Review-Chronicle of Human Rights Violations in Belarus in June 2013
saw an apparent trend towards the worsening of the human rights
situation in Belarus. Political prisoners were still kept in jail,
and another name was added to their list after a 23-year-old resident
of Navapolatsk, Andrei Haidukou, was sentenced to 18 months in
prison. Thus: 12 political prisoners were kept in prison in June:
Ihar Alinevich, Mikalai Autukhovich, Ales Bialiatski, Dzmitry
Dashkevich, Mikalai Dziadok, Aliaksandr Frantskevich, Andrei
Haidukou, Eduard Lobau, Artsiom Prakapenka, Pavel Seviarynets,
Mikalai Statkevich and Yauhen Vaskovich.
During the month there were also instigated 2 politically motivated criminal cases – a case against Aliaksei Shchadrou under Article 193.1 of the Criminal Code, “activities on behalf of an unregistered organization”, and a case against a former political prisoner Vasil Parfiankou under Article 421 of the Criminal Code, “violation of the regime of preventive supervision”. If these persons are convicted within the frames of these cases, they will be considered as new political prisoners.
These facts didn't affect the withdrawal of the European Union from its earlier position that the contacts with the official Minsk could take place only after the release of all political prisoners. Thus, during the sitting of the Council of the Foreign Ministers of the European Union on 24 June in Luxembourg it was decided to suspend the visa sanctions against the Belarusian Foreign Minister Uladzimir Makei. Despite the fact that the concluding document of the sitting indicated that this measure was taken just to facilitate the diplomatic contacts between the EU and Belarus, the move was perceived by the human rights community as a fundamental change in the EU's position for the release of political prisoners as a precondition for establishing contacts with the Belarusian authorities. This is connected to the fact that Mr. Makei was put on the “black list” of the EU in January 2011 as the head of the Presidential Administration of Belarus, having relation to the brutal dispersal of the protests of 19 December 2010 and the subsequent persecution of opposition activists.
A serious deterioration was registered in the use of the death penalty. Two death verdicts were issued in June alone. In particular, on 12 June the Hrodna Regional Court punished with death a 23-year-old citizen of Vileika, and on 14 June the Homel Regional Court convicted a 25-year-old resident of Homel, Aliaksandr Hrunou. These verdicts were issued during the intensification of the contacts between the official Minsk and the Council of Europe regarding the possibility of a moratorium or abolition of the capital punishment in Belarus. on 21 June in Minsk the Council of Europe in cooperation with the Belarusian government, and on 27 June members of the House of Representatives attended the meeting of the PACE Committee on Political Affairs and Democracy in Strasbourg to discuss the issue of the death penalty in Belarus. The issue of the death verdicts during the discussions on this topic with international organizations shows that the Belarusian authorities are not ready to go further than discussion and are unprepared to deal with the problem on its merits.
The human rights situation in Belarus has been in the focus of attention of the Human Rights Council, where a discussion of the report of the special rapporteur on Belarus Miklos Haraszti took place on 4 June in the framework of the 23rd session. The paper assessed the human rights situation in Belarus in the period from 5 July 2012 to 31 March 2013 and reflects the systemic nature of abuses in the country. The representative of Belarus in the UN in Geneva Mikhail Khvastou exercised a harsh criticism over both the report and the very existence of the institution of the Special Rapporteur of the UN on Belarus. He stated that the report was used to exert political and economic pressure on Belarus. "The Belarusian nation does not need a special rapporteur. We know what problems we have and are ready to tackle them. We have our own model, which is based on national sovereignty, security and rule of law. We reject all allegations contained in the report, and declare that the conclusions of the report are unacceptable to us."
In turn, the human rights community noted the objective nature of the report and again urged the Belarusian authorities to cooperate with the UN human rights instruments. Thus, during the interactive dialogue on the report of the Special Rapporteur the deputy head of the Human Rights Center "Viasna" Valiantsin Stefanovich called on the Belarusian authorities to invite to the country thematic rapporteurs, including the rapporteurs on torture, human rights defenders, the independence of the judiciary and the legal profession, freedom of association and the Working Group on Arbitrary Detention. "We also call on the country to allow entrance to the UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Belarus, as he repeatedly requested an opportunity to receive information on the situation in the country both from independent NGOs and government authorities," stated Mr. Stefanovich.
On 13 June a vote on the resolution on the human rights situation in Belarus, which contained a provision to extend the mandate of the special rapporteur, was held within the framework of the 23rd session of the UN Human Rights Council. Representatives of 26 countries voted for the resolution, 3 – against, and 18 abstained. Thus, the mandate of the Special Rapporteur on the human rights situation in Belarus has been extended for another year. This decision was very positively evaluated by the country's human rights activists who see this tool as an opportunity to establish a dialogue on human rights between the Belarusian authorities and the international community, which can lead to systemic improvements in this sphere.
