Review-Chronicle of Human Rights Vilations in Belarus in August 2013
In August the situation
in the sphere of human rights remained difficult. The release of
political prisoner Dzmitry Dashkevich, though marked as a positive
event, did not change the general trend and is not considered as a
sign of improvement by Belarusian human rights activists. Dz.
Dashkevich not only served his initial sentence in prison, but was
also sentenced to another year in prison for "willful
disobedience to the administration" (Article 411 of the Criminal
Code). Thus, despite the insistence of the European Union not only
for the release, but also for the rehabilitation of political
prisoners, none of the charges against Dz. Dashkevich were dropped,
and he was not rehabilitated. Moreover, preventive supervision was
established over him for six months after release, which gives the
authorities the right to visit him at any time, to restrict and
control his movement and activities and subjected him to more severe
restrictions or criminal prosecution in the case of violations. This
fear comes from the existing practice established for former
political prisoners, which continued to expand in August. Thus, on 20
August the former political prisoner Uladzimir Yaromenak was
sentenced to 3 months of arrest for breaking the rules of preventive
surveillance (Article 421 of the Criminal Code) . In August, the
investigation into the criminal case against another political
prisoner, Vasil Parfiankou, on similar charges, continued as
Thus, the release of Dzmitry Dashkevich did not affect fundamentally the situation of political prisoners in the country, as his release took place due to the end of the prison term and was not a manifestation of the position of the Belarusian authorities to terminate this phenomenon or the desire to satisfy the condition for the release of political prisoners for the resumption of dialogue with the European Union. By the end of August, Belarus continued holding 11 political prisoners: Ihar Alinevich, Mikalai Autukhovich, Ales Bialiatski, Mikalai Dziadok, Aliaksandr Frantskevich, Andrei Haidukou, Eduard Lobau, Artsiom Prakapenka, Pavel Seviarynets, Mikalai Statkevich and Yauhen Vaskovich. The Belarusian authorities took no real steps for their release. The lack of positive developments in this area was reflected in the statement of Peter Stano, the representative of the European Commissioner Stefan Fule: "We have taken note of the release of Dzmitry Dashkevich... We insist that Belarus should immediately release all political prisoners and rehabilitate them regardless of the length of their imprisonment."
However, keeping to its position on the issue of political prisoners, the European Union continued seeking and developing contacts with the Belarusian authorities. On 9 August in Minsk, the Ambassador of Estonia to Belarus Jaak Lensment met with the Deputy Foreign Minister Alena Kupchyna; on 28 August a meeting of Alena Kupchyna with the head of the mission of the European Union to Belarus, Maira Mora, as well as with the ambassadors of Great Britain and Lithuania Bruce Bucknell and Evaldas Ignatavicius took place. The press service of the Belarusian Foreign Ministry said that the meeting with Maira Mora "was focused on the development of relations between Belarus and the European Union, including the prospects for the implementation of joint projects and a number of planned activities." The sides didn't tell whether the precondition of the release and rehabilitation of political prisoners remained for such cooperation. This causes concern on the part of the human rights community, as the foreign policy factor today is virtually the only instrument of influence on the official Minsk and publicly declared withdrawal from the EU's position on the issue of political prisoners can contribute to freezing the issue and its neglect it in favor of economic and political expediency.
Political prisoners , criminal persecution of activists
On 3 August the wife of the political prisoner Mikalai Statkevich Maryna Adamovich said that on 25 July the prison commission withdrew the status of “repeated offender” from the political prisoner, leaving the status of "not stepping on the way of improvement". The cancellation of this status gave the political prisoner the right to increase the amount of purchases in the prison shop from 1 to 2 basic units (from $11 to $22). On 12 August Statkevich celebrated his third birthday in Mahiliou prison. He turned 57 years old. M. Statkevich also wrote that on 5 August he was given another penalty and described a case when he was left without medical assistance: at first he was almost forcibly taken to the medical unit where he was “diagnosed” with a high blood pressure, but after the " help" he got worse , and the next day , when he fell, nobody hurried to held him, though his neighbor constantly kept banging on the door. In the medical unit of the colony the political prisoner was given unknown drugs, from which his health deteriorated.
4 August marked the second anniversary of the arrest of Ales Bialiatski, the head of the Human Rights Center "Viasna", vice-President of the International Federation of Human Rights. This date coincided with the International Day of Solidarity with Belarusian civil society. Solidarity actions that day were held in several cities in Poland, Ukraine, Russia, Germany and also in Lithuania, Norway, Sweden, Switzerland, the Czech Republic, the UK, Italy, Kyrgyzstan, Kazakhstan, Azerbaijan, Armenia and the United States. More than 245,000 people called to release Ales Bialiatski through social networks. In Belarus, solidarity actions were held in more than 20 cities despite the fact that all mass events to mark this day had been banned by local authorities. On the eve of the anniversary of the arrest Bialiatski, the UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Belarus Miklos Haraszti urged the Belarusian government to "immediately and unconditionally" release and rehabilitate human rights activist Ales Bialiatski." The conviction of Bialiatski is a symbol of repression against human rights defenders," he said. On 7 August the political prisoner received the first food parcel for 2013, as in March he had been deprived of the right to receive food parcels for six months. All in all, he was deprived of food parcels for almost eight months. On 14 August the administration of Babruisk penitentiary No. 2 where Mr. Bialiatski is serving his sentence, responded to the appeal for the mitigation of the regime, filed by the Belarusian Association of Journalists. The head of the penitentiary Aliaksandr Kakunin wrote that Ales Bialiatski had repeatedly violated the established regime of punishment, that he hadn't appealed the imposed penalties and there were no reasons for cancellation of the penalties or their replacement with milder ones. On 17 August BAJ received a similar response from the Penal Department of Mahiliou region, whose acting head Yury Talkachou wrote that the penalties against Ales Bialiatski were imposed for violation of the internal regulations of Babruisk penitentiary No. 2 and there were no reasons to abolish them. On 21 August Ales Bialiatski had a short meeting with his wife Natallia Pinchuk and his sister Volha. This was the first two-hour meeting of the human rights activist with his relatives in December 2012. Mr. Bialiatski said he was still working on the clothing industry, read a lot of newspapers and knew about the main events on the loose. In 2013, if nothing changes, Ales Bialiatski will have two more meetings with his relatives: one long-term meeting and one short-term meeting.
