ruling at the city court but on 15 February Judge Valery Kamisarau left the initial verdict in force. The chairman of the Minsk City Court supported the position of his colleagues.
On 17 April Viktar Ivashkevich was banned from leaving the country in connection with an incident in May 2012, when an employee of the Mozyr refinery Maryna Tsibliyenka sued him for the calls on the European companies to boycott Belarusian oil products. The court sentenced Mr. Ivashkevich to pay a compensation of 500,000 rubles to the plaintiff and refute his statements on the website "Charter'97" calling to impose economic sanctions. Ivashkevich paid the "compensation" and was allowed to leave the country six months after it. However, recently a bailiff has informed him that he was banned to leave the country as he still hasn't disproved his statements in the media.
On 17 April the Vitsebsk Regional Court turned down an appeal by the activist of the Conservative-Christian Party "Belarusian Popular Front" Siarhei Kavalenka against a verdict of Judge of the Pershamaiski District Court of Vitsebsk Valiantsina Kismiaroshkina, according to which he was to pay a fine of 1 million rubles for disorderly conduct. Judge of the Vitsebsk Regional Court Iryna Smaliakova supported the previous verdict, expressing no doubt in the information of the police reports, which indicated that Kavalenka was walking along the roadway in 2nd Pradolnaya Street, which was noticed by a police patrol who approached him and made a remark. Siarhei Kavalenka allegedly refused to get to the pavement, using foul language.
On 22 April the activist of "Zmena", the youth wing of the civil campaign "Tell the Truth" Pavel Vinahradau was detained for hanging out a white-red-white flag and a portrait of a political prisoner Statkevich over the entrance to the metro station "Niamiha" in Minsk. On 23 April he was tried at the Tsentralny District Court of Minsk under Article 23.34 of the Code of Administrative Offenses (violation of the order of holding mass events). Judge Viktoryia Shabunia sentenced him to 12 days of arrest.
On 26 April the leader of the United Civil Party Anatol Liabedzka and journalists Aliaksandr Barazenka and Nasta Yaumen were twice detained in the city of Astravets (the Hrodna region) where a nuclear power plant is being built. The journalists came there with the politicians to make a report about the NPP construction.
On 26 April in Minsk the annual memorial rally on the anniversary of the accident at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant was held. The rally was allowed by the Minsk City Executive Committee and went peacefully. However, law enforcement officials didn't refrain from making obstacles, and the event was accompanied by arrests of journalists and activists. The head of the council of the public association "Ecodom" Iryna Sukhii and its activists Volha Kaskevich, Kanstantsin Kirylenka and Vasil Siniukhin were detained preventively near their houses. They were kept at the Pershamaiski District Police Department of Minsk for three hours and released after the end of the rally. Some more environmentalists were blocked in their apartments and were not able to come to the event. Human rights observer Viachaslau Dashkevich was detained near the Savetski District Police Department, to which a part of the detained participants of the "Chernobyl Way" were taken. After the end of the rally, the activist of anarchist movement Ihar Trukhanovich was brutally beaten to blood by four people in mufti and detained. "Nasha Niva" journalists Iryna Arakhouskaya and Aksana Rudovich who shot the beating on video were detained and taken to the Savetski District Police Department of Minsk, from which they were released in several hours. In the evening the police also detained Alena Vitko, Yan Melnikau minor Iryna Kazlouskaya and Nasta (surname unknown). All of them were soon released. Later in the evening the journalists of the Belarusian service of Radio "Racyja" Henadz Barbarych and Aliaksandr Yarashevich were detained and taken to the Savetski DPD. The activists of the "European Belarus" Dzmitry Charniak and Aliaksandr Tarnahurski were detained for participation in the action. All of them were kept at the delinquents' isolation center in Akrestsin Street until the trial. On 29 April they were tried at the Savetski District Court of Minsk. Journalists Henadz Barbarych and Aliaksandr Yarashevich were sentenced to three days of arrest for "disobeying the police". (Article 23.4 of the Code of Administrative Offenses). The verdicts were issued by Judge Kiryl Paluleh. Human rights activist Viachaslau Dashkevich was sentenced to five days of arrest on the same charges by Judge Dzmitry Paulichenka. Ihar Trukhanovich was sentenced to ten days in jail on charges of participating in an illegal mass rally and disobeying police officers (Judge Aksana Reliava). Dzmitry Charniak and Aliaksandr Tarnahurski were sentenced to ten days of arrest on analogical charges by Aksana Reliava and Dzmitry Paulichenka respectively.
