Review-Chronicle of Human Rights Violations in September 2013
In September, there was no positive dynamics in the field of human rights, the situation remained stably poor, being accompanied with a further conservation of the negative trends that have evolved over the past months.
The release of the political prisoner Aliaksandr Frantskevich was a positive development. However, it was not as a result of conceptual changes in the approach of the authorities to the issue of political prisoners, but was due to the end of his prison term, and therefore can not be regarded as a positive sign in this respect. After the release from jail, a six-month preventive supervision was established over A. Frantskevich. The appropriate ruling was taken by the court back during his stay in the penitentiary, in line with the existing practice of control over political prisoners and their activity after serving their sentences. This form of control severely limits the rights of former political prisoners and creates the possibility of bringing them to justice, including criminal prosecution in the case of violations of the rules of supervision. The reality of this threat is witnessed by the arrest of the former political prisoners Vasil Parfiankou (6 months in 2012-2013) and Uladzimir Yaromenak (sentenced to 3 months of arrest in August 2013). Apart from Frantskevich, in September preventive supervision was used towards three other former political prisoners – Uladzimir Yaromenak, (the court verdict sentencing him to arrest has not yet entered into force), Dzmitry Dashkevich and Pavel Vinahradau.
By the end of September, ten political prisoners were still kept in jail: Ihar Alinevich, Mikalai Autukhovich, Ales Bialiatski, Mikalai Dziadok, Andrei Haidukou, Eduard Lobau, Artsiom Prakapenka, Pavel Seviarynets, Mikalai Statkevich and Yauhen Vaskovich. The lack of political will of the Belarusian authorities to solve the problem of political prisoners left less optimism for their early release. The Belarusian authorities haven't taken any real steps for it either on their own initiative or to implement the requirements of the European Union, which still set forth the release of political prisoners as a prerequisite for the resumption of dialogue with the official Minsk.
It should be noted that in September, the trend of extending the scope of contacts with the Belarusian side on the part of the EU continued. Thus, in the middle of September the Minister of Foreign Affairs Uladzimir Makei took part in a meeting of the heads of Foreign Ministries of the countries of the Eastern Partnership in Yerevan in the third round of an informal ministerial dialogue. The Deputy Foreign Minister of Belarus Alena Kupchyna maintained active contacts with the ambassadors of European countries and their Western colleagues. However, these active steps haven't brought positive changes so far.
An understanding of the complexity of the human rights situation in the country was reflected in the report prepared by the European Parliament's rapporteur on Belarus Justas Paleckis to the European Commission, the EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, the Council of the EU and EU member states, which was presented on 11 September in Strasbourg. Ju. Paletskis noted that the human rights situation in Belarus continues to be severe. The European Commissioner for Enlargement and Neighborhood Stefan Fule , who spoke on behalf of the EU High Representative for the Common Foreign and Security Policy, said that the report's recommendations "will help in deciding how to find a way out of the difficult situation in the neighboring country". He said that the EU was ready to fully cooperate with Minsk provided that "all political prisoners are released and rehabilitated, while Belarus will demonstrate progress in the field of human rights". Fule also said that after the appointment of Uladzimir Makei to the position of Minister of Foreign Affairs the Belarusian authorities made a number of attempts to normalize relations with the EU.
The head of the Department for Russia, Eastern Partnership, Central Asia, Regional Cooperation and the OSCE of the European External Action Service, Gunnar Wiegand, stated about the "progressive establishment" of bilateral relations between Belarus and the EU as a result of his working visit to Belarus on 24-25 September. He called his visit a part of the European Union attempts to "get closer to Belarus within the framework of the Eastern Partnership", whose summit was appointed on the end of November in Vilnius: "We expect that Belarus will participate in the summit and will receive an invitation to it in the same format as other member states". G. Wiegand reiterated that "the release and rehabilitation of political prisoners still remains a "necessary and indispensable condition for the normalization of relations between Belarus and the European Union and the realization of their full potential".
An important step towards an unbiased assessment of the human rights situation in Belarus was the report of the Special Rapporteur, Miklos Haraszti, prepared for the 68th Session of the UN General Assembly and made public in mid-September. In the report, the Special Rapporteur focuses on the issue of human rights in the context of the electoral process in Belarus. He examines specific types of violations of human rights of a deliberate and systemic nature, due to which Belarus is the only country in Europe, whose parliament hasn't had any elected opposition members over the past decade. The Special Rapporteur made recommendations to improve the situation of human rights in Belarus in accordance with its international obligations.
