Review-Chronicle of Human Rights Violations in Belarus in May 2013

2013 2013-06-13T16:11:41+0300 1970-01-01T03:00:00+0300 en http://spring96.org/files/images/sources/agliad08.jpg The Human Rights Center “Viasna” The Human Rights Center “Viasna”
The Human Rights Center “Viasna”

In May, there was no positive development in the human rights situation in Belarus, which remained consistently bad. The absence of real mechanisms of influence on this sphere inside the country and its strong dependence on foreign factors created a situation where the greatest expectations were associated with external influences, especially concerning the release of political prisoners. However, intensive contacts of the Belarusian authorities with the European Union, its institutions and individual countries as well as with the United States didn't bring perceptible results in this direction. 11 political prisoners were still kept in jail, 2 people continued serving terms of restriction of liberty without being sent to open penitentiaries, 8 still had suspended or conditional sentences, and Andrei Haidukou, the accused in a criminal case on high treason whose prosecution can be politically motivated, was still kept in the remand prison. Preventive supervision, established by courts, was still used towards three former political prisoners as a means of control and pressure. Prophylactic supervision was used towards 25 political prisoners who were pardoned or released on parole. There was no improvement in the observance of freedom of expression, assembly, association, and other rights and freedoms.

However, in May, there was a serious reason to doubt the strong position of the European Union regarding the restoration of relations with the official Minsk only after the release of political prisoners. In the preliminary report, prepared by a member of the European Parliament Yu. Paleckis for the European institutions, it is noted that the human rights situation in Belarus has improved, and therefore it is recommended to consider "the suspension of EU sanctions against the key Belarusian officials for the extension of the diplomatic channels of communication with Belarus taking into account the summit of the Eastern Partnership." The report provoked strong criticism from the Belarusian human rights community. As a result, during the on-line conference on 24 May, hosted by Radio "Liberty", Paleckis admitted that the words about the "improvement of the human rights situation" were wrong and had to be changed. During the discussion of the report at a meeting of the Committee of Foreign Affairs of the European Parliament in Brussels on 29 May Yu. Paleckis focused on the fact that his report said nothing about lifting the sanctions against Belarusian officials and stated that the prerequisite for the restoration of contact with the Belarusian side, the release of political prisoners, remained unchanged.

An important event related to international assessment of the situation of human rights in Belarus, was the publication of the report of the UN special rapporteur Miklos Haraszti on 3 May. The document was prepared under the mandate approved by the UN Human Rights Council. According to Mr. Haraszti, human rights are systematically limited, especially in the case of freedom of association, assembly and expression, as well as the right to the proper conduct of the trial and a fair trial. The Special Rapporteur noted the centralization of legislative and executive powers around the president. Miklos Haraszti expressed concern about the lack of rule of law in Belarus and the fact that the legal system can not be the guarantor of rights in the situations where it is contrary to the interests of the authorities. He highlighted the pressurization of human rights organizations, including in the form of the judicial liquidation of the human rights organization "Platform" and the confiscation of premises of the Human Rights Center "Viasna". The report made recommendations to the Government of Belarus to improve the situation with the rights and freedoms of citizens. Haraszti called attention to the fact that he wasn't allowed to visit Belarus to review the situation on the ground, as the Belarusian authorities refused to cooperate with him. This report was approved by the Belarusian human rights activists, who noted there an objective approach and the lack of political considerations.

The Belarusian authorities demonstrated a further departure from the fulfillment of their international obligations. On 17 May Deputy Chairman of the Human Rights Center "Viasna" Valiantsin Stefanovich filed an appeal to the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Belarus Uladzimir Makei in connection with the failure of the Belarusian state to implement the decision of the Working Group on Arbitrary Detention of the UN in the case of Ales Bialiatski. In its decision of 31 August 2012 the Working Group recognized that the imprisonment of the head of the HRC "Viasna" and Vice-President of the International Federation for Human Rights Ales Bialiatski is arbitrary, and stressed that "adequate remedy was to release g Bialiatski and to give him the legal right to compensation in accordance with article 9, paragraph 5, of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR). "However, the Belarusian side responded by saying that it saw no point in cooperation with the Working Group and accused it of political bias. "Belarus has always demonstrated a constructive attitude towards cooperation with the thematic procedures of the Council [of the Human Rights Council] and presented to it all requested information. However, in such circumstances, taking into account the extreme political partisanship of the Working Group and the lack of professional ethics in its activities, Belarus sees no reason for further cooperation with the Working Group in its present form," stated the official delegation of the Republic of Belarus during the 22nd session of the UN Human Rights Council in March. The delegation called the requirements of the Working Group "interference in the internal affairs of the state": "We regard the opinion of the Working Group on Bialiatski's case as an attempt to justify a criminal by calling him a human rights defender and interference in the internal affairs of a sovereign state." Taking into account these statements, V. Stefanovich, in his address to the Minister of Foreign Affairs said that UN special procedures (including the Working Group on Arbitrary Detention) are subsidiary bodies of the United Nations. Their legal conclusions, such as the aforementioned opinion on Ales Bialiatski's case, are solutions of the UN. The Republic of Belarus as a UN member state has an obligation to cooperate with all UN bodies and mechanisms (as provided for in Article 56 of the UN Charter), as well as related agreements, including the ICCPR, which Belarus ratified in 1973. The human rights activist, referring to part 5.11 of the Regulations of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, approved by the ruling of the Council of Ministers № 978 of 31 July 2006, stressed that the duties of the Ministry included the "monitoring the implementation of international agreements of the Republic of Belarus by state bodies of the Republic of Belarus and assistance in the implementation of international treaties of the Republic of Belarus". In this regard, Valiantsin Stefanovich asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs to monitor the implementation of decision of the Working Group on Arbitrary Detention of the UN in the case of Ales Bialiatski and to take measures to ensure the implementation of this decision by the public authorities of the Republic of Belarus.