On 30 April a Vitsebsk member of the Conservative Christian Party Yan Dziarzhautsau was charged with a violation of the law on mass events. He was summonsed to the Kastrychnitski District Police Department where the policemen presented him charges without witnessing his "offense", solely on the basis of the photos posted on the Internet. On 26 April Yan Dziarzhautsau and another CCP BPF member, Vital Kavalenka, went to the monument to P. Masherau on Zamkavaya Street with the posters "Only an enemy of Belarus can construct a nuclear power plant without the consent of the people" can only enemy of Belarus" and "Dictator, if you build Astravets – Chernobyl may come around". Most possibly, the police were called by a passer-by. However, the police car arrived when the action was over, the activist rolled the posters and were about to leave. Passers-by shot the picket on their cellular phones and in the afternoon photos from it were published at websites. According to police, it will be used as evidence at the trial.
Restrictions on freedom of speech and the right to impart information, harassment of journalists
On 29 March the Bialynichy District Court fined the dweller of the village of Lebiadzianka Valery Vusik 5 million rubles: 3 million for alleged defamation of the head of the "Lebiadzianka" farm Piatro Bialou and 2 million for handing out the independent newspaper "Mahiliouski Vybar". The case was considered by the chairman of the Bialynichy District Court Uladzimir Huz. He dismissed the petition for admitting Vusik's counsel to the trial and ignored the written testimonies of Lebiadzianka dwellers confirming that the violations at the farm, set forth in the article "What has changed at the "Lebiadzianka" farm during the last years?", published in "Mahiliouski Vybar", really took place. The judge referred to the fact that officers of the Bialynichy District Police Department refused to bring a criminal case against "Lebiadzianka" administration, as far as the facts stated in Vusik's complaints weren't confirmed. He also didn't take into account the testimony of the editor of "Mahiliouski Vybar" Barys Vyrvich that the newspaper was published in conformity with the Constitution and the Law "On Mass Media".
On 11 April the ex-editor of the magazine "ARCHE-Pachatak" Valery Bulhakau received an official response to his request to the administration of Financial Investigations Department of Minsk and Minsk region. The deputy head of the FID Batsevichus said that "according to the results of the inspection carried out by the FID CDC the Minsk region of Belarus and Minsk, it was decided not to instigate a case under Article 243 of the Criminal Code against you". In this letter Valery Bulhakau was also proposed to come to the FID "to decide the fate of the editions" which belonged to him. A similar letter was submitted to "Inbelkult" Ltd. (the former publisher of the magazine, on, on whose behalf the inquiry was made). Both papers are dated 9 of April. On 23 April the Ministry of Information again refused to introduce changes to the registration data of "ARCHE-Pachatak", which puts to doubt the magazine's future. The decision signed by the Deputy Information Minister Uladzimir Matusevich notes that the editors supposedly did not provide information about the reappointment of Valery Bulhakau to the position of the chief editor. The editorial board of the magazine called this decision aimed at the destruction of the edition.
On 17 April Judge of the Ashmiany District Court Aliaksandr Davydau started considering a case brought by the Hrodna Regional KGB Department concerning the allegedly extremist nature of the album "Press Photo Belarus – 2011". 41 copies of the album were seized from photographers Yuliya Darashkevich and Aliaksandr Vasiukovich on 2 November 2012 at the border crossing point "Kamenny Loh". Photographers Yuliya Darashkevich, Aliaksandr Vasiukovich and Aliaksandr Zamirouski (who organized the contest "Press Photo of Belarus") took part in the trial as interested persons. As it follows from the information presented to Darashkevich's lawyer, the expert committee appointed by the decision of the Hrodna Regional Executive Committee, concluded that the album "contained intentionally distorted, untrue materials on the life of the Republic of Belarus in the political, economic, social and other spheres, offending the honor and dignity of citizens of the Republic of Belarus". At the beginning of the trial the lawyer filed a motion for an alternative examination of the album, which was rejected. On 18 April the Ashmiany District Court found "Press Photo of Belarus – 2011 extremist and ruled that the confiscated copies were to be destroyed. The same day the Belarusian Association of Journalists expressed disagreement with the decision of the court, noting that "the mere fact of the trial on this case looks absurd, and it was it, not the content of the album, which could "undermine confidence in the authorities". In its earlier address to KGB with the call to withdraw the lawsuit BAJ noted that "photos of this album do not contain calls for extremist activities or promote them. Photos do not create, but merely reflect the reality. They by definition can not "contain deliberately distorted and untrue speculation about the life in the Republic of Belarus." The fact that the "choice of the materials for the album on the whole" caused pretensions of the experts, witnesses their prejudiced attitude, not the attitude of the album creators". On 26 April the journalists appealed the verdict of the Ashmiany District Court to the Hrodna Regional Court.