Political prisoners, criminal prosecution of social activists
On 1 June Maryna Adamovich, the wife of the former presidential candidate and political prisoner Mikalai Statkevich, stated that he was preparing the book “Path of Freedom", a collection of his articles and essays written over the past decade. On 20 June, before the start of Lithuania's Presidency of the European Union, Mikalai Statkevich addressed the Lithuanian Prime Minister Algirdas Butkevicius in connection with the discussion of the possibility of inviting senior officials of Belarus to the Eastern Partnership summit in Vilnius. Among other things, Mr. Statkevich stated: "Those who fight for the freedom of our country, consider any direct contacts between the leaders of democratic countries with the Belarusian regime as a betrayal of the ideals of democracy and an attempt to legitimize the dictatorship. I call you to refrain from meetings with the leaders of the Belarusian regime until the country will hold no political prisoners."
As it became known on 6 June, political prisoner Dzmitry Dashkevich received a response to his complaint to the Department of Corrections the Ministry of Interior concerning the humiliations which the prisoners have to face every day – particularly, the use of spoons is not allowed except for the meals which are served on schedule. This means that prisoners can neither stir sugar in their tea nor eat the food passed by their relatives with spoons, but have to use toothbrush cases for it. Mr. Dashkevich asked to check the legality of this rule. The officials answered that such a rule really existed, but didn't specify the document which contains such provisions, thus putting in question the very existence of such a document. On 25 June Anastasiya Dashkevich, the wife of Dz. Dashkevich, said that she and her father received telephone calls from the Pershamaiski District Police Department of Minsk and were asked whether they wouldn't mind if Dzmitry lived with them after his release from jail. A. Dashkevich doesn't rule out that the police are preparing the documents for the establishment of preventive supervision over her husband, who is expected to be released on 28 August.
On 7 June the deputy head of the HRC "Viasna" Valiantsin Stefanovich received an answer from the Belarusian Foreign Ministry to his appeal concerning the non-implementation by Belarus of the decisions of the Working Group on Arbitrary Detention of the UN in the case of the political prisoner Ales Bialiatski, the head of the organization. In his appeal to the minister Uladzimir Makei the human rights activist reminded that one of the duties of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs was to monitor the implementation of international agreements of the Republic of Belarus by the state organs of the Republic of Belarus and to assist in the implementation of the international treaties of the Republic of Belarus. "Belarus is unable to consider the views of the Working Group and the UN Council on Human Rights, and the Working Group on Arbitrary Detention were informed about it", ends the MFA answer, dated 31 May and signed by the deputy minister Valiantsin Rybakou. The official explained this inability by saying that “the implementation of the views of the Working Group on Arbitrary Detention is not subject to the international obligations of the Republic of Belarus in accordance with the international treaties to which the Republic of Belarus is a state party". By this paragraph the Foreign Ministry just confirmed the demonstrative refusal of the Belarusian state to implement the decisions of the Working Group and cooperate with it, as far as Valiantsin Stefanovich again stressed in his address that "the special procedures of the UN (including the Working Group on Arbitrary Detention) are auxiliary bodies of the UN. They were created by the Human Rights Council and report to it. Members of the WGAD are elected by the Advisory Group, which is appointed by the UN Human Rights Council on the basis of knowledge and experience with their mandate, integrity, independence and impartiality. Their legal conclusions, such as the aforementioned judgment concerning the case of Ales Bialiatski, are decisions 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), and is bound by international agreements, including the ICCPR, ratified by Belarus in 1973.” Obviously, the representatives of the Foreign Ministry did not want to listen to the arguments of the human rights defender.
On 7 June Tatsiana Frantskevich, the mother of an imprisoned activist of the anarchist movement Aliaksandr Frantskevich who is serving a sentence in the Ivatsevichy penal colony, stated that her son was not allowed to receive a parcel with books by Sergey Dovlatov and Franz Kafka. The parcel was sent back without giving any reasons for it, although before that Frantskevich's counsel had been told that fiction could be sent to his client. The lawyer was warned that it was prohibited to send any philosophical and political books to the prisoner. However, in the end the latter was also prohibited to receive fiction.
In the first half of June political prisoner Mikalai Dziadok spent ten days in a penal cell in the Mahiliou prison No. 4 where he is serving his sentence. The wife of the imprisoned activist of the anarchist movement, Valeryia Khotsina, wasn't informed about it.