On 13 August a trial was held in the Hrodna prison, which determined that six-month preventive supervision would be established over the political prisoner Dzmitry Dashkevich after his release: he will have to stay at home since 8 p.m. till 6 a.m., register at the police thrice a month and will be able to travel to other cities only on permission of the police. On 28 August at 6:30 a.m. Dashkevich was released from the Hrodna prison, after serving a full term sentence on charges of "hooliganism" and "forceful resistance to demands of the prison authorities". Dozens of people waited for him at the prison gate, including his wife Nasta, journalists and activists. Dz. Dashkevich said that the prison guards woke him up earlier than usual, at 5.30 a.m. He had his last breakfast in jail, packed his things and left the building. What concerns the attitude to him in prison, he said that the authorities of the prisons he was kept in tried to set prisoners against him, but in most cases he received support everywhere. The leader of the "Young Front" stressed that he didn't see his release as a favor. He thanked everyone for their support and said he would continue to engage in politics, but would leave the “Young Front” as he was 32 years old. On 29 August, at a press-conference in Minsk, Dzmitry Dashkevich said that he was officially offered to write a clemency petition for the President only once, in penitentiary in Horki (Mahiliou region), when there was a wave of releases of political prisoners and about ten people were released. At that time he was invited to the office of the head of the penitentiary and offered to write a petition for being released, but refused to do it. As Dashkevich said, he also received many unofficial proposals to write such a petition.
As it became known on 13 August, the mother of political prisoner Andrei Haidukou, Volha Haidukova, had a short meeting with her son who was kept in the Vitsebsk remand prison before the entry into force of the sentence. The meeting was held through the glass, the mother and the son talked over the telephone for about two hours. This was the second meeting for the time of the imprisonment: the first one took place immediately after the eight months of investigation and the trial. Volha Haidukova added that she regularly received letters for her son, once a week. On 27 August the Supreme Court considered the appeal by Andrei Haidukou and upheld the judgment, 1.5 years in prison. On 29 August Volha Haidukova received a permission of the Supreme Court to meet with her son, and such a meeting was held in the Vitsebsk remand prison No. 2. On 31 August Andrei Haidukou was transferred to the Mahiliou penitentiary No. 19 to serve his term.
On 14 August Valiantsina Alinevich, the mother of political prisoner Ihar Alinevich, said that her son received not all letters, and the ones he received were coming with long delays. She also spoke about the reaction of her son to her dismissal from work: at first he was worried, but at some point felt a strange sense of relief", adding there was no use to worry about it and keep thinking about it too much, as the authorities only need people to torture themselves by remorse.
On 20 August Judge of the Pershamaiski District Court of Minsk Leanid Yarmolenka found former political prisoner Uladzimir Yaromenak guilty of violating the rules of preventive supervision (Article 421 of the Criminal Code of the Republic of Belarus) and sentenced him to three months of arrest (prosecutor Charapkovich offered to punish his with 6 months of arrest). The lawyer said in court that during the investigation, there were numerous violations. In particular, the ruling of the investigative committee about bringing the criminal case was dated 24 May, while the case materials were received by this institution only on 27 May, and the two reports, which served as evidence of violation of the rules of preventive supervision, weren't registered anywhere at all. The lawyer also pointed that the prosecution didn't try to find the reasons why U. Yaromenak was absent from home during the check-ups. The Human Rights Center "Viasna" stated that the verdict to Uladzimir Yaromenak was politically motivated and aimed at sanctioning his further political activity and exerting pressure in connection with such activities. The verdict to U. Yaromenak is a direct consequence of his conviction for 3 years for taking part in protests after the presidential election of 19 December 2010.
On 22 August Anatol Prakapenka, the father of political prisoner Artsiom Prakapenka, stated that the administration of the Mahiliou penitentiary No. 15 lifted the ban on food parcels for his son. The mother managed to pass to Artsiom Prakapenka 35 kilograms of foodstuffs including 5 kilos of fruit. Anatol Prakapenka said that the status of “malignant violator of the prison regime” still wasn't removed from his son. Artsiom Prakapenka has applied for education as a mason, but the decision hasn't been taken yet.
On 23 August political prisoner Mikalai Dziadok, serving his sentence in the Mahiliou prison, turned 25 years old. This is already third birthday he has to celebrate in prison.
On 30 August a trial was held in the Ivatsevichy penitentiary, which ruled that six-month preventive supervision would be established over political prisoner Aliaksandr Frantskevich for six months after his release from jail. This was stated by his mother Tatsiana Frantskevich who was present at the trial together with his counsel.