Political prisoners, criminal persecution of activists

On 2 May the mother of political prisoner Eduard Lobau, Maryna Lobava, reported that authorities of Ivatsevichy penitentiary No. 22 had been depriving her son of an opportunity to get dental treatment for 1.5 years . She stressed that her son had registered for an appointment with the dentist back in March. On 21 May Eduard Lobau had a three-day meeting with his mother and brother Uladz. After the meeting, the penitentiary administration didn't allow to pass food to the prisoner, allegedly due to violations of the regime. This happened for the first time, earlier the relatives were allowed to pass 5-10 out of 30 legally allowed kilograms.

On 2 May, after one-month break, the mother of the political prisoner Ihar Alinevich, received a letter from her son. On 5 May Ihar Alinevich called home to congratulate the family on Easter (the previous call was done on 8 March). On30 May Ihar Alinevich, who is serving his term in the Navapolatsk penitentiary No. 10,was allowed a short meeting with his family. Valiantsina Alinevich noted that she was also allowed to pass a food parcel to him.

On 3 May Tamara Vaskovich, grandmother of political prisoner Yauhen Vaskovich, stated that she hadn't received any letters from him for more than a month. The isolation, created by the administration of the Mahiliou prison No. 4, was interrupted only at the end of May, people started receiving letters from him. It also became known that he had received the food parcel from relatives, whose fate had been unknown for a long time.

On 4 May the political prisoner Pavel Seviarynets, who is serving a sentence in the open penitentiary in the village of Kuplin in the Pruzhany district, was released for 3 days for celebrating Easter at home in Vitsebsk. Since it took a lot of time to get home, Pavel was able to stay there for just 1.5 days. On 6 May he returned to the penitentiary. On 29 May P. Seviarynets reported having received more than 2,000 letters while serving his term, most of which were sent from the Belarusian regions, every second – from Minsk and one in ten – from abroad.

On 4 May the former presidential candidate Milalai Statkevich called his wife Marina Adamovich to congratulate her with the Orthodox Easter. He stated that she wouldn't receive his letter of 25 April, because it had been seized. The letter contained a message to the youth activist Pavel Vinahradau, who carried out an action of solidarity with Statkevich and served a 12-day arrest for that. On 29 May Statkevich's wife reported that some strange fuss was again started around the political prisoner in prison No. 4 in Mahiliou, which reminded an attempt of the prison administration to squeeze out a clemency petition. This time it could be done by handwriting forgery. M. Statkevich decided to get ahead of that possibility. Such threats were posed to the prisoner in the Shklou penitentiary back in summer of 2011.

On 7 May Volha Haidukova, the mother of the 24-year-old resident of Navapolatsk Andrei Haidukou, accused of "high treason", was refused a meeting with her son by a ruling of investigator of the Vitsebsk KGB Aleh Barysevich. As she learned from the son's letter of 29 April, the investigation had been completed and the prisoner was being acquainted with the case. On 27 May it was announced that the case would be considered by the Vitsebsk Regional Court. On 30 May the Chairman of the KGB of Belarus Valery Vakulchyk reported that the hearing of the case of Andrei Haidukou would be held in closed session. He also said that the charges against Haidukou remained unchanged. On 31 May the date of the trial was announced, 12 June. The case will be considered by Judge Halina Urbanovich. Human Rights Center "Viasna" and the Belarusian Helsinki Committee issued a joint statement in which they called on the authorities to provide for an open trial of A. Haidukou. The mother of the activist also insists that the trial be open.

On 12 May, the counsel of the political prisoner Aliaksandr Frantskevich visited his client at the penitentiary "Vouchyia Nory" and reported that Aliaksandr had been shown the document according to which he would be released on 6 September. On 28 May it was announced that Aliaksandr Frantskevich was kept in solitary confinement.

On 15 May it was announced that the political prisoner Mikalai Autukhovich was unable to feed properly due to problems with his teeth – the bridges which had been once installed were falling off. The law does not stipulate rules how to act in this situation, but it can be interpreted as a lack of the necessary medical assistance.