Political prisoners, criminal prosecution of activists
On 3 September, after serving a three-year term of imprisonment in the Ivatsevichy penitentiary, the political prisoner Aliaksandr Frantskevich was released. He said that he constantly felt the pressure and spent the last five months of his term in a cell-type prison facility. A. Frantskevich noted that the prison food was rather poor – one could hardly survive without food parcels received from relatives, and the prisoners weren't given any fruit and vegetables except for carrots. Aliaksandr went to Navapolatsk, where he was assigned preventive supervision for six months, but did not rule out moving to Minsk, to be able to recover in a computer company, where he worked until his arrest.
On 3 September the expert committee, which examined the compilation of literary essays and sketches by Ales Bialiatski “Enlightened by the Belarusian Issue” on errand of the Ashmiany Customs Office, came to the conclusion that the book "could damage the image of the Republic of Belarus". 40 copies of the book were confiscated from the human rights activist Tatsiana Reviaka on the Belarusian-Lithuanian border checkpoint "Kamenny Loh" on 3 July 2013. The examination was conducted by the assistant professor of the history of Belarus of the Hrodna State University named after Yanka Kupala, Uladzimir Yahorychau, and the Head of the Department of Criminal Law and Criminology of the Faculty of Law at the same university, Vadzim Khiliuta. As it follows from the reference of the expert committee, the “experts” looked for "extremism" in Bialiatski's book. On 25 September 2013 the imprisoned head the Human Rights Center "Viasna" Ales Bialiatski celebrated his 51st birthday. This is already his third birthday in prison. On 30 September the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe awarded Ales Bialiatski with Vaclav Havel prize in the field of human rights. PACE President Jean-Claude Mignon congratulated Bialiatski's wife Natallia Pinchuk, who attended the ceremony, on winning this award.
On 4 September it was announced that the political prisoner Yauhen Vaskovich, sentenced to 7 years in prison for allegedly trying to set fire to the door of the Babruisk KGB office, was deprived of newspapers. His grandmother Tamara, who had not received any information from him for 1.5 months, learned about it from his letter.
On 5 September Valiantsina Alinevich, the mother of the political prisoner Ihar Alinevich, reported that she hadn't received any telephone calls or letters from her son for two weeks. At the same time, it was prohibited to send him parcels with books – only subscription to periodicals was allowed. These limitations were imposed by the head of the Navapolatsk penitentiary No. 10 where the political prisoner is serving his sentence. On 24 September Ihar Alinevich celebrated his 30th birthday. That day he was visited by his counsel. Immediately after the meeting with him, a duty officer came and said that Ihar was punished with solitary confinement for not coming to work that day. As a result, Ihar spent his birthday in the penal cell. The peculiarity of the situation is that Alinevich, as well as some other prisoners, was admitted to the Vocational School of Sewers, and the prisoners who study are freed from work. However, after he was released from the confinement cell, he was expelled from the school without any explanations. Moreover, after this he stopped receiving letters and newspapers.
On 9 September Maryna Adamovich, the wife of Mikalai Statkevich, reported about the continuing pressure on political prisoners in order to make them write pardon petitions for Lukashenka. In his letter M. Statkevich wrote that on 21 August, during the morning examination, a head of a department of Mahiliou prison told him that it was necessary for him to stop playing cops and robbers and make a decision, and M.Statkevich replied that he had made a decision long ago. In early September M. Statkevich was called to the infirmary on the initiative of the prison administration. However, he expressed his distrust to the prison health workers and refused to answer questions about his health, referring to a considerable deterioration of the state of his health after receiving medical assistance before that.
On 11 September the Shchuchyn District Police Department ruled to dismiss the criminal case against the believer-philanthropist Aliaksei Shchadrou, instigated under Article 193.1 of the Criminal Code (activity on behalf of unregistered organization). Mr. Shchadrou received the appropriate ruling on 24 September. The criminal case was dismissed with reference to paragraph 11 of Part 1 of Art. 29 of the Criminal Code of Procedure, according to which a case is subject to termination if there are grounds for excluding criminal responsibility under articles of the Special Part of the Criminal Code of the Republic of Belarus. Note to Article 193-1 of the Criminal Code states that a person who voluntarily stopped the actions provided for in this article and declared this to the authorities is exempt from criminal liability if his actions do not contain elements of another crime. During the recent months Aliaksei managed to register a private social institution "Believe in yourself" with the assistance of human rights organizations, and the decision to dismiss the case was taken with regard to the registration of this institution.
On 17 September Maryna Lobava, the mother of the political prisoner Eduard Lobau, said her son entered the vocational school of Ivatsevichy penitentiary No. 22 where he is serving his sentence. He is now studying for an electric welder and has classes every day except for weekends. E. Lobau will study ten months and then will receive a diploma, which will not indicate that it was received in the penitentiary. M. Lobava found about it from the telephone call of her son.