On 16 August Ihar Pastnou, who strongly criticized shortcomings in Vitsebsk health care system while working as a psychiatrist in the regional psychiatric hospital, was placed in the closed department of this institution “with the consent of the prosecutor" right during his working hours. This took place after the statement of the deputy chief physician on ideology that Pastnou's behavior was "unethical". Before this, Ihar Pastnou had received threats of psychiatric treatment – following his appearance on the TV channel "Belsat" with criticism of the head of the executive committee Aliaksandr Kosinets (who also used to be a medic before taking this position). However, at that time it was just threats: Pastnou was a certified specialist in this sphere and was sure that these threats would not be fulfilled. On 21 August 21 Tatsiana Dzehtsiarova, Judge of the Vitsebsk District Court, authorized the forced psychiatric treatment of Ihar Pastnou at a closed court session. Mr. Pastnou wasn't brought to the trial, which is usually practiced only in complex clinical situations when a sick person can harm others. His lawyer wasn't invited to the trial either and wasn't allowed to visit his client at the psychiatric hospital on 22 August. On 30 August the lawyer filed a cassation appeal to the Vitsebsk District Court against the forced psychiatric treatment of Ihar Pastnou. The Human Rights Center "Viasna" and the Belarusian Helsinki Committee issued a joint statement in which they called on the authorities to immediately release Ihar Pastnou from the psychiatric hospital and to review the decision on his forced hospitalization in an open trial with keeping to the established procedures and principles of fair trial. The statement said: "It is clear that the violation of the rights of Ihar Pastnou to a fair trial resulted in a violation of his right to personal security. Such actions are, among other things, a violation of the guarantee of freedom of opinion and freedom of expression".
"Amnesty International" declared its readiness to recognize Ihar Pastnou a prisoner of conscience. “The detention of Ihar Pastnou could be groundless because of the lawful criticism of the health care system in the Vitsebsk region, expressed by him. If this is the case, "Amnesty International" will consider him a prisoner of conscience", says the statement of the international human rights organization.
On 26 August the Civil Division of the Minsk City Court dismissed the private appeal of Liubou Kavaliova and Tatsiana Kaziar, the relatives of the death convict Uladzislau Kavaliou, found guilty of a terrorist attack in the Minsk metro. Judge Aksana Budouskaya agreed with the conclusions of the Kastrychnitski District Court of Minsk that the consideration of the appeal was beyond the jurisdiction of the general courts of Belarus. Kavaliou's relatives appealed the refusal to bring a civil case concerning the refusal of the state to inform them about the place of burial of their son. According to the lawyer of Kavaliova and Kaziar, Sergey Golubok, the constitutional right to court defense was violated in this case. The lawyer also stated that the Belarusian courts again confirmed their reluctance to implement the decision of the UN Human Rights Committee. The only positive moment at the trial was that the Russian lawyer Sergey Golubok was allowed to represent the interests of Kavaliou's relatives. As stated by the lawyer, a review appeal will be filed against the court ruling and measures will be taken at the international level in order to achieve the implementation of the decision of the Human Rights Committee which found that the right of life was violated in respect of Uladzislau, as well as the right of Liubou Kavaliova and Tatsiana Kaziar to receive information about the place of his burial.
The use of torture and other cruel and inhuman treatment
August the human rights institution "Platform" spread
information about the death of the 21-year-old Minsk resident Ihar
Ptsichkin in the remand prison No. 1 in Minsk. On 15 May 2013 Mr.
Ptsichkin was sentenced to three months in jail for committing a
crime under Article 417 of the Criminal Code ("non-implementation
of the court decision on deprivation of the right to occupy certain
positions or engage in certain activities”). At 5 p.m. on 30 July
Ihar came to the Zavadski District Police Department of Minsk to
start serving his sentence. That was the last time they saw Ihar
alive. The employee of prison No. 1 who told the mother the terrible
truth also announced the cause of death – a heart attack. The head
of the prison Vikentsi Varykash accused the deceased of using drugs ,
alcohol and smoking mixtures, which, in his opinion, resulted in the
death of Ihar Ptsichkin. The head of the medical unit Pakhanovich
announced yet another version of the death of Ihar Ptsichkin: sudden
inappropriate behavior, as a result of which the prison guards had to
restrain his movements, but the death was due to unknown reasons.
Without the permission of the mother, the body of Ihar Ptsichkin was
sent to the morgue and autopsy was done. Later, during
identification, the relatives saw numerous bruises and wounds on the
body of I. Ptsichkin. Broken ribs were visible to the naked eye, as
well as traces of handcuffs and open wounds.
Harassment of human rights defenders and human rights organizations
On 4 August a social activist Dyiana Burakova was detained during an action of solidarity with the imprisoned human rights defender Ales Bialiatski. She was kept at the police station for about an hour and was released after a report of administrative detention was drawn up.
On 5 August human rights activists Tatsiana Reviaka and Uladzimir Labkovich were detained while handing out leaflets with information about the imprisoned human rights defender Ales Bialiatski. They were taken to the Savetski District Police Department of Minsk and received charges under Article 23.34 of the Administrative Code ("violation of the procedure for organizing and holding mass events"). The same day, the human rights activists were taken to the Savetski District Court of Minsk. The case of Uladzimir Labkovich was considered by Judge Dzmitry Pauliuchenka, and the case of Tatsiana Reviaka – by Judge Maryna Fiodarava. The violation reports, drawn up on the human rights defenders, were sent back to the Savetski DPD for completion. On 6 August the judges found U. Labkovich and T. Reviaka guilty and fined each of them 3 million rubles. On 27 August the Minsk City Court considered the cassation appeal of Tatsiana Reviaka. Judge Aliaksei Bychko upheld the verdict of the Savetski District Court. On 30 August the judge of the Minsk City Court Valery Kamisarau reversed the verdict of the Savetski District Court to fine Uladzimir Labkovich and sent the case to the district court for reconsideration by another judge, noting that there were many inaccuracies and there was no "comprehensive, complete and objective examination and evaluation of the circumstances of the case".