On 12 June the hearings on the case of the 23-year-old Navapolatsk resident Andrei Haidukou, charged with committing a crime under Article 356 of the Criminal Code (treason in the form of intelligence activities) started at the Vitsebsk Regional Court. The trial of A. Haidukou was closed, despite the pleas from human rights activists to make the proceedings transparent. During the trial, the charges were reclassified to part 1 of Article 14 and Article 356-1 of the Criminal Code (attempt to establish cooperation with the special services, security agencies or intelligence agencies of foreign countries). On 1 July Judge Halina Urbanovich sentenced Mr. Haidukou to 1.5 years in prison. The same day, the Human Rights Center "Viasna" and the national human rights association "Belarusian Helsinki Committee" stated that as far as the a preliminary investigation and the trial were completely closed, "it can be assumed that the need for consideration of the case in a closed trial was motivated by a desire to conceal from the public the unlawful methods of the investigation and the provocation of the accused in the commission of a crime. This qualification of the offense by the court shows that the KGB misled the public, while the KGB did not establish the fact of entering by a national of the Republic of Belarus into illegal cooperation with the security agencies of a foreign state. Having established the circumstances, the KGB continued to induce Haidukou to commit a graver crime, thus committing a provocation." Assessing together the aforementioned circumstances, the nature of the charges presented to the defendant in the course of the preliminary investigation and the process violations committed during it and the closed mode of trial, as well as the information about Haidukou's actions which served as the formal reason for his detention, the Human Rights Center "Viasna" and the "Belarusian Helsinki Committee concluded that "sentencing of Andrei Haidukou is groundless and politically motivated, as it is largely aimed at increasing the role and significance of the KGB in the State using methods that are unacceptable in a democratic society".
On 14 June political prisoner Eduard Lobau told his mother Maryna Lobova in a telephone conversation that the prosecutor's office would reconsider his complaint on a number of violations in his case in court in 2011, as well as the KGB interrogations without a lawyer. On 25 June he had a short-term meeting with his mother at the Ivatsevichy penal colony. The prisoner said that in spite of the summer season, the inmates weren't given any fruit, berries or fresh vegetables. They are only given sauerkraut or pickles. Fruit are only sent in the prison shop on rare occasions in autumn.
On 20 June it became known that a criminal case under Article 193.1 of the Criminal Code, activities on behalf of an unregistered organization, was brought against the resident of the village of Aliaksandrauka (Shchuchyn district), Catholic believer Ales Shchadrou, who organized a village shelter for homeless people. According to a ruling of the head of the public order and crime prevention bureau of the Shchuchyn District Police Department Siarhei Asovik, Aliaksei Shchadrou “organized the activities of an unregistered religious organization and provided the conditions for its operation without registration in the manner prescribed by law". Aliaksei Shchadrou states that he didn't create any organization, but just engaged in philanthropy and set up a shelter for the homeless. He prayed with them, but didn't create any sect. Antoni Hremza, vice-Chancellor of the Hrodna Roman Catholic Curia, to which Aliaksei Shchadrou formally belongs, also called the actions of the believer a private initiative, not the creation of any sectarian movement. According to the accusation article, A. Shchadrou faces up to two years in prison.
On 21 June an activist of the anarchist movement, political prisoner Artsiom Prakapenka who is serving his term in the Mahiliou penal colony, was deprived of a food parcel during the long-term meeting with his mother, Viyaleta Prakapenka, reminding that he still had the status of a malignant violator of the regime. Artsiom Prakapenka works in the colony as an assistant welder.
On 28 June the parents of political prisoner Ihar Alinevich reported that they had a long-term meeting with their son in the colony No. 10 in Navapolatsk. According to the prisoner's mother, Valiantsina Alinevich, the meetings lasted one day in a room which was about 10-12 square meters, without permission to leave it, which was an ordeal due to the heat. According to Alinevich's observations, the people with whom he interacts are then subjected to persecution. The same day it became known that the Belarusian Economic University, where Valiantsina Alinevich worked for 30 years, refused to extend the labor contract with her. The administration stated that she was a high-level experts, but the security services insisted on the termination of the working relationship with her. According to the mother of the political prisoner, she didn't show her political convictions at work and never had any problems with the university administration before.
On 28 June the Pershamaiski District Police Department of Minsk informed the former political prisoner Vasil Parfiankou that a criminal case under Article 421, “violation of the regime of preventive supervision”, was instigated against him. This is already the second criminal case under this article brought against Mr. Parfiankou after his release in accordance with the presidential decree on pardon in August 2011 after being sentenced to four years' imprisonment under Part 2 of Art. 293 of the Criminal Code for taking part in a protest against electoral fraud during the last presidential election. What concerns the first case under Article 421, the activist had been found guilty and sentenced to six months of arrest. The preventive supervision term, imposed on Vasil Parfiankou after his release, ends on 30 June. At the moment when the new case was brought he had just two violations of the regime of the preventive supervision.