On 16 May Natallia Pinchuk, the wife of the Chairman of the Human Rights Center "Viasna" Ales Bialiatski, visited the Babruisk penitentiary No. 2 in order to pass him closes and means of hygiene, and learned that in March the human rights activist had deprived of the right to food parcels for six months until August. Natallia Pinchuk passed him a tracksuit, bed linen and other things. It was the only parcel the prisoner was allowed to receive during the year. On 20 May the human rights organization Front Line Defenders issued a statement on the use of new cases of disciplinary action by the administration of the penitentiary against Ales Bialiatski. On 27 May, as a part of the 38th Congress of the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH), Ales Bialiatski was re-elected Vice-President of FIDH. In 2007, he became the first vice-president of FIDH from Eastern Europe, in 2010 he was elected to a second term. As it became known from Bialiatski's letters, he is preparing to publish his three books: the first one is devoted to the human rights movement, the second is a collection of his publications in the press, interviews and recollections for more than 15 years of human rights activities. The concept of the third edition is in the process of development – it will be a manual for civil society activists and human rights defenders on the organization of companies in support of political prisoners.

On 22 May the political prisoner Artsiom Prakapenka, who is serving his term in the Mahiliou prison No. 4 was granted permission to a short meeting with his family. His father said that the son had some minor health problems.


Death penalty

On April 30 Senior Assistant Prosecutor of the Mahiliouo region Ala Kuzniatsova stated that the Mahiliou Regional Court issued the first death sentence for 2013. The verdict was issued to a native of the Zhytomyr region born in 1969 who was found guilty of four murders. The last murder was committed by him in the Mahiliou prison No. 4, where he was serving a 25-year sentence. Since June 2012, he shared a cell with a resident of Barysau, born in 1990, and another prisoner. He proposed the latter prisoner to play dominoes with him to "life" – the winner takes the life of the one who loses the game. The initiator won the game.

After that, the winner agreed with his cell-mate (born in 1990), when they would kill the loser. On 4 July 2012, they strangled the cell-mate with a scarf. The native of the Zhytomyr region fully admitted his guilt in court, despite the fact that he repeatedly changed his testimonies. The other prisoner denied his involvement in the murder, but his guilt was proved completely during the preliminary investigation and court proceedings. The court found both guilty of the crime. The native of the Zhytomyr region received a cumulative sentence with the account of the prior offenses and was punished by death. The resident of Barysau was sentenced to 16 years in a high-security penal colony. As noted by Ala Kuzniatsova, the person convicted of the crime already committed three murders, all of which also belong to the category of serious and very serious. The man received extremely negative characteristics, he repeatedly violated the punishment regime and was put on the preventive register in the Mahiliou prison No. 4 as a person, prone to escape, assault and suicide. According to a representative of the regional prosecutor's office, the convicted presented a threat to society, even in strict isolation, neither a long prison term nor life imprisonment could correct him, that's why his punishment with death "is fully justified." The verdict was announced on 24 April and has not yet entered into force.

On 28 May human rights activist and political prisoner Ales Bialiatski said in a letter that prisoners are informed about death verdicts. According to Bialiatski, the information about the death sentence appeared at the bulletin board of the Babruisk penitentiary where he is kept. Most probably, such information is presented to the prisoners in order to maintain discipline.

On 1 June the program"Secrets of the investigation", shown on the 1st channel of the Belarusian TV, announced the names of the parties to the case which resulted in the issuance of the death verdict. The name of the death convict is Ryhor Yuzepchuk, the name of his cell-mate sentenced to 16 years of imprisonment is Pavel Petrakou and the victim of the prison murder was Ihar Khadarkou.


Enforced disappearances

On 7 May there turned 14 years since the disappearance of general Yury Zakharanka in the center of Minsk under mysterious circumstances. He was kidnapped the evening of 7 May 1999 in Mahiliouskaya Street in Minsk on the way home. Soon his family received political asylum in Germany. The investigation into the case of the disappearance of Yu. Zakharanka hasn't been completed. According to human rights activist Aleh Volchak, who is the trustee of the Zakharankas, once every three months he gets a message from the investigators about the prolongation of the preliminary investigation. The investigation into the killing of Yury Zakharanka was started on 17 September 1999 under Article 101 of the Criminal Code (murder). This means that it can be terminated on 17 September 2014 due to the expiration of the time limits for bringing the perpetrators to justice. Belarusian human rights activists intend to seek a change of the charges to article 128 of the Criminal Code (crimes against humanity), which has no time limitations. The disappearance of Yury Zakharanka was the first high-profile disappearance of people in Belarus who are considered opponents of Lukashenka. On 16 September 1999 the member of the Supreme Soviet of the 13th Convocation Viktar Hanchar and businessman Anatol Krasouski went missing, and in the summer of 2000 journalist Dmitry Zavadski, who used to be Lukashenka's personal cameraman, disappeared.