On 12 August unknown assailants broke into the mailbox of the Committee for the Protection of the repressed "Solidarity", email@example.com, and sent mails on behalf of the chairperson of the organization, Ina Kulei, in which it was stated that she had allegedly lost her money and documents in Spain and asked to send her 2.900 Euros to a certain account. “Solidarity” disproved the distributed information and asked the receivers to check verity of the information received from the mail address firstname.lastname@example.org from now on.
As it became known on 16 August, in July the officer of the Dziarzhynsk District Police Department Vital Klimasheuski filed an appeal for bringing a criminal case under articles 179 (illegal gathering or distribution of information about private life) and 188 (defamation) of the Criminal Code against the author of the article about the tortures at the Dziarzhynsk District Police Department, published at the website of the human rights institution “Platform”. Klimasheuski's appeal was rejected after the preliminary study of the case on its merrits, after which he applied for bringing author responsible under Art. 9.2 (defamation) of the Code of Administrative Offences. On 19 August the Partyzanski District Court of Minsk was to hold a trial over the deputy head of the “Platform” Alena Krasouskaya-Kaspiarovich, but was postponed to an unknown time due to the absence of the case materials. The case concerned the beating of two youngsters, Viktar Hanchar and Siarhei Khachaturan, by the police officers Dzmitry Kastsevich and Vital Klimasheuski.
On 16 August Deputy Chairman of the Human Rights Project "GayBelarus" Maksim Dzmitryieu was summoned as a witness to the Office for Drug Control and Combating Trafficking in Human Beings of the criminal police of the MIA. The case was not indicated in the summons. A representative of the Belarusian Helsinki Committee Natallia Mankouskaya came there with him. The “conversation" with the LGBT activists was held by a senior security officer Pavel Hramuzau, the deputy head of the Second Division of the Office for Drug Control and Combating Trafficking in Human Beings of the Ministry of Internal Affairs of Belarus, police colonel Uladzimir Yemialyanau and a man in civilian clothes, who flatly refused to introduce himself, but whom P. Hramuzau called “Dzima”. As noted by the activists, it was a talk, not a questioning of a witness. No reports were composed. The talk concerned the project “GayBelarus”, its plans and current activities. Maksim Dzmitryieu refused to answer all these questions, referring to Article 27 of the Constitution of the Republic of Belarus. The police officer reminded that activities on behalf of unregistered organizations were punishable by the law. After this they started asking questions about the head of the organization, Siarhei Androsenka. “Siarhei has gone away, and we advise you to do the same,” told the activists the man in civvies. They were also advised not to cover LGBT events and not to draw attention to them. The talk lasted for about an hour.
Pressurization of politically active citizens by security services
On 26 August the Mahiliou Regional Court considered the appeal of an activist of the party "Belarusian Christian Democracy" Aleh Aksionau against the preventive supervision, imposed on him by the KGB, as well as the anti-constitutional nature of Article 193.1 of the Criminal Code, "Activity on behalf of an unregistered organization”. The court turned down all his claims. Aleh Aksionau has been subjected to preventive supervision for over a year. In Mahiliou, preventive supervision has also been established over another BCD activist, Tatsiana Shambalava, and the leader of the Mahiliou regional organization of the Belarusian Popular Front “Adradzhenne” Zmitser Salauyou.
Administrative prosecution of political activists, arbitrary detention
On 1 August the judge of the Baranavichy City and District Court Katsiaryna Hruda sentenced the head of the Baranavichy branch of the Belarusian Language Society, activist of the movement "For Freedom" Viktar Syrytsa to a fine of 2 million rubles. The activist was accused of violating Article 23.34 of the Code of Administrative Offenses by organizing and conducting an unauthorized event on 2 June to mark the 150th anniversary of the Milavidy Battle held by Kalinouski's rebels. Katsiaryna Hruda ignored the words of the witness, Major Kuliashou, that the event was canceled by the city authorities without notifying the press, which means that the people who wanted to take part in it weren't informed about it. When the people came to the upcoming festival and waited 30 minutes for the event, neither the police nor the head of the ideology department of the Baranavichy City Executive Committee came to warn them about the cancellation of the festival.
On 2 August the traffic police took explanations from the “Zmena” activist Pavel Vinahradau regarding the placement of the photos of a white-red-white flag, attached to a train, in the social networks. On 27 July Pavel Vinahradau posted the photos on Facebook and wrote: "Today activists of “Zmena” have decided to hold a rally in honor of the proclamation of the independence of the Belarusian Soviet Socialist Republic. At the station near the Minsk Sea they attached to a train a 4-meter white-red-white flag. The train successfully arrived in Minsk together with the attached flag." The silhouettes of the activists were blurred with the use of Photoshop. The activist came to the traffic department with a large bag with the necessary things, being ready for arrest, but was only made to give explanations.
An action of National-Bolsheviks against the conscription slavery was held in the evening of 6 August. They attached a banner with the inscription “Down with the Army of Slaves!” to the fence of the Ministry of Defense and scattered leaflets explaining the negative aspects of the formation of the army on the basis of conscription and advantages of a voluntary army for the defense and the economy. In the morning of 8 August the police detained the protesters, Ales Hulevich, Ales Paliakou, Yauhen Kontush and Dzmitry Paliyenka, and took them to the Tsentralny District Police Department of Minsk. Ales Paliakou was released somewhat later, being under age. Other activists were charged under Article 23.34 of the Administrative Code ("violation of the procedure for organizing and holding mass events") . In the afternoon, the detainees were taken to the Tsentralny District Court of Minsk. Judge Aliaksandr Yakunchykhin sent the violation report against Dzmitry Paliyenka for revising and released him. Judge Viktoryia Shabunia sent the report against Yauhen Kontush back to the Tsentralny DPD, and fined Aliaksandr Hulevich 1 million rubles. On 22 August Judge Yakunchykhin fined Dzmitry Paliyenka 1.2 million rubles, and Judge Shabunia fined Yauhen Kontush the same sum of money.