On 10 June Liubou Kavaliova and Tatsiana Kaziar, the mother and sister of Uladzislau Kavaliou, accused of the terrorist attack in the Minsk metro and executed by shooting, filed an appeal to the Ministry of Internal Affairs against the refusal of the Department of Corrections to report his place of burial. The relatives of Uladzislau Kavaliou addressed the Department of Corrections with this request on 25 April and received a denial on 8 May. The first deputy head of the Department of Corrections S. Pratsenka informed them that "the order of execution is strictly regulated by Article 175 of the Criminal Code of the Republic of Belarus in accordance with which the sentence of death, which came into legal force, is executed after the receipt of official information about the rejection of the appeals, filed as supervisory complaints and petitions for clemency. The death penalty is executed by shooting and is non-public. The body is not issued for burial, the place of burial is not communicated." In their address to the Ministry of Internal Affairs L. Kavaliova and T. Kaziar insist that the rule "the place of burial is not communicated", provided by part 55 of Article 175 of the Criminal Executive Code, referred to the Department of Corrections, is void as contrary to Article 7 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. They justify their position by the Views of the UN Human Rights Committee in the case of Uladzislau Kavaliou, according to which "the complete secrecy surrounding the date of execution and burial sites as well as the denial of the body for burial in accordance with the religious beliefs and practices of the family of the executed prisoner created the effect of intimidating and punishing families by intentionally leaving them in a state of uncertainty and mental stress. Under these circumstances, the Committee agreed that these elements in the aggregate, as well as the subsequent persistent refusal of the State party to inform the authors about the place of burial of Kavaliou constitute inhuman treatment by the authors in violation of article 7 of the Covenant "(paragraph 11.10 of the Views).
On 12 June the Hrodna Regional Court issued the death verdict to a 23-year-old resident of Vileika, finding him guilty under four articles of the Criminal Code: part 2 of Article 139, paragraphs 1 and 6(the murder of two persons with particular cruelty), article 205, part 1(theft), Article 347, part 1 (desecration of corpses) and Article 378 (theft of personal documents). The case was considered by Judge Anatol Zayats. On 5 August 2012 the convict killed his wive, a resident of Zhlobin, and her acquaintance, a resident of Hrodna, out of jealousy, in an apartment in small-family residences in Hrodna. The crime was recognized as a domestic one and the defendant was found sane.
On 12-15 June in Madrid representatives of the campaign “Human Rights Defenders against the Death Penalty in Belarus” took part in the V World Congress against the Death Penalty. The Congress was organized by the association "Together against the Death Penalty" (Ensemble Contre la Peine de Mort (ECPM)) with the support of the Governments of Spain, Norway and Switzerland.
On 14 June the Homel Regional Court issued the death verdict in a criminal case against a 25-year-old resident of Homel, Aliaksandr Hrunou, who was accused of murdering a student of the Homel State University Natallia Yemialyanchykava with especial cruelty. The crime was committed on 19 September 2012, the victim suffered 102 stab wounds. The girl died before reaching a few meters to her house. Aliaksandr Hrunou pleaded guilty during the trial. In 2005 he had been sentenced to 8 years of imprisonment for inflicting grievous bodily harm resulting in death – he had beaten to death his mother's cohabitee. He killed the girl only after a year at liberty.
On 18 June the deputy head of the Human Rights Center “Viasna” Valiantsin Stefanovich addressed the head of the Belarusian TV and Radio Company in connection with a report about a murder in the Mahiliou prison, shown in the program “ "Secrets of the investigation". The murder was committed by Ryhor Yuzepchuk with the assistance of a cell-mate. In the report, the nationality of the perpetrator of the crime is mentioned in a negative context a couple of times. The report makes use of such expressions as “everything was clear with the Roma Yuzepchuk”, "with poorly educated Roma Yuzepchuk", "according to the Roma", "the convicted Roma Yuzepchuk", etc. At the same time, the nationalities of his accomplice, Pavel Petrakou, and the victim, Ihar Khodanau, who also have quite negative personal characteristics, aren't mentioned in the report. According to Valiantsin Stefanovich, such indication on the national identity of the perpetrator may contribute to xenophobia and discriminatory behavior in the community, as well as the formation of an extremely negative attitude to all representatives of the Roma minority in Belarus. The human rights activist applied to Henadz Davydzka with a request to check these facts and explain to the authors of the report the inadmissibility of such references in the future.
On 19 June the Prosecutor General of the Republic of Belarus Aliaksandr Kaniuk expressed dissatisfaction with the position of the media and human rights activists on the death penalties issued in Homel and Hrodna. “The howling in the media started again. What are they shouting about? They cry about the fate of a man who ruined many lives, but no one talked to the mother of the 22-year-old dead girl, no one asked how the relatives of the victims will continue their lives," said the Prosecutor General in his speech in the House of Representatives. According to Kaniuk, "nowadays there is a change in that we tend to care more about the criminals than about the victims." "The howling has started, but how can you correct a criminal who chopped off one's hand and traveled with it across the republic? What can you do to a villain who inflicted 122 stab wounds to his victim?" stated the Prosecutor General.