As it became known on 19 September, Mikalai Autukhovich, who is serving a prison sentence in prison No. 1 in Hrodna, inflicted himself an abdominal injury with a blade. The reason was the humiliating attitude of the administration to the convict. Mikalai Autukhovich has been receiving illegal disciplinary punishments just before the end of the term of action of the previous ones. This time, on 4 September Mikalai Autukhovich was told that on 27 August a prison guard drew up a violation report on him for violation of the internal regulations of the correctional institution. The reason was that after the lights-out on 27 August he had allegedly been out of his bunk, though the political prisoner keeps to all prison regulations. His prior punishments were to have expired in a month, but the prison administration is trying to keep Autukhovich in the status of a "violator of the detention regime". It also became known that M. Autukhovich was put in a punishment cell for unknown reasons. On 26 September M. Autukhovich was visited by his counsel, who reported that his health improved and he was transferred to a prison cell. The political prisoner appealed the penalty to theHrodna regional prosecutor, but on 24 September the prison administration declared him the answer of the prosecutor's office, according to which his complaint was forwarded to the Department of Corrections. After this, an additional complaint was filed to the Hrodna regional prosecutor.
On 23 September the case of the journalist Andrei Pachobut, sentenced to three years of imprisonment with a suspended sentence of two years for “defamation of President”, was considered at the Leninski District Court of Hrodna. The court decided to release the journalist from punishment due to the fact that he had not violated the law. The procedure of dismissal of the criminal case was held by Judge Yury Kazakevich.
As it became known on 25 September, the political prisoner Artsiom Prakapenka was deprived a of long-term visits with his parents, scheduled for December. The reasons for it remain unknown. Artsiom told it to his mother, Viyaleta Prakapenka, during a phone conversation.
On 12 September the Vitsebsk Regional Court considered an appeal against the decision of the Vitsebsk district court judge Tatsiana Dzehtsiarova, who authorized the compulsory psychiatric treatment of a psychiatrist of the regional psychiatric hospital, Ihar Pastnou. In August, Ihar Pastnou who castigated shortcomings in the Vitsebsk health care system was placed in an enclosed department of that very institution "with the consent of the prosecutor" just during his working hours. The appeal of Mr. Pastnou was considered in his absence in a closed trial: neither journalists and human rights activists, nor Ihar Pastnou's trustee and counsel were admitted to it. The trial was appointed urgently: the day before the trial the officers of the regional court stated they didn't have the case at their disposal, and after 4 p.m. the trial was appointed on 4 p.m. The cassation instance left the verdict of the Vitsebsk District Court unchanged. On 20 September Ihar Pastnou was transferred from the psychiatric hospital to a in-patient. He said that he was diagnosed with "paranoid personality disorder" and expressed concern that any independent action to protect his rights would be treated as an exacerbation of the disease. So he designed a power of attorney for the human rights activist Pyotr Ivanov, so that the latter could represent his interests and act on his behalf.
On 17 September the Supreme Court considered the review appeal of the 23-year-old death convict Pavel Seliun. In June, the death sentence to Mr. Seliun was issued by the Hrodna Regional Court, which found him guilty under four articles of the Criminal Code of the Republic of Belarus: Art. 139 Part 2, paragraphs 1 and 6 (the murder of two persons, with particular cruelty), Art. 205 Part 1 (theft), Art. 347 part 1 (desecration of corpses) and Art. 378 (theft of personal documents). The appeal was considered by the panel of judges of the Supreme Court under the chairmanship of the deputy head of the Supreme Court Valery Kalinkovich. The panel of judges ruled that the verdict was to be left in force. On the eve of the consideration of the case the convict's mother appealed to the Patriarchal Exarch of All Belarus Filaret with the request to apply to Aliaksandr Lukashenka so that her son was pardoned and the death verdict was abolished.
The use of torture and other cruel and inhuman treatment
On 5 September the resident of Svetlahorsk Valiantsina Akulich appealed the ruling of the Svetlahorsk District Department of the Investigative Committee about the refusal to open a criminal investigation into the death of her son, Aliaksandr Akulich, in the detention facility of the Svetlahorsk District Police Department in May 2012. The woman appealed the previous ruling and in July 2013 appealed the ruling at the district prosecutor's office and the district office of the Investigation Committee. In connection with this appeal, on 1 August the head of the Svetlahorsk District Department of the Investigation Committee Aliaksandr Prykalotsin reversed the decision not to institute criminal proceedings, dated 9 June 2013, and resumed the investigation examination. An additional medical examination was also appointed at the request of Valiantsina Akulich. On 27 September Valiantsina Akulich received the results of additional forensic examination. However, the question of whether there was a direct causal link between the death of her son in the detention center and untimely provided health care, remained unanswered. As far as the investigators unreasonably avoided the question of the timeliness of rendering medical aid by the police officers A. Bachko and R. Stseshankou to to the detainee who was in a morbid state, the mother of the deceased could not accept the refusal to institute criminal proceedings and asked to put some concrete questions to the requested additional examination. However, she didn't manage to obtain concrete answers to them. In connection with the conclusion of these experts, the woman set out her demands to the prosecutor: "So , I insist on a questioning of the experts in order to obtain clarification of their conclusion in view of my considerations. I am still interested in the question of when the treatment of my son was to have been started – when the symptoms of the illness manifested, or after the officers of the detention center beat and "crucified" him on a lattice with handcuffs, by what means it was to have been rendered – beating with a rubber truncheon or medication, and how the timely medical aid could change the course of the disease, including a proper diagnosis and medication.” The mother of the deceased also repeated to the prosecutor what was stated in the previous appeal against the refusal to institute criminal proceedings.