On 8 August the Mahiliou member of the United Civil Party of Mikalai Hladyshau, who held a one-man picket on 4 July against the intention of the Russian Federation to place an airbase on the territory of Belarus, received a summons to appear in the Leninski District Court of Minsk as an offender on 15 August. According to the police report , Hladyshau was charged with violating the law on mass events. On 15 August the Leninski District Court fined Mikalai Hladyshau 1million rubles.
On 10 August National-Bolsheviks were detained while holding a sportive field training near the Voukavichy water reservoir in the Minsk district. 12 youngsters were detained with the use of force and tear gas. No sooner had the activists spread out the tents as their camp was surrounded by six cars, from which sprang men in police uniform and in civilian clothes. They did not introduce themselves and put all those present on the ground face down using physical force. In doing so, they used tear gas towards Dzianis Sakhar and minor Aliaksandr Paliakou. After this the police searched the backpacks of the detainees. The police and KGB officers used only foul language, threats and intimidation. All detainees were taken to the Zhdanovichy District Police Department and charged with “drinking alcohol in public”, though the detention was conducted in the deep woods and the participants of the hike didn't drink alcohol, as it was a sports event. The deputy head of the police department Piatkevich immediately issued rulings for fining the event participants 100,000-800,000 rubles. Dzianis Sakhar was accused of disobeying the legal demands of a duty official (Article 23.4 of the Code of Administrative Offenses) and taken to the remand prison of the Minsk district to await the trial.
On 12 August Judge of the Minsk District Court Andrei Bialila started the consideration of the administrative case of Dzianis Sakhar. The activist filed a petition for questioning witnesses in his favor, as well as the police. The judge granted the motion and the trial was postponed to 26 August. However, not all witnesses came to the court on that day, that's why the proceedings were postponed to 4 September.
In the morning on 24 August the police broke into the office of "Tell the Truth" in Minsk, where classes were held for its regional activists. The police initially blocked the door of the office, preventing anyone from going out, then about 30 people were put into paddy wagons and taken to the Kastrychnitski District Police Department of Minsk. The detainees were kept at the police station for more than three hours, and then were released. In the office, the police seized printed materials related to the "People's referendum".
On 26 August the Baranavichy City and District Court considered an administrative case against social activist and entrepreneur Mikalai Charnavus, whom police major Dzmitry Mizger charged under part 3 of Article 23.34 (organizing and carrying out unauthorized mass events) during the rallies of Baranavichy entrepreneurs on 27 June and 1 July 2013. The head of the department of ideological work, culture and youth affairs of the Baranavichy City Executive Committee Tatsiana Chylik told the court that it was Mikalai Charnavus who had organized the unauthorized events of the entrepreneurs. The same thought was expressed by the head of the Baranavichy Cooperative Market Vital Rakhmedzhanau. Mikalai Charnavus pleaded not guilty arguing that these assemblies were spontaneous. The court did not recognize Mikalai Charnavus guilty of organizing the unauthorized protests of entrepreneurs, but found him an active participant and fined him 2.1 million rubles.
On 27 August the Mahiliou activist of the United Civil Party Mikalai Hladyshau held a one-man picket against the placement of the Russian military bases in Minsk. He unfolded the banner: "No to foreign military bases! Russian military go home!" After 15 minutes he was detained by the police. The same day, the Tsentralny District Court of Minsk sentenced M. Hladyshau to ten days of administrative arrest on charges of violating the order of organizing and holding mass events (Article 23.34 of the Administrative Code). The verdict was delivered by Judge Viktoryia Shabunia.
On 28 August Judge of the Pershamaiski District Court of Minsk Siarhei Bandarenka considered an administrative case against the former political prisoner Uladzimir Yaromenak concerning the violation of the rules of preventive supervision (part 2 of Article 24.12 of the Administrative Code). The judge found the activist guilty and fined him 1 million rubles.
On 29 August in Minsk a former activist of the “Young Front” Mikalai Dzemidzenka was detained before the press conference of political prisoner Dzmitry Dashkevich on his release from prison. The Tsentralny District Court found him guilty under Article 23.4 of the Administrative Code (disobedience to lawful demands of the police) and sentenced him to 12 days in jail.
Restrictions on freedom of speech and the right to disseminate information, harassment of journalists
On 2 August Vitsebsk journalists Siarhei Serabro and Alena Stsiapanava received the same letter with the title "Know where your long tongue can bring”. An anonymous author, who subsribed as Yauhen Mishakou, criticized the informational policy of Radio “Liberty and “BelaPAN” and insulted the independent journalists. According to Alena Stsiapanava, the signature is most probably fictional and the e-mail address was registered just for one-time use. When the journalist asked Yauhen Mishakou whether he confused something, he didn't reply. The letter contained obvious threats that the journalists could be imprisoned for their "long tongues". In the last paragraph of the letter the freelance journalists were also "reminded" of the existence of the Law "On the fundamentals of activities for crime prevention", as well as articles of the Criminal Code, "Discrediting the Republic of Belarus" and "calls to action to the detriment of the external security of the Republic of Belarus, its sovereignty, territorial integrity, national security and defense".