On 21 June the House of Charity in Minsk hosted the round table "Religion and the death penalty", organized by the Council of Europe in cooperation with the Belarusian government. The round table was attended by representatives of the Orthodox and Roman Catholic Churches, legislative and judicial authorities of the Republic of Belarus, the delegates of the Council of Europe, diplomats and human rights activists. The Patriarchal Exarch of All Belarus, Metropolitan Filaret, sent a welcome speech to the round table participants: "The Belarusian Orthodox Church insistently drawn the public attention to the issue of the death penalty back in the 1990-ies. In 1996, on the eve of the people's referendum, at which, among other things, the issue of the death penalty was discussed, we called upon the people of Belarus to refuse from such a punishment. "We, Christians, can not justify the death penalty, as murder is a sin ... The life of every human belongs beings to the Creator, God. If we, sinful people, didn't give life to a man – we must not deprive him of life. Lord Jesus Christ gave his life for each of us, endured suffering, humiliation, abuse, and death on the Cross ... The State re-crucifies Christ each time it executes its citizens." This was our position in the year of the referendum. To date it has remained unchanged."
On 27 June the issue of the death penalty in Belarus was discussed at a sitting of the PACE Committee on Political Affairs and Democracy in Strasbourg. The official Belarusian side was represented by the members of House of Representatives Mikalai Samaseika and Aliaksandr Zazulia. Summing up the results of their participation, Mr. Samaseika stated that the main question was the introduction of a moratorium on the death penalty in Belarus. According to M. Samaseika, he explained to the members of the Council of Europe that the issue of the death penalty in Belarus wasn't solved by any officials, but its treatment was grounded on the results of the national referendum, at which the majority of Belarusians voted for the use of this measure of punishment. At the same time, Mikalai Samaseika stated that there were different views about the death penalty both in the society and in the Chamber of Representatives, some of whose members were for it, and some others stated that it should be abolished. “That's why”, stated Mr. Samaseika, “we promised not to make any sudden movements in the matter, and to solve it, as the English say, step by step".
Pressurization of social and political activists by security services
On 6 June, after the end of conscription into the armed forces of the Republic of Belarus, there was an attempt to forcibly draft into the army an activist of "Tell the Truth", Artsiom Svirshchyk. The activist was taken to the city's military enlistment office, where the staff refused to provide him with documents according to which he was drafted into the army, referring to the fact that these documents were for internal use only. Having spent several hours at the military enlistment office, Artsiom Svirshchyk was issued with a summons to appear in a few days and released. A week before this incident the activist had refused to cooperate with the KGB.
On 12 June Aleh Aksionau filed an appeal against the illegal activities of the Mahiliou Regional KGB Department to the Leninski District Court of Mahiliou. The activist of the organizing committee of the Belarusian Christian Democracy asked the court to cancel the warning issued to him by the KGB and to recognize the “prophylactic talk”, carried with him by the intelligence personnel, as groundless and illegal. Mr. Aksionau also seeks to receive written apologies from the head of the Mahiliou Regional KGB Department and oral apologies from the KGB officer Makhunou for their unlawful actions. The case concerns the events of 29 April, when the KGB officer Makhunou summonsed Aleh Aksionau to the KGB department for a prophylactic talk. During the "conversation" Mr. Makhunou stated that the activist was allegedly warned for activities on behalf of the unregistered organization “organizing committee of the Belarusian Christian Democracy”, as well as for participation in the activities of two unregistered organizations – the civil campaign "For Fair Elections-2012" and the Mahiliou regional coalition of democratic forces. Aleh Aksionau has been under the preventive supervision of the KGB for more than a year already. Apart from him, such supervision is used towards two more Mahiliou activists – the BCD activist Tatsiana Shambalava and the leader of the Mahiliou regional organization of the Belarusian Popular Front “Adradzhenne” Zmitser Salauyou.
Torture and other kinds of cruel and inhuman treatment
As it became known on 20 June, the Krychau police severely beat a man, as a result of which a criminal case was brought under part 3 of Article 426 of the Criminal Code (abuse of power or authority). During the preliminary investigation, the identities of the persons who, intentionally exceeding their authority, had inflicted serious bodily injury, were established. One of the policemen was charged and remanded in custody. The beaten citizen was detained in December 2012 as a suspect in a theft at the Krychau enterprise “Kamunalnik”. The policemen used physical force towards the suspect, which resulted in the infliction of heavy bodily injures. After his release the citizen applied to the Krychau Inter-district KGB Department.