On 19 April Radio "Liberty" journalist Aleh Hruzdzilovich and cameraman of the informational agency BelaPAN Siarhei Satsiuk were detained in Minsk while covering the protest action organized by the public initiative "Against Lawlessness at Courts and Prosecutors' Offices" in Nezalezhnasts Square. The journalists were taken to the Maskouski District Police Department of Minsk and released in several hours. They were returned the video equipment, but all footage was erased.
At about 11.50 a.m. on 24 April the website of the European Radio for Belarus stopped working. Instead of its main page, users could only see an announcement about technical works at the website. "Literally 15 minutes ago an extraordinary number of attempts to connect to the website was registered", stated the chief editor of the European Radio Vital Zybliuk. "It could be a technical failure or a planned DDOS-attack". The site started working in the normal mode after 12 a.m.
On 24 April the head of the Vitsebsk regional branch of the Belarusian Popular Front Party Leanid Autukhou was summonsed to the Kastrychnitski District Police Department of Vitsebsk and was presented charges of violation of the law on mass media. In particular, L. Autukhou was accused of exceeding the legally allowed number of copies of the party bulletin "Magistrate", during the distribution of which he had been detained at the shopping center "Evicom" on 22 March and subsequently sentenced to 5 days of arrest for a violation of the Law "On Mass Events" (the bulletin contained information about the planned celebration of Freedom Day.) The confiscated copies of the bulletin weren't calculated in Autukhou's presence, that's why it is unclear where the number was taken from.
On 25 April hackers posted a message at the website belaruspartisan.org: "We could have crushed you, "Charter" and "Viasna" and many others long time ago, but we give you an opportunity to exist under our control. Why didn't we do it? It is just interesting for us, WHAT is said, who says it and where from. And now we have the list of talkers, whom we give the last warning: you can write and speak, but don't go too far, don't fling mud and insult the PERSON." As stated the editorial board of the website, this was done by "hackers in uniform." The unidentified individuals who posted the statement at the website represented themselves as followers of the "Anonymous" crew. Several days before that a DDoS-attack was suffered by the website of Charter'97, whose work was blocked for an hour. The editorial board of the website stated that the attack had a Russian-Belarusian- Ukrainian footprint (more than 60% IPs were from Ukraine, 30% – from Belarus). It's worth noting that the websites of "Belarusian Partisan", "Charter 97" and the Human Rights Center "Viasna" have been put in the so-called "black list" and banned for viewing in state institutions.
On 26 April, independent journalists Aliaksandr Barazenka and Anastasiya Yaumen were arrested during a visit to the construction site of the nuclear power plant in Astravets. The detainees were taken to the local police station, and were released after some time. The journalists came to Astravets together with the leader of the United Civil Party Anatol Liabedzka and environmental activists Ivan Kruk and Mikalai Ulasevich in order to make a report about the construction of the NPP.
On 26 April, after the end of the authorized rally "Chernobyl Way" in Minsk, the journalists of "Nasha Niva" Iryna Arakhouskaya and Aksana Rudovich, who had videotaped the beating of the activist of the anarchist movement Ihar Trukhanovich, were detained. They were taken to the Savetski District Police Department and released at 9.30 p.m. The journalists of Radio "Racyja" Henadz Barbarych and Aliaksandr Yarashevich were detained after the end of the rally and taken to the Savetski DPD as well. After 11 p.m. they were taken to the delinquents' isolation center in Akrestsin Street. In the morning of 27 April the guards refused to accept a parcel for them. The journalists were charged with disobedience to lawful demands of the police (Article 23.4 of the Code of Administrative Offenses). Judge of the Savetski District Court Kiryl Palulekh sentenced them to three days of arrest.