On 13 August Ruslan Mirzoyeu, the author of the videos "Chronicles of the plant" about the Minsk Automobile Plant, was sentenced to seven days in jail . Law enforcement agencies inquired whether the information in these videos, shot in the suburb of Kurasoushchyna, was real, to which he responded that it was all staged. As a result, the court found him guilty of using foul language, as it sounded in the videos. The verdict was delivered by Judge Ala Bulash.
On 13 August the police detained pensioner Andrei Andreyeu in a multi-stored building while he was distributing leaflets about the “People's Referendum”. He was charged with violating Article 22.9 of the Administrative Code. The leaflets were confiscated while the violation report was drawn up at the Kastrychnitski DPD, and the case materials were passed to the Kastrychnitski District Court of Vitsebsk.
On 14 August the leader of the United Civil Party Anatol Liabedzka and his colleague Viktar Buzinayeu were detained near the entrance of the "Belshyna" plant for distributing the newsletter "Holas Rozumu". The detainees received summons to come to the police on 20 August. On that day, police major Siarhei Rudzko told the head of the Babruisk UCP branch Viktar Buzinayeu that he would be charged with a violation of the Law “On Mass Media”. However, the violation report wasn't drawn up. Anatol Liabedzka refused to come to the meeting with major Rudzko.
On 17 August the police came to a Svetlahorsk blogger Henadz Zhuleha, searched his apartment and confiscated his computer. The actions of the police were connected to the publication of a video in the social networks about the house of the head of the Svetlahorsk District Executive Committee. The video was reposted by several news websites. H. Zhuleha repeatedly shot videos about the life in the city and the social issues in it. “I shot the house of the head of the executive committee on video, I don't deny it. The authorities answer all questions about the unsolved issues that there is no money. By this video I showed that they have the money, but it is spent on the construction of houses for the bosses, not the solution to the problems of citizens," said the blogger. The police officers explained the blogger that the wife of the head of the executive committee applied to them as by this defamatory video he insulted the honor and dignity of her family, that's why she asked to bring him to the legal account. The police told Henadz Zhuleha that his computer would be scanned, after which the question of bringing him to justice would be decided.
On 19 August a press-conference of the administration of “Belaruskali” was held, but not all journalists were allowed to attend it. On 16 August, when a correspondent of Radio "Liberty" tried to get accredited for the press-conference, Deputy Director for Personnel and ideological work of "Belkali" Anatol Makhlai replied that he must consult with the Director General Valery Kiryienka and asked to call in the morning of 19 August. However, Director General refused to accredit the correspondent of Radio “Liberty”, saying that the radio was not credible and therefore the presence of a journalist was undesirable.
On 20 August the correspondent of “BelaPAN” Ales Asiptsou was detained near the entrance to the factory "Mahilioukhimvalakno" while holding a survey about the size of salaries at the enterprise. The factory guards disliked it and tried to detain him. The journalist was told that the area was owned by the enterprise and he needed the agreement of its administration to stay there. The security called the police, who took a written explanation from the journalist, after which he was released.
At about 4.30 p.m. the videographer of the “BelaPAN” Vasil Siamashka was detained near the Kastrychnitski District Police Department of Minsk while taking a video of the activists of “Tell the Truth!” who were coming out of the building. The journalist was kept at the police for about an hour. His videoshots, including an interview with the deputy head of the civil campaign “Tell the Truth!” Andrei Dzmitryieu, was erased. According to V. Siamashka, the policemen explained the need to erase the video by saying that it was shot against the background of the Kastrychnitski DPD. No charges were given to the journalist.
On 28 August independent journalist Uladzimir Zhyhulou received a summons to the prosecutor's office for 3 September. He phoned to the telephone number indicated in the summons, but the officers of the prosecutor's office refused to explain the exact reason why he was summonsed there, whereas in the summons it was written as “for explanations on the issue of violation of the Law “On Mass Media”. Uladzimir Zhyhulou must come to the prosecutor of the department of supervision over the implementation of the legislation and legality of legal acts P. Zaitsau.
Restriction of freedom of assembly
On 1 August Mahiliou human rights defenders Barys Bukhel and Aliaksei Kolchyn were denied a picket calling for the release of Ales Bialiatski, which they intended to hold on 4 August in the city center. The response was signed by the Chancellor of the Mahiliou Regional Executive Committee Ihar Auseyenka. The letter says that the city has a definite place for mass events, located on the outskirts, at the stadium “Khimik” near the 64c in Chelyuskintsy Street, and mass events must be held there, not in the center of the city. On 19 August B. Bukhel and A. Kolchyn filed an appeal to the Kastrychnitski District Court of Mahiliou against the decision to ban the picket.
On 1 August Brest representatives of the Human Rights Center "Viasna" were prohibited to hold a rally in support of political prisoner Ales Bialiatski. The application for the organization of the event was filed by Uladzimir Vialichkin. In their refusal the officials refer to violations of the law "On Mass Events", drawing attention to the lack of service contracts with public services. Human rights activist Uladzimir Malei believes that the picket ban is legally void as far as the constitutional right to freedom of expression and peaceful assembly is violated by it.
On 1 August the applicants for a picket of solidarity with political prisoners in Rechytsa, V. Putsitski and A. Shabetnik, received a denial signed by the first deputy head of the executive committee V. Atamanchuk. The picket of solidarity was ordered on 4 August near the House of Culture. The letter from the executive committee says that there is a definite place for mass events in the city, the asphalt ground in the park of culture and rest “Peramoha”.