Activation of the pressure of security services on civic and political activists

On 15 May Klimavichy activist of "Tell the Truth" Aliaksandr Balobin received a reply from the Mahiliou Regional Prosecutor's Office to his complaint about the actions of the Krychau Inter-district KGB Department, who detained him on 27 March near the Klimavichy District Military Enlistment Office and took him to Krychau. In the response of the Mahiliou Regional Prosecutor's Office, signed by the senior counselor of justice, Assistant Prosecutor M. Ramanouski it is stated that "the staff of the Krychau Inter-district KGB Department acted lawfully and reasonably during the exercise of individual preventive measures towards you (Aliaksandr Balobin – editor's note).There are no grounds for the application of measures of prosecutor's reaction." According to the response of the prosecutor's office, officers of the Krychau Inter-district KGB department held a prophylactic talk with Aliaksandr Balobin, which is "the mildest of the individual measures of crime prevention". The reason for the talk was "a number of posts at your account at the social network "VKontakte" which came to the attention of employees of the KGB during the monitoring of the Internet and tell about your participation in the political life of the region, as well as your activities in the unregistered public association "Tell the Truth". A bit earlier Aliaksandr Balobin received a reply to his appeal to the Mahilou Regional KGB Department, where he also complained about the actions of the Krychau Inter-district KGB Department and demanded a compensation for the costs of his return from Krychau to the village of Paulovichy in the Klimavichy district where he lives. In response, signed by the deputy head of the KGB department S. Feaktystau, it is stated that "no violations can be found in the actions of the Krychau IDD KGB Department". It also stated that compensation for travel expenses in this case is not provided.

On 21 May an unknown person called to the mobile phone of the Mahiliou blogger Dzmitry Yarmolenka, introduced himself as a KGB officer and offered to meet to socialize in an informal setting. The youngster refused to meet with him, saying he would come only if summonsed by an official paper. The KGB officer said that there was no pressing need for it, and he could come to talk with Dzmitry at his work, but never appeared. Dzmitry Yarmolenka stated that the security agencies were interested in his article about a volunteer from Germany, Marlene Helsh, who worked in the Mahiliou fund "Blakitnyia Berahi" ("Blue Banks") with pre-school children and people with disabilities since September 2012 to mid-May of 2013. Marlene has left Belarus, however, the interest in her personality and publications at the Mahiliou site "Free Format" (http://formats.by) under the heading "Diary of a Volunteer" only increased. It should be noted that the KGB also called to the Mahiliou fund "Blue Banks" and asked its director Sviatlana Pahirskaya if she knew that the volunteer from Germany was publishing her notes at the website "Free Format".

On 21 KGB officers paid a visit to the Mahiliou trade union leader Halina Lisitsyna, who refused to talk with them in the absence of a warrant. Several days before Halina Lisitsyna had to talk to KGB officers for about two hours. The questions concerned the activities of trade union activists trips, as well as the likely successor to her position. The woman said that she got the impression that the KGB knew more about her than she did. Due to their activity her family faced some problems. According to the activist, KGB officers also came to work of another trade union activist, whose name she decided not to tell.


Use of torture and other cruel and inhuman treatment

On 6 May after following his release from the delinquents' isolation center after a10-day arrest for participation in the Chernobyl Way rally, activist of the "European Belarus" Aliaksandr Tarnahurski said that his cell had lice and the prison authorities refused to sanitize it. Civic activist Dzmitry Charniak, released the same day, stated that there was also a lousy prisoner in their cell.


Administrative prosecution of political activists, arbitrary detention

On 2 May the activist of the movement "For Freedom" Yan Melnikau was detained by police in Gorky Park in Minsk for holding a banner with the inscription "Anarchism is not a crime, Ihar Trukhanovich is not a criminal". He spent the night at the Pershamaiski District Police Department of Minsk. On 3 May the activist was charged with participating in an unauthorized mass event and disobeying the requirements of the police officers (Part 3 of Art. 23.34; Article 23.4 of the Code of Administrative Offenses of the Republic of Belarus). Judge of the Minsk Tsentralny District Court Victoria Shabunia sentenced him to ten days of arrest. The case was tried without a lawyer.

On 3 May Vitsebsk activist of the Conservative-Christian Party "Belarusian Popular Front" Siarhei Kavalenka, who is under preventive supervision after his release from the Mahiliou penitentiary in September 2012, was summoned to the Pershamaiski District Inspection of Vitsebsk, where he was presented a second warning. The first warning was issued to Siarhei Kavalenka on 16 April for a violation of the traffic rules. The second one concerned the same episode on 25 March, but concerns the alleged use of foul language towards the police by S. Kavalenka. In 2010 Kavalenka, who was serving a term of personal restrain at the time, was sentenced to 2.1 years in a penitentiary after receiving two warnings.

On 4 May an activist of the organizing committee of the party "Belarusian Christian Democracy" Siarhei Verameyenka was summoned to the police station and given charges in connection with his detention on 12 March. The activist was acquainted with the results of the examination of the leaflets with information about political prisoners and copies of the newspaper "Krynitsa Haradzenskaya" by the Ministry of Communications, according to which the printed materials did not meet certain technical standards. Siarhei Verameyenka was charged with the distribution of printed materials without imprint. On 7 May the Leninski District Court of Hrodna fined him 2 million rubles.