Administrative prosecution of socio-political activists, arbitrary detention
As it became known on 3 June, the UN Human Rights Committee recognized violations of the right to freedom and personal inviolability in respect of a Brest activist of the movement "For Freedom", Zhanna Koush. The activist applied to the Human Rights Committee in 2008 with a complaint that she had been detained twice in Brest on suspicion of having committed a crime (each of these cases was subsequently discontinued) and placed in a detention center. In the first case Zh. Koush was awaiting trial 61 hours and in the second – 72 hours. The activist believes that the detention for more than 48 hours without being brought before a judge is a violation of her right to liberty and security under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. The UN Committee found violations of the Covenant in both cases. It is important to note that so far no one has put in front of this international body the question of violation of the Covenant concerning the periods of detention without bringing before a judge shorter than 72 hours. The conclusion of the Committee in the case of Zhanna Koush sets a new standard for the United Nations. The Committee's findings in this case should lead to a revision of the law on arrest and detention in Belarus as well as in other state parties to the Covenant, which have not yet entered the 48-hour maximum time limit for bringing detainees before a judge.
Later in the evening of 4 June a member of the organizing committee of the Belarusian National-Bolshevik Party, Dzmitry Paliyenka, was detained while distributing leaflets against conscription slavery. He was guarded to the Maskouski District Police Department of Minsk, where he was beaten by the police. On 5 June the Maskouski District Court sentenced Dz. Paliyenka to five days of arrest under Article 17.1 of the Code of Administrative Offenses (disorderly conduct).
On 10 June the Shchuchyn police drew up a violation report on pensioner Veranika Sebastsyanovich, a member of the unregistered "Union of Poles in Belarus." The 82-year-old woman was mailed a copy of the report in which she was charged with holding an unsanctioned rally. The matter is that in May V. Sebastsyanovich took part in the establishment of a memorial cross in the hamlet of Rachkavshchyna, located near the village of Bakshty (Shchuchyn district), in the memory of a soldier of the Polish resistance movement “Armija Krajova” Anatol Radzivonik, murdered by the NKVD. The cross was placed on private property. On 13 June a similar report was drawn up on the head of the Union of Poles in Belarus Mechyslau Yaskevich. On 19 June the Shchychyn District Court considered the administrative case against Mechyslau Yaskevich and Veranika Sebastsyanovich. The trial lasted for five hours with breaks. As a result, the both activists were found guilty. Mechyslau Yaskevich was sentenced to a fine of 4 million rubles, and Veranika Sebastsyanovich – to 2.5 million rubles.
On 12 June social activist Viktar Syrutsa, the organizer of the Milavidy festival in honor of the 150th anniversary of the Battle of Milavidy, was summoned to the Baranavichy District Police Department. On 13 June the local police inspector, lieutenant Dzianis Maisenia in the presence of the head of the public safety and crime prevention bureau, major Viktar Kuliashou, proposed Mr. Syrytsa and his counsel Zoya Haudzei to read and sign a violation report. The police officer stated that the social activist was accused of committing an administrative offense under part 2 of Article 23.34 of the Code of Administrative Offenses, for the organization and holding of an unauthorized event in the memory of the insurgents of 1863. On 19 June the head of the Baranavichy City and District Court Mikalai Kmita sent the report against Viktar Syrytsa back to the police to correct the deficiencies. The court also sent Mr. Syrytsa a letter to inform him about it.
At about 12 a.m. on 27 June in Minsk the police detained the leader of the entrepreneurs' movement "Perspective" Anatol Shumchanka and journalists Aliaksandr Sivy (“Narodnaya Volia”), Ihar Karnei (Radio “Liberty”) and Natallia Kastsiukevich who were heading to the mall "Parking" where a strike of entrepreneurs was taking place. All of them were taken to the Tsentralny District Police Department of Minsk. Anatol Shumchanka and the entrepreneurs intended to pass to the Department of Business of the Ministry of Economics the demands of small business. After 2 hours, the journalists were released, whereas Anatol Shumchanka was charged with organizing an unsanctioned mass event. The same day the activist was sentenced to five days of arrest by the Tsentralny District Court of Minsk.
Restrictions on freedom of speech and the right to disseminate information, harassment of journalists
In June there occurred an event sought eight years by the independent newspaper "Barysauskiya Naviny", since May 2005 when all independent newspapers had been excluded from the subscription catalogs of “Belposhta” and deprived of the opportunity to be sent at the newsstands of “Belsayuzdruk” on an order of the Minsk City Executive Committee. No arguments and economic calculations helped “Barysauskiya Naviny” to convince these state agencies to change their mind. However, from now on the readers are able to receive the newspaper on subscription through “Belposhta”. What is left to the newspaper is to gain its return to the newsstands of “Belsayuzdruk”. At the end of June, during the subscription campaign, the informational posters of "Barysauskiya Naviny” were removed from the post offices. This was done on the initiative of the ideological department of the Barysau City Executive Committee.