On 2 August Homel representatives of the Belarusian Party "Fair World" were prohibited to hold a picket scheduled for 6 August with the aim of promoting and presenting to the public the party's ideas. They intended to hold their event in the officially permitted place, the ground near the Culture House of the Deaf “Vipro”. The head of the regional branch of the party Uladzimir Siakerka entered into service agreements with community services and ambulance. However, the deputy head of the executive committee Aksana Rudzianok answered the applicants that “according to the work plan for the organization of the festival "Sozhski Karahod” (“Sozh Roundelay”), a rehearsal of dance teams would take place at the ground at the time of the picket, that's why it was impossible to authorize the picket. The festival “Sozhski Karahod” will take place in Homel on 14-15 September.
On 2 August the Babruisk applicants for a picket of solidarity with Ales Bialiatski and all political prisoners received an official response that the event was not permitted. The letter signed by the deputy chairman of the executive committee Viktar Dziasiatnik indicated several reasons for the refusal. The officer wrote that the applicants did not specify the kind of mass event they intended to hold. “The notions used in Article 2 of the Law, don't include the notion of "picket", which does not allow to clearly define the kind of public event you applied for," says the letter. Mr. Dziasiatnik also noted that the applicants were asked to indicate the measures they intended to take to ensure their safety, health service and clean-up of the territory in order to settle the order of payment for these services. The letter states that information about a mass event cannot be distributed before its authorization, whereas such information was published at the website “Babruiski Kuryer". At the end of the letter, the applicants are traditionally warned about the responsibility in case of participation in an unsanctioned event.
On 3 August Hrodna human rights defenders weren't allowed to hold a picket on 4 August in support of the imprisoned head of the Human Rights Center “Viasna” Ales Bialiatski. An appropriate letter from Hrodna City Executive Committee was mailed to human rights defender Uladzimir Khilmanovich. Thus, the applicants learned about the ban on their picket the day before its date. The decision of the Hrodna City Executive Committee is signed by the deputy head, Z. Kulesha, and is dated 1 August. Meanwhile, the law requires local authorities to report their decision about permitting or prohibiting mass events not later than 5 days prior to the planned date of the event. The refusal of the executive committee to prohibit the applicants holding the picket is explained by the fact that they did not submit "service contracts for securing the public order, health care and cleanup of the territory". In the evening of 2 August a police officer came to the apartment of Raman Yurhel and warned him about the administrative responsibility for holding an unauthorized event. It's quite interesting that the policeman didn't have the picket ban at his disposal. Human rights activist Viktar Sazonau received the picket ban by mail only on 6 August.
As it became known on 8 August, Zhlobin District Executive Committee didn't authorize two pickets which members of the “Fair World” intended to hold on 9 and 10 August. The corresponding letters, signed by the chairman of the district Executive Committee Henadz Suzdaleu, were received by the head of Zhlobin district branch of “Fair World” Valery Rybchanka. Both pickets were planned in the park "Prydniaprouski". The first one was dedicated to the problem faced by the Free Trade Union of Metalworkers: the Ministry of Justice refused to return the union its seal and documents. Rybchanka and his supporters were going to draw the attention of the people of Zhlobin to this situation, but the chairman of the executive committee stated that the applicants did not attach to their applications the service contracts with the police, ambulance and street cleaners, required by the legislation. Another picket, scheduled for 10 August, was aimed at reporting the party's ideas and vision on the challenges facing Zhlobin. It was prohibited under the pretext that some festivities dedicated to the Day of the Builder would be hold in the park at that time.
As it became known on 8 August, Svetlahorsk District Executive Committee refused to authorize a picket of members of the party “Fair World” which they intended to hold in the recreation park on 10 August. The head of Svetlahorsk district branch of “Fair World” Siarhei Daineka said that the picket was declared in order to attract attention of residents of Svetlahorsk to the party ideas and solve one of the major problems of the city – the state of the recreation park. As it is said in a letter signed by the deputy chairman of the executive committee Miarkulau, in this day and this time, 11 a.m. - 2 p.m., the cultural and sporting event "Youth. Health. Way of life" would be held in the recreation park.
As it became known on 8 August, the authorities banned a picket of the Free Trade Union of Metalworkers (FTUMW), which was scheduled for 9 August, in the place determined by the executive committee. Trade union activists intended to protest against the fact that the Ministry of Justice delayed the issue of the seal and Charter of the trade union to its leader, Aliaksandr Bukhvostau. The local authorities explained their refusal by saying that the police would be unable to protect law and order during the mass event.
On 11 August Brest City Executive Committee prohibited the local activists of the civil campaign "Tell the truth!" to hold a picket aimed at drawing attention to the lack of roads in the neighborhood Paudniovy. As stated by Ihar Maslouski, the activists intended to protest against the disregard by the authorities of the the requirements set out in a collective appeal (signed by 1,100 people). They intended to hold their picket on 12 August near the “Euraopt” shop close to the problem territory. However, the authorities banned the event saying that holding such events was not provided for in such a place. According to Mr. Maslouski, "there is no sense in raizing the issues of residents of the neighborhood Paudniovy in other places of the city, where the holding of such actions is permitted”.
On 12 August the head of the Mahiliou regional organization of the United Civil Party Uladzimir Shantsau received a response from the Mahiliou Regional Executive Committee, in which the authorities prohibited him to hold a rally and a procession on 18 August in the authorized place – the stadium “Khimik”, to protest against the deployment on the territory of Belarus of a Russian airbase.