On 8 May the Baranavichy City Court considered the administrative case of the UCP activist Anzhalina Kambalava, detained by police on 7 May for organizing and holding an unauthorized rally in the memory of the former Minister of Internal Affairs of Belarus Yury Zakharanka who had gone missing 14 years ago. The activist spent the night in a temporary detention cell. The court session was led by Judge Katsiaryna Hryda, who found the activist guilty under Part of Article 23.34 of the Code of Administrative Offenses and fined her 2 million rubles.
On 9 May the leader of "Zmena", the youth wing of the civil campaign "Tell the Truth" Pavel Vinahradau, was taken to the police station around 7 a.m. right out of his apartment. The police officers offered no explanations. He was released at 4.45 p.m. Pavel Vinahradau stated that the police had shown him two preventive films: about the dangers of drinking and about the need to be attentive while driving. Vinahradau was let go only after the release of the activist of the "Young Front" Uladzimir Yaromenak from the delinquents' isolation center in Akrestsin Street (Vinahradau organized his festive meeting due to the end of the arrest term). To prevent the meeting, the police took U. Yaromenak out of the city and blocked the SIM-card on his cell phone. Nevertheless, friends took the activist back to the entrance of the detention center, where he was met by friends and like-minded people.

On 17 May Judge of the Kastrychnitski District Court of Vitsebsk Alena Protas found the head of the regional branch of the BPF Party Leanid Autukhou and a member of the party Kanstantsin Smolikau guilty of violating the Law "On Mass Media" by distribution of the newsletter "Magistrate". On 22 March Autukhou and Smolikau were detained at the "Evicom" mall. At first, the detainees were charged with of the Law "On Mass Events", as far as the bulleting contained an article about the rally on Freedom Day, 25 March, were sentenced to 5 days of arrest. Later the police decided that the circulation of the bulletin exceeded 299 copies, though they didn't count the bulletins one by one, but in big stacks, drawing it as an argument. According to Kastus Smolikau, he had only two copies of the bulletin in his hands at the time of the detention. All other copies were "counted" by the policemen who found them after searching the car, driven by Leanid Autukhou. As a result, Kastus Smolikau and Leanid Autukhou were also sentenced to pay fines of 3 million rubles.

On 17 May Judge of the Pershamaiski District Court of Minsk Yury Harbatouski fined a former political prisoner Basil Parfiankou 3 million rubles for breaking the rules of supervision (Part 2 of Article 24.12 of the Code of Administrative Offenses, "Non-implementation of the requirements of preventive supervision". On 16 May police inspector Aliaksei Piarkou came to Parfiankou's apartment to check his location, but Parfiankou was not at home, as a result of which the violation was registered. In fact, Parfiankou lingered a bit at work, and when he returned home the police officer was already waiting for him.

On 18 May the Kastrychnitski District Court of Vitebsk considered the administrative case against the members of the CCP BPF Yan Dziarzhautsau and Vital Kavalenka. Judge Ina Hrabouskaya of taking part in the 26 April unauthorized mass event on the basis of a video from youtube.com. Dziarzhautsau and Kavalenka came to Zamkavaya Street on the anniversary of the Chernobyl accident with the posters "Only an enemy of Belarus can construct a nuclear power plant without the consent of the people" and "Dictator, if you build Astravets – Chernobyl may come around". However, it wasn't noticed by the Vitsebsk police, who arrived there when the activists were about to leave, and their posters were folded. Therefore, the main evidence at the trial were the videos which had been posted on the Internet. Judge Ina Hrabouskaya fined each of the defendants 2 million rubles.

On 21 May LGBT activist Aliaksei Kulik was taken off the train at the Ukrainian-Belarusian border station Tsiarukha for personal customs examination. The activist was kept at the customs office since 4 till 7 a.m., while in the act of personal examination it is indicated that the procedure lasted only 15 minutes. During the personal examination Aliaksei was asked to show his luggage, the computer and the flash drive and to strip to his underwear. No prohibited items were found. The official reason for the personal customs examination was a coincidence. The activist was told that those who often go abroad periodically undergo such a procedure, and was warned that he could be subjected to it again while crossing the state border.

On 22 May the administration of the Hlybokaye District Executive Committee fined former math teacher Mar'yan Misevich for painted his balcony as a white-red-white flag and attaching the national coat of arms "Pahonia" to it. In the police report it was called a "violation of the architectural solution" of the building. Mr. Misevich was punished with a fine of 200,000 rubles.

On 31 May 31 morning the leader of "Zmena" was was preventively detained and taken to the Maskouski District Police Department of Minsk for a "prophylactic conversation". The police didn't let Vinahradau's counsel to represent his interests, as far as he "wasn't detained". The activist belives the real reason was the summit of CIS prime-ministers in Minsk. P. Vinahradau was kept at the police department for 12 hours and was released in the evening.


Restrictions on freedom of speech and the right to disseminate information, harassment of journalists

On 2 May "Freedom House" published a report on freedom of the press in 2012. Belarus was listed among the outsiders. Norway and Sweden are at the top of the rating, followed by a few countries in Western Europe and the United States. According to the report, the worst countries for journalists are Belarus, Cuba, Eritrea, Equatorial Guinea, Iran, North Korea, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan. As the report says, independent media are virtually non-existent there.