On 26 April the website of the Belarusian Association of Journalists was attacked. The DDos-attack started 30 minutes after the information about the ways to counteract to DDoS-attacks was published. "We took the advice of experienced IT-persons and wrote how to protect websites from break-ins and DDoS-attacks, but fell victims to an attack ourselves. Our programmers are trying to rein in the attack, but it is very difficult, so we have to just wait until it's over", said the press-secretary of the Belarusian Association of Journalists Barys Haretski. The work of the website normalized in an hour.
On 30 April the TV channel "BelSat" was denied accreditation by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Belarus. The officials referred it to the fact that the Belarusian journalists had repeatedly violated the law working with the TV channel without accreditation. This is the third accreditation denial issued to "BelSat". In the previous accreditation denials the authorities referred to other formal reasons.
Restriction of freedom of assembly
On 9 April the Homel authorities banned the May Day rally, organized by the Belarusian Leftist Party "Fair World". The application for the event was filed to the Homel City Executive Committee back in March. The organizers tried to conclude service agreements with the required institutions. However, the police refused to conclude an agreement for serving the rally referring to the absence of the official permission. The executive committee, in its turn, refused to authorize the action in the absence of the service agreement. The oppositionists intend to require explanations from the Homel City Executive Committee about the ways to solve the problem.
On 12 April the Vitsebsk activist Aliaksei Haurutsikau (a member of the party of political prisoner Mikalai Statkevich), and the head of the regional branch of the Movement "For Freedom" Khrystafor Zhaliapau intended to hold a picket to express solidarity with political prisoners and protest against the impoverishment of the Belarusian population. They filed an application to the Pershamaiski District Executive Committee of Vitsebsk as they intended to hold the action in the specially determined place 30-hoddzia VLKSM park on the territory of the Pershamaiski district. The district administration refused to do it, referring to a ruling of the Vitsebsk City Executive Committee according to which mass events could be authorized only after their organizers presented service agreements with the public utilities, ambulance and police. The ambulance service evaded from concluding an agreement for serving the picket, writing that "ambulance brigades would be serving the national Universiade in boxing."
On 17 April Judge of the Tsentralny District Court of Homel Zhana Andreichyk considered the appeal of civic activist Kanstantsin Zhukouski against the refusal of Homel City Executive Committee to authorize a picket. Mr. Zhukouski and his friends intended to hold their picket on 1 April under the slogan "Homel City Executive Committee! Hands off history!" in order to attract public attention to the destruction of the unique wooden buildings in the center of Homel. The executive committee referred its refusal to the failure of the organizer to implement its ruling "On Mass Events" by concluding service agreements with the police, public utilities and ambulance. At the same time, all attempts of the organizers to conclude such agreements were met with refusals of these institutions who stated they couldn't conclude such agreements in the absence of the permission for the action. The executive committee, in its turn, refused to authorize mass events without receiving such agreements first. At the trial Kastus Zhukouski explained that the ban on the picket violated his constitutional rights and it is impossible to implement the ruling of the executive committee "On Mass Events" in practice. The court ruled that his appeal was to be dismissed.
On 22 April it was reported that two actions dated to the 27th anniversary of Chernobyl accident were banned in Vitsebsk. The head of the regional branch of the movement "For Freedom" Khrystafor Zhaliapau intended to organize a rally dedicated to the Chernobyl tragedy. The Pershamaiski District Executive Committee of Vitsebsk refused to authorize the action due to the absence of the service agreements with the police and medics. Mr. Zhaliapau managed to conclude such agreement only with the public utilities, whereas the police and the ambulance service ignored his applications. Thus, the organizer again faced the impossibility to implement ruling No. 881 of the Vitsebsk City Executive Committee which requires the organizers of mass events to conclude the agreements for serving mass events before filing applications for their authorization. The Chyhunachny District Executive Committee of Vitsebsk banned the rally organized by the head of the Vitsebsk regional branch of the Belarusian Popular Front Leanid Autukhou for the same reasons. Mr. Autukhou intended to hold the action in the Park of Culture and Rest of Railwaymen.