On 16 August social activist Uladzimir Shyla applied to the Constitutional Court. He considers it necessary to change the law-enforcement practice of the executive authorities and courts of general jurisdiction due to the constant prohibitions of mass events. Just last year, the activist received 37 bans. As is known, the citizens of Belarus do not have the power to apply to the Constitutional Court directly, but nothing prevents the court from expressing its opinion concerning the appeals of citizens, said Uladzimir Shyla. The activist also wrote in his appeal to the Constitutional Court that it could propose the courts of general jurisdiction to be guided by the priority of articles of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the constitutional right to peaceful assembly and to freedom of expression while considering the disputes concerning the bans on holding mass events. In order to address the issue more effectively, Uladzimir Shyla considered as a necessary step for the Constitutional Court to propose the National Assembly to amend the law "On mass events".
On 17 August Khrystafor Zhaliapau, the coordinator of the Movement "For Freedom" in the Vitsebsk region, received a response to a joint letter from the Deputy Chairman of the Executive Committee A. Dziulin. More than 40 local residents asked the Executive Committee to reverse the decision about the procedure of organizing mass events on how to conduct mass actions. The officials of the executive committee refused to do it. Vitsebsk activists have been trying to get permission to hold public events for more than three years, but the district executive committees didn't authorize them, referring to the ruling of the Vitebsk Regional Executive Committee, which is impossible to implement in practice. Thus, according to a decision of the city authorities, the organizers must submit copies of contracts for serving their event together with the application for its authorization. However, the police, ambulance and street cleaners refuse to enter into such contracts for various reasons. A couple of times the applicants were told directly that the contracts wouldn't be signed until the authorization of the events by the authorities. In A. Dziulin's response it is written that the activists received all earlier refusals for legal reasons and that the decision of the executive committee was also completely legitimate.
On 19 August a social activist from the Klimavichy district Aliaksandr Balobin received a response from the local executive committee to his application for holding a picket of solidarity with the Belarusian political prisoners. As it is stated in the answer, signed by the Deputy Chairman of the Executive Committee A. Lamanau, the Klimavichy District Executive Committee considered the application for holding a picket at the central market on 23 August 2013. "The Central Market is in private ownership, that's why you need to receive a written permission from the head of the private unitary “Klimavichy central market" A. Davydau to hold the mass event there".
As it became known on 26 August, the UN Human Rights Committee recognized a violation of the rights of the inhabitants of Brest Iryna Laurouskaya Dzianis Turchaniak, Valery Faminski and Raman Kisliak to freedom of expression and freedom of peaceful assembly. The reason for the appeal to the Human Rights Committee was that the local authorities had banned pickets on various issues related to the installation of the monument to the 1000th anniversary of Brest. The events were banned with the explanation that only one place was determined for picketing in Brest, the stadium "Locomotive”, whereas the activists intended to hold their action on Gogol Street, near the place where the monument was to be erected. The attempts to appeal the actions of the Belarusian authorities in Brest courts gave no results, and at the end of 2009 an appeal was filed to the UN Human Rights Committee.
Restriction of freedom of association
On 7 August the Supreme Court rejects an appeal of the campaign " Tell the Truth!" against the refusal of the Ministry of Justice to register the public association. The corresponding decision was voiced by Judge Valiantsina Kulik. The Ministry of Justice explained the registration denial with two “irremediable” violations, one of which was the outdated guarantee letter to provide a legal address to the NGO. However, according to representatives of "Tell the Truth", at the time of the application to the Ministry (8 May), the letter was valid, as its validity period ended on 31 May, whereas the Ministry of Justice delayed its answer until this time, and then said that the NGO had no legal address. The other “violation” quoted by the Ministry was that the number of members of the organization council wasn't specified in the registration documents, whereas in reality this number was five persons, whose surnames were mentioned. The constituent assembly of “Tell the Truth!” was held in Minsk on 13 April and was attended by about 60 delegates from Minsk and the Belarusian regions. Uladzimir Niakliayeu was elected the chairman of the organization, and Andrei Dzmitryieu – his deputy. This was the third attempt of the civil campaign "Tell the Truth!" to pass official registration.
On 21 August the Supreme Court turned down the appeal against the refusal of the Ministry of Justice to register the youth NGO "Young Democrats". This decision was passed by Judge Ihar Milto. According to the Ministry of Justice, “numerous violations” were discovered in the course of verification of the submitted documents for registration of the association. Thus, the list of founders does not contain all information required by the law. In addition, after checking the information about the persons in the list, the Ministry of Justice found that information about a number of the organization founders was inaccurate, as a result of which the list was declared invalid. It is not the first attempt of the official registration of the "Young Democrats". The previous constituent assembly was held on 29 January 2011. That time the Ministry of Justice also refused to register the organization, arguing that "the main provisions of the statute of the NGO "Young Democrats" do not meet the requirements of the law, and the very name of the organization is contrary to its statute".
On 21 August the main department of justice of the Brest Regional Executive Committee refused to register the public association “Brest Christian Democrats”. As it follows from the reply signed by the deputy head of the main department of justice of the Brest Regional Executive Committee Larysa Balandzina, the reason for the denial is that the organization name in the Belarusian and the Russian langugages is different: “Berastseiskiya Khrystsiyanskiya Demakraty” vs. “Brestskiye Khristianskiye Demokraty”. She also wrote that the founders of the organization were to ask the consent of the registrating authority to the use of the abbreviation PA “BCD”. Moreover, the official of the regional executive committee points that "the name of the association does not contain information about the nature of the association activities”, which allegedly violates Article 12 of the Republic of Belarus "On Public Associations". No other pretensions were posed by the Department of Justice of the Brest Regional Executive Committee, but these ones were declared “irremediable”, as a result of which the organization was denied registration.