On 2 May police inspector of the Bialynichy DPD, lieutenant Aliaksandr Yemelyanau, paid a visit to the private home of independent journalist Barys Vyrvich in the agrarian settlement Vialikaya Maschanitsa in the Bialynichy district. The main reason for his visit was to find out how the report about the farm "Lebiadzianka" appeared at the Polish satellite TV channel "BelSat" and whether the independent journalists who shot it were members of the staff of the TV channel. The same day Aliaksandr Yemelyanau also paid a visit to the house of a resident of the village of Lebiadzianka Valery Vusik. According to Mr. Vusik, the police inspector asked him where he got acquainted with the independent journalists and how the report about "Lebiadzianka" appeared at "BelSat". On 13 May the independent journalists from Mahiliou Yauhen Hlushakou and Alina Skrabunova were summonsed to the office of police inspector Aliaksandr Yemelyanau at the Bialynichy DPD. However, they decided not to come there as the notices weren't composed correctly: it was stated that they were summonsed to the DPD for questioning as "persons against whom an administrative case was brought". On 20 May Yauhen Hlushkou and Alina Skrabunova did not appear at the DPD. On 22 May the administration of "Lebiadzianka" filed a collective complaint against the "false information about the internal situation at the agricultural cooperative". As a result, Alina Skrabunova was questioned at the Kastrychnitski DPD of Mahiliou. A police officer stated that the Bialynchy District Prosecutor's Office ordered him to question the journalists Alina Skrabunova, Yauhen Hlushkou and Barys Vyrvich and civic activist Valery Vusik.

On 6 May in the evening the journalist of the Belarusian Radio "Racyja" Aliaksandr Yarashevich and blogger Dzmitry Halko were detained near the metro station "Mikhalova" in Minsk. At about 8.40 p.m. a police minibus with a group of riot policemen stopped near them, after which they were pulled into the bus and taken to the Maskouski DPD of Minsk. The policemen charged with insubordination. On 7 May they were tried at the Maskouski District Court of Minsk under Articles 17.1 and 23.4 of the Code of Administrative Offenses ("disorderly conduct" and "insuboardination to the police"). Judge Tatsiana Motyl sentenced Dzmitry Halko to ten days of arrest and Judge Yauhhe Khatkevich sentenced Aliaksandr Yarashevich to 12 days of arrest. On 21 May the Minsk City Court considered their appeals and left the initial verdicts unchanged.

On 8 May Radio "Liberty" journalist Aleh Hruzdzilovich was presented a warning, signed by the first deputy prosecutor of Minsk Ramanouski. The warning was issued for some articles and the book "Who blew up the Minsk metro?". It says that the journalist "has carried out the action on the penetration of the metro station "Frunzenskaya" with metal items in a bag that looks like the one used by the organizers of the terrorist attack in the Minsk metro". The matter is that on 10 April Aleh Hruzdzilovich prepared an article about the work of the security service of the Minsk metro. The prosecutor's office states that the journalist posted his critical article "With a big bag in the metro: checked twice, nobody looked inside" with a supporting video at the website of Radio "Liberty". The warning also says the presentation of the book "Who blew up the Minsk metro?" by Aleh Hruzdzilovich was held. According to the warning, the book ""challenges the official results of the criminal investigation into the explosion in the Minsk metro, as well as the validity of the Belarusian the judicial system as a whole". The warning also states that the journalist can receive criminal punishment "in case of submission of false information about political, economic, social, military and the international position of the Republic of Belarus and the legal status of citizens of Belarus, discrediting the Republic of Belarus and its authorities, to a foreign state, foreign or international organizations, discrediting the Republic of Belarus and its authorities".

On 13 May all heads of schools and kindergartens of the Slonim district visited the head of the educational department of the Slonim District Executive Committee Teresa Yushkevich and showed her the receipts for subscription to "Nastaunitskaya Hazeta", the district newspaper "Slonimski Vesnik", "Hrodzenskaya Prauda", "Sovetskaya Belorussiya" and "Znamya Yunosti". The subscription to these state-owned newspapers is under the personal control of the head of the Department of Education. All heads of schools and kindergartens had to subscribe themselves to these newspapers, as well as their schools and kindergartens, under the pressure of the official. The teachers are dissatisfied with such compelling and appealed to the independent "Hazeta Slonimskaya" , which published their complaint and the list of newspapers they were to subscribe to. For example, the secondary schools of Slonim were ordered to subscribe to at least 15 copies of "Sovetskaya Belorussiya", "Slonimski Vesnik" and "Nastaunitskaya Hazeta", for the district school this norm was 8 copies, for the primarry schools of the district – 4 copies, and for kindergartens – at least 2 copies.

On 17 May the distributor of the independent newspapers "Novy Chas" and "Rabochaya Salidarnsasts" Ryhor Chyk was invited for a talk to the office of the head of the ideological department of the Baranavichy City Executive Committee Tatsiana Zhytko. At the office Mr. Hryk was met by two more officers of the ideological department, who also took part in the "prophylactic talk" with him. As the activist found out, he was invited for the talk to be persuaded to stop political activity and, as said by Tatisan Zhytkova, give up "stirring people up".