On 23 a picket was banned in Vitsebsk due to "seasonal diseases" (the reason referring to which the ambulance service refused to conclude an agreement for serving the action with the member of the Conservative Christian Party BPF Yan Dziarzhautsau. Mr. Dziarzhautsau states that the police also refuse to conclude service agreements with him, but draw various reasons, whereas the city polyclinics gives the same reason without any hesitations.
On 25 April the Mahiliou activists of the United Civil Party weren't allowed to hold a picket in the memory of the disappeared ex-minister of Internal Affairs, police general Yury Zakharanka. The executive committee referred the ban to the fact that the UCP activists wanted to hold their picket in a place which hadn't been determined for mass events by the authorities. The activists intended to hold their action on 7 May, the 14th anniversary of Zakharanka's disappearance, near the Mahiliou regional diagnostic center. It's worth noting that on 1 March members of the Belarusian National Youth Union (BRSM) held a picket there without any official permission.
On 25 April the Minsk City Executive Committee prohibited the Belarusian Congress of Democratic Trade Unions (BCDTU) to hold a rally in support of workers on 1 May in 50-hoddzia Vialikaha Kastrychnika Park. As the head of the BCDTU Aliaksandr Yarashuk learned from a telephone conversation with the head of the department of public and mass work Yury Uralski, the answer had been already mailed and according to it "official mass festivities would be held in all five park zones of Minsk on 1 May, that's why it is inexpedient to hold any additional actions."
Restriction of freedom of association
1 April the Supreme Court began to consider the lawsuit of the Ministry of Justice against the international NGO "Good Will." The Ministry of Justice started checking the organization on a complaint of the Ministry of Education, which accused "Good Will" in non-statutory activities (legal assistance to children with many families and orphans) and the use of unregistered symbols (envelopes with the inscription "Good Will"). Later, the Ministry of Education withdrew its claim, but the Ministry of Justice found violations in the organization activities (a capital letter was used instead of a small on the organization seal, the "unregistered" envelopes, an error in the title of the organization which lent an office in Ratamka to "Good Will" free of charge, etc.). These "violations" were sufficient to stop the activities of the organization since 26 November 2012 till 27 January 2013. The Ministry of Justice presented charges on 16 points in the liquidation lawsuit. On 3 April the Supreme Court granted the lawsuit for liquidation of "Good Will". The court found that the organization untimely amended its charter, did not suspend activities in accordance with the decision of the registering authority, didn't confirm its international status, had deficiencies in record-keeping and failed to present sought-after information to the Ministry of Justice. Having lost the trial, the organization is also obliged to pay the state fee of 300,000 rubles.
On 1 April Anatol Litvinka, one of the founders of the independent trade union organization at "Granite" enterprise in Mikashevich, was dismissed on order of Director General. The secretary-treasurer of the organization of the Belarusian Independent Trade Union on "Granite" (the position occupied by Anatol Litvinka) received a notice in which it was said that his labor contract was terminated due to alleged "systematic non-fulfillment of job duties." A year ago, Anatol's wife Liudmila Litvinka, was dismissed from the enterprise, and was unable to find a job in Mikashevichy for a long time after it. Moreover, during the past year the enterprise administration dismissed almost all activists who who were the founders of the independent trade union Mikalai Karyshau, Vital Pashechka, Henadz Paulouski and Aleh Stakhayevich. One more activist, Leanid Dubanosau, is under the threat of dismissal.
On 18 April the Biaroza District Prosecutor's Office issued a warning for acting on behalf of an unregistered organization to an activist of the civil campaign "Tell the Truth" Aliaksandr Kuzmin. The warning was signed by the prosecutor of the Biaroza district, junior counselor of justice D. Dziarabina. At the prosecutor's office, he and his counsel weren't allowed to study the case materials, being told that they would be sent to the Biaroza District Police Department where they could be studied. The activist stated that the head of the Belaaziorsk District Executive Committee had applied to the police with a written request to give a legal assessment to his actions. Aliaksandr Kuzmin thinks that the warning could be issued due to his activities related to the privatization of apartments in a house in Belaaziorsk.