On 3-5 June the OSCE Representative on Freedom of the Media, Dunja Mijatovic, paid an official visit to Belarus. She met with members of the House of Representatives of the National Assembly, officials of the Presidential Administration, the Ministry of Information, Information-Analytical Center, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, as well as the editors of major state-owned media, members of the Belarusian Association of Journalists and the Belarusian Union of Journalists. Dunja Mijatovic spoke about the most important issues faced by the Belarusian media representatives: short-term arbitrary detentions and administrative and criminal cases against journalists. In her view, these problems should be solved in the near future. "During a meeting with members of parliament and senior officials, I heard the words of confidence that an end would be put to arrests and criminal cases," she said. "I am convinced that Belarus needs to reform legislation in the sphere of media. Internet should be free. There should be more balance between public and commercial media. I would also like to see public radio and television in Belarus in the future,” stated Ms. Mijatovic . The OSCE Representative on Freedom of the Media believes that the time for a radical change on the freedom of speech has come in Belarus. "The authorities should allow criticism and differing opinions in the community. This is the price that any country has to pay for democracy."
On 5 June in Minsk Natallia Liavonava was detained for the distribution of the newspaper "Nash Dom”. She was taken to the Frunzenski District Police Department of Minsk. Two hours later, after writing an explanation, the girl was released from the police station.
On 7 June in Brest independent journalists were prevented from the performance of their professional duties. The incident occurred on the territory of the Brest market "Autazapchastki" during a visit of the campaign "Popular Referendum" who intended to talk with the entrepreneurs and other residents of the city. The event was covered by the freelance journalists Ales Liauchuk and Milana Kharytonava. They were approached by the head of the market Aleh Dzenisiuk, who stated that they couldn't make any photo and video shots at the market without a permit, as the territory of the market was a private property. In addition, according to Mr. Liauchuk the official asked how the captured images will be used. Soon there arrived the police, who put down the passport data of Ales Liauchuk and Milana Karytonava and warned that in the future they might be summonsed to the police station for questioning.
On 7 June journalist Ales Silich received a written warning from the Smaliavichy District Prosecutor's Office for cooperation with the TV channel "BelSat". A few weeks earlier, the correspondents of "BelSat" Volha Chaichyts and Ales Silich received summons with the requirement to appear in Smaliavichy District Prosecutor's Office for giving explanations about 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 had put down their passport data and promised they would be punished. After this, Volcha Chaichyts and Ales Silich received official warnings from the prosecutor's office.
On 11 June the journalist of the "European Radio for Belarus" Dzmitry Lukashuk was denied accreditation to the press conference of the House of Representatives of the National Assembly. This was announced by the head of the bureau of information-analytical work of the National Assembly Mikalai Lis. He explained that the journalist was not accredited because there was no annual accreditation to the Parliament. The journalist tried to get accredited to the press-conference concerning the consideration of the draft law on confiscation of cars from drunk drivers for a week. “European Radio for Belarus” tried to receive a one-year accreditation at the Chamber of Representatives during the previous two years to no avail.
On 16 June independent journalist Mikhail Yanchuk was detained while making shots in the Stoubtsy district, where suspicious deaths of pigs were reported. The journalist was taken to the Stoubtsy District Police Department, where a report was drawn up, and then – directly to the railway station. Nothing was confiscated from him.
On 24 June 24 the Hrodna Regional Court considered an appeal on the case of the photo album “Belarus Press Photo - 2011”. In April, the Ashmiany District Court recognized the albums “Belarus Press Photo - 2011” extremist. The cassation appeal of the organizers of the contest “Belarus Press Photo – 2011” wasn't granted. 41 copies of the album had been confiscated from Yuliya Darashkevich and Aliaksandr Vasiukovich on 2 November 2012 at the border crossing point "Kamenny Loh".
On 26 June Rahachou police took explanations from the Rahachou activist Dzianis Dashkevich concerning an article about the persecution of the Rahachou poet Yury Arestau, published at the independent website vrogacheve.ru.
Restriction of freedom of assembly
On 11 June Judge of the Tsentralny District Court of Homel Maryna Damnenka considered an appeal of the Homel organization of the Belarusian Leftist Party “Fair World” against the ban on the May Day rally, issued by the Homel City Executive Committee. The housing utility companies entered into a service agreement with the applicants before the rally, whereas the police and the ambulance refused to do so. In order to hold a rally or a picket, one needs a permit of the executive committee, and one of the conditions for receiving the permit is to enter into paid service agreements with the public utilities, police and ambulance. Police and ambulance, in their turn, refuse to enter in such agreements, referring to the absence of the permit of the executive committee for the event. Despite this "vicious circle", the court dismissed the appeal and confirmed the legality of the ban.
On 14 June the Leninski District Court of Mahiliou considered the appeal of an activist of the United Civil Party Mikhail Sharamet against the ban on the picket he intended to hold in the center of the city. Judge Yuliya Trapynina stated that the decision of the executive committee was perfectly legal and it was permitted to hold public events only in the places, which had been specially designated for this by the executive committee. The picket was scheduled for 7 May, the day of the disappearance of general Yury Zakharanka.