On 17 September Andrei Bandarenka, the head of the human rights institution "Platform Innovation”, which deals with human rights in prisons, said that the death of Ihar Ptsichkin, who died on 4 August in prison No. 1 in Minsk, could occur as a result of beating by the so-called reserve – an attendant group to quell the unrest. I. Ptsichkin felt bad and was calling for medical assistance for a long time, but received a refusal. He was supported by his cell-mates, and a mini-riot took place in the chamber. A police group was called, Ihar was led out of the cell, and continued beating him in the corridor. As it became known on 27 September, a criminal case under part 2 of Article 162 of the Criminal Code (improper performance of professional duties by medical personnel, which resulted in the death of a patient), was instigated against the medical assistant who was on duty in the night of Ihar Ptsichkin's death. The inquiry into the death of Ihar Ptsichkin is held by the district office of the Investigative Committee of the Maskouski District of Minsk, and the period of investigation has been extended to 4 November. The relatives still haven't received official information about the cause of Ihar's death.
Harassment of human rights defenders and human rights organizations
At 8.30 a.m. on 14 September, a member of the Belarusian Helsinki Committee, an activist of the LGBT-movement Natallia Mankouskaya was put off the train while returning home from the Ukraine. A personal examination was held.
The member of the Center for Legal Transformations Mikhail Matskevich went out of the train together with Natallia in order to monitor the situation. After a three-hour procedure of search of her belongings and a personal examination Natallia Mankouskaya was released. No things were confiscated from her. The activists weren't informed about the reasons for the search.
On 14 September, during the attempt of the friends and relatives of Ihar Ptsichkin, who had died in the remand prison No. 1 in Minsk, to hold a rally in his memory, the police detained Andrei Bandarenka, the head of the human rights institution “Platform Innovation”. He was taken to the Maskouski District Police Department of Minsk and released only late in the evening.
On 18 September the second trial on the administrative case against the member of the Council of the Human Rights Center “Viasna” Uladzimir Labkovich, accused of committing an administrative offense under Art. 23.34 of the Administrative Code (violation of the order of holding mass events) for handing out cards about the imprisoned human rights activist Ales Bialiatski on 5 August, was to have taken place. On 6 August Judge Dz. Pauliuchenka had found U. Labkovich guilty and sentenced him to a fine of 30 basic units. The verdict was overturned by the Minsk City Court and the case was returned to the Savetski District Court for reconsideration by another judge. At this time, the case was considered by the vice-chairman of the court, Eduard Yakubouski. Police officer Smaliak, who had detained the human rights defenders, didn't come to the trial, as a result of which the hearings were postponed to 30 September. As the policeman didn't appear there on that day either, the trial was postponed to 7 October.
On 27 September offensive materials against well-known Vitsebsk civil society activists were posted in the social network "VKontakte" on behalf of the human rights defender Pavel Levinau. Mr. Levinau says he has no relation to the account vk.com/id164498091, created on his behalf, and considers it as a provocation. At this account one can also see a video in which he allegedly holds a picket with the demand "Freedom for parrots!". The video appeared soon after the second anniversary of imprisonment of human rights defender Ales Bialiatski, and the slogan "Freedom for political prisoners!" in Levinau's poster was replaced with "Freedom for parrots! ". Then there came an offensive article against the head of the campaign "Our House" Volha Karach, who had stated her intention to run in the presidential election short before this. The aforementioned materials have been removed from the “VKontakte” account, but are still stored in the cache of search engines.
Pressurization of social and political activists by security services
On 4 September journalist Iryna Khalip, the wife of the leader of the civil campaign "European Belarus" Andrei Sannikau, was detained in the “Minsk-2” airport together with their son. Airport security did not let her to board the plane, taking away her documents. The security officials told Iryna Khalip that her foreign trips must be agreed with the Committee of State Security (KGB), as she is in the restrictive lists of this state institution. Iryna and her son waited for the KGB agreement to her departure for half an hour, and then were allowed to the plane.
Administrative prosecution of political activists, arbitrary detention
On 2 September the Pershamaiski District Court of Minsk held a trial of the entrepreneur Illia Dabratvor on charges of disorderly conduct