On 22 may the magazine "Arche. Pachatak" was re-registered by the Ministry of Information with a new founder. The registration was given to the magazine on the fifth attempt. The editorial office started the attempts to return the legal status to the edition back in November 2012.

On 25 May the Hrodna journalist of the Belarusian Radio "Racyja" Viktar Parfionenka was denied accreditation for the fifth time. The BAJ member applies for the accreditation each year and receives repeated denials. Nevertheless, he intends to continue his attempts.

On 27 May the Krychau District Court summoned the editor of the independent newspaper "Volny Horad" Siarhei Niarouny and its publisher Uladzimir Kudrautsau avtsev on June 5 as defendants in the lawsuit for the protection of the business reputation, filed by the Cherykau enterprise PMK No. 280. The head of the organization, A. Fralou, asked the Krychau District Court to declare the information about PMK No. 280, published by the newspaper, as false oblige the newspaper to print a refutation in the same column. The lawsuits concerns the article "Bondsmen", written after a telephone call to the editorial office of "Volny Horad", made by the wife of a worker of PMK No. 280 who stated that her husband hadn't been paid wage for three months.
On 29 May it became known that the members of the Belarusian Association of Journalists Volha Chaichyts and Ales Silich were summonsed to the Smaliavichy District Prosecutor's Office for giving explanations. The journalists think they are summoned to the prosecutor's office in connection with their presence at the public discussion of the project of the Belarusian-Chinese industrial park near Smaliavichy, held in April. A policeman, who was present at the discussion, put down their passport data and promised that they would be punished. On 30 May Volha Chaichyts received a written warning from the Smaliavichy District Prosecutor's Office for collaboration with the satellite TV channel "BelSat".

On 30 May the journalist of the newspaper "Narodnaya Volia" Maryia Malevich was not accredited at a press conference dedicated to the "First Cheese Festival near Minsk." At first, she was invited to the event, but later was called back and asked not to come, citing the presence of officials, who could be asked unpleasant questions by the journalist. At the request of the press service of the Belarusian Association of Journalists to comment on the situation, the responsible for the accreditation to the festival Andrei Kiryienka called the actions of the journalist "inadequate" and refused to give any comments.

On 31 May Judge of the Minsk City Court Valery Kamisarau left in force the verdicts according to which the journalists Henadz Barbarych and Aliaksandr Yarashevich were sentenced to arrest, following the detention after the authorized rally "Chernobyl Way" on 26 April in Minsk. The journalists pointed a large number of inaccuracies and violations on the part of the police, stressing that the police witnesses were interested in recognizing them guilty, as otherwise they would receive administrative punishment. Henadz Barbarych and Aliaksandr Yarashevich told in detail about the circumstances of their detention and the actions of the police officers. In particular, they insist that the police did not introduce themselves, did not explain the reasons for the detention, did not familiarize them with the detention and violation reports and couldn't tell the place of the detention at the trial. Despite this, Judge Valery Kamisarau found no reasons to abolish the verdicts of the first instance.


Restriction of freedom of assembly

On 3 May Brest activists of the United Civil Party received waivers from the Brest City Executive Committee to 12 applications for holding pickets on 7 May. By means of these actions the activists intended to remind the public about the 14th anniversary of the disappearance of the former Minister of Internal Affairs, politician Yury Zakharanka, as well as to the disappearance of other well-known people - Viktar Hanchar, Anatol Krasouski and Dzmitry Zavadski. In its response the officials of the Brest City Executive Committee stated that such actions could be carried out only in certain places (the "Locomotive" stadium and the Park of Soldiers-internationalists).

On 6 May the Baranavichy District Executive Committee banned the Milavidy Feast, scheduled by the city public for 2 June and dedicated to the 150th anniversary of the Battle of Milavidy which took place in 1863. This became known from a letter signed by the deputy chairman of the executive committee Anatol Filanchuk and received by the organizers of the festival Viachaslau Bolbat, Teresa Silivonchyk and Viktar Syrytsa. As it was stated in the response of the district officials, "the cultural department Baranovichsky executive committee plans to hold a mass event event dedicated to the 150th anniversary of the Battle of Milavidskay 1863 at this place and in this time, so there is no need to hold another event on the same topic". According to Viktary Syrytsa, the organizers of the festival filed a detailed application to the executive committee almost two months before the event and entered into service agreements with the district police, health center and housing and communal services. Nobody told them that another event would be held on 2 June. Having received the waiver, the activists applied for holding the festival on 9 June. On 21 May the Baranavichy District Executive Committee issued another ban. This time the deputy head of the executive committee Anatol Filanchuk referred to a violation of paragraph 5 of the Law "On Mass Events", but didn't explain what was violated by the organizers .

On 3 May the Salihorsk District Court dismissed the complaint of civic activist Uladzimir Shyla against the ban on the picket he intended to hold on Freedom Day, 25 March. The case was considered by the deputy head of the court Ala Trafimchuk. The defendant was represented by a lawyer of the Salihorsk District Executive Committee Aliaksei StrapkoThe court session was also attended by representatives of the police and the prosecutors' office. In his speech during the trial Uladzimir Shyla noted that the decision in this case was already known to all parties and the aim of his complaint is to register the human rights violation for the future, so that all those involved in violations would be brought to justice. On 20 May Uladzimir Shyla filed a complaint against the prohibition the picket to the Minsk Regional Court.