On 18 June the Slonim residents Ivan Bedka and Viktar Marchyk received a denial from the Slonim District Executive Committee to their request to authorize a picket in support of the trauma surgeon Ivan Shena on 27 June. In the ban, signed by the deputy head of the executive committee Viktar Kot, it is stated that "according to the plan of the Department of Youth Affairs and the public association “Belarusian Republican Youth Union", there's no possibility to provide you with space in the city park in Opernaya Street at the stated time, as far as the beginning of the cross-quiz “Know Your Land” will take place there at 11 a.m. on 27 June."
On 20 June an activist of the civil campaign "Tell the Truth" Viachaslau Bolbat filed an appeal to the Baranavichy City and District Court against the actions of the Baranavichy District Executive Committee which twice banned the educational and cultural event "Milavidy Festival in the memory of the insurgents of 1863”. As it is stated in the appeal, on 19 April the social activists Viachaslau Bolbat, Teresa Silivonchyk and Viktar Syrytsa applied to the executive committee with the request to authorize the mass event on 2 June 2013, attaching to their appeal the written undertakings to secure the public order during it. In his appeal Mr. Bolbat notes that the organizers of the cultural festival guaranteed the payment of expenses related to the mass event and proved it by sending to the head of the executive committee the copies of the service contracts with the Baranavichy district public utilities, the police department of the Baranavichy City Executive Committee and the Baranavichy central polyclinic on 29 April 2013. Thus, the organizers of the event fulfilled all requirements of the Law "On Mass Events in the Republic of Belarus". However, in its decision of 3 May 2013 the Baranavichy District Executive Committee banned the festival as the Department of Culture of the executive committee allegedly intended to hold the same festival at that time and place. As a result, the organizers of the event asked the authorities to transfer the time of their event to 9 June 2013. Though no official events were held near the Milavidy monuments that day, the Baranavichy City Executive Committee banned the event by its ruling of 20 May 2013, accusing the organizers of violating paragraph 5 of the Law "On Mass Events in the Republic of Belarus". However, it wasn't specified in the answer, what requirements they allegedly violated.
As it became known on 26 June, Viktar Zharkou got three denials to his applications for holding pickets in three districts of Vitsebsk. During these events Mr. Zharkou wanted to inform the public about the violation of his rights by the police. Having received the bans, the activist filed lawsuits to three district courts of Vitsebsk.
On 26 June the members of the Slonim association of democratic forces who had celebrated the Freedom Day on 25 March stated that they were still summonsed to the police and the prosecutor's office in collection with allegedly holding unauthorized mass event. The head of the Slonim organization of the Belarusian Christian Democracy Ivan Bedka received summons signed by the Slonim District Prosecutor, Senior Counselor of Justice Anatol Yaulash, according to which he was to come to the prosecutor's office in connection with an “unauthorized mass events dedicated to the anniversary of the establishment of the Belarusian People's Republic”.
Restriction of freedom of association
On 2 June an assembly of the organizing committee of the party "Belarusian Christian Democracy" of Vitebsk was actually disrupted as some of its regional representatives were summonsed to work on the day off. In particular, BCD representatives from Lepel and Navapolatsk were called to work without any explanations on that day. According to the co-founder of the BCD Vital Rymasheuski, activists of the organizing committee are pressurized by regional KGB officers who threaten them with "problems" for the participation in such assemblies of Christian Democrats.
On 10 June the General Prosecutor's Office dismissed the appeal of the human rights activist Tamara Siarhei against the actions of the Deputy Prosecutor General Aliaksandr Lashyn, who on 23 April had issued her with a formal warning about responsibility under Article 193.1 of the Criminal Code for the organization of the activities of the unregistered public association “Civil Initiative against lawlessness in the courts and the prosecutor's office”. The acting Prosecutor General Mikalai Kuklis upheld the warning.
On 17 June the Belarusian Ministry of Justice refused to register the National research and educational association "Tell the truth." The Constituent Assembly of the association was held on 13 April and the registration documents were submitted to the Ministry of Justice on 8 May. Therefore, the ministry was to have answered by 8 June, whereas it's answer is dated 12 June, which means that the ministry violated the legal terms for answering applications for the state registration of public associations and political parties. By this answer “Tell the Truth” was denied registration for two reasons. Firstly, the officials stated that the guarantee letter for the supply of a legal address for the NGO, dated 31 May, was no longer valid, and secondly – the number of the members of the organization's council allegedly wasn't determined. This was allegedly the third attempt to register the association with the state.
On 18 June the Ministry of Justice refused to register the youth public association "Young Democrats". In the refusal the officials cited the poor handwriting in the lists of the founders and also indicated that the document was to be printed in a special font. The Ministry of Justice also accused the "Young Democrats" of providing "inaccurate and incomplete information about the founders of the association."