Restriction of freedom of association

On 30 April the Council of Ministers adopted a decree № 327 "On approval of the list of public organizations (associations) and their organizational structures, foundations, associations of legal entities and (or) individual entrepreneurs (associations and unions), for whom the reduction factor of 0.1 applies during the estimation of the rent costs, and the invalidation of certain decisions of the Council of Ministers of the Republic of Belarus". This list replaces the previous list of non-profit organizations which had rent benefits, issued on 8 April 2010. The latter list was replenished with new organizations, and in 2012 contained 451 non-profit organizations that rented premises at at one-tenth of the cost compared to the other tenants. The new list, adopted on 30 April 2013, provides benefits only for 195 public associations, their organizational structures, foundations, unions and associations. Thus, the number of non-profit organizations that are entitled to preferential rates for tenancy was reduced more than twice. The vast majority of organizations that remain in the list of beneficiaries are charitable, Chernobyl, humanitarian and sports organizations. Among the organizations which used to enjoy preferential policies, but were not included in the new list there are the World Association of Belarusians "Backawscyna", the Belarusian Language Society named after Skaryna", the Belarusian Association of UNESCO Clubs, the Belarusian public association "Environmental Initiative", the charitable association of blood donors "Drop of Life", the public association of Lithuanians "Tevine", the International public charity "Hope Express", the International public association "Palestinian community", the public association "For Children of Chernobyl", the public association "Mahiliou Jewish community", the public organization " Belarusian SOS Foundation – Children's Village", etc. All in all, 256 organizations were deprived of benefits and will have to pay the whole cost of the rent. Some political parties were deprived of the tenancy preferences as well: the Belarusian Social-sports Party, the Belarusian Patriotic Party and the Belarusian Agrarian Party. Thus, such preferences were left only for the Communist Party of Belarusian and the National Party of Labor and Justice.

On 20 May Halina Herasimava, a Mazyr activis of the Civil Initiative against lawlessness in the courts and the prosecutor's offices, received a verbal warning from the first Deputy Prosecutor of the Homel Region, Vadzim Sushchynski. The activist was warned about the inadmissibility of activities of the unregistered public association. The text of the warning was read by the head of the Section of Law Enforcement and Crime Prevention of the Mazyr District Police Department Aliaksandr Bykau, who held a prophylactic talk with the activist. He stated that members of the civil impeded the work of state institutions by their activities.

On 3 May the Main Economic Board of the Presidential Administration launched a campaign for the termination of the rent contract and eviction of the National Youth Public Association "Sustrecha" ("Meeting") from its office. On this day, the organization received a letter warning of the need to cancel the rent agreement and vacate the office within three business days. The economic bureau offered no explanations for its actions. According to "Meeting", the cancellation of the rent agreements was also initiated in other cities where the anonymous consultation rooms of the association are situated. According to the received letters, the rent contracts there must be canceled until the end of May. If "Meeting" doesn't find a new place to register its legal address during two months after the eviction, it can be liquidated through court. The organization's administration believes that the reason for the actions of the authorities is that "Meeting" conducts activities for the prevention of HIV/AIDS and STIs among men who have sex with men. To solve this situation, representatives of the association sent a letter to the Ministry of Health and the UNDP with the request to assist in preventing the liquidation of "Meeting", maintaining the state rent and accordingly, continuation of its prophylactic activities in the framework of the Global Fund grants. "Meeting" has operated in the field of HIV/AIDS prevention since 1998.

On 21 May an excavator operator of the "Granite" enterprise Leanid Dubanosau learned that his labor contract wasn't extended. This day he returned to work after vacations, but wasn't admitted to his working place for the night shift. The chief of the guard Ruslan Bunevich told Mr. Dubanosau, that his labor contract was terminated on 16 May, but didn't present any documents to prove his statement. Leanid Dubanosau invited witnesses and composed an act that he was not allowed to start his work. Till recent, L. Dubanosau was the only founder of the independent trade union organization at "Granite" who continued working at the enterprise. Al other activists of the trade union had been dismissed from it earlier and didn't manage to get reinstated even through the courts. The administration of "Granite" has struggled against the existence of the independent trade organization for almost 1.5 years.

On 31 May the activist of the civil campaign "Tell the Truth" Aliaksanr Kuzmin from Belaaziorsk filed a complaint to the Brest Regional Prosecutor's Office concerning the invalidity of the warning, issued to him under Art. 193.1 of the Criminal Code. Kuzmin asked the regional prosecutor's office to abolish the official warning issued by the Biaroza district prosecutor Dzmitry Dziarabin, as far as he didn't consider his activities within the framework of the campaigns held by "Tell the Truth" as activities on behalf of an unregistered organization. The case concerning his activities on behalf of an unregistered organization appeared after an appeal of the head of the Belaaziorsk City Executive Committee Viachaslau Dambrouski to the Biaroza District Police Department. Kuzmin and his counsel had to wait for a month get an opportunity to familiarize with the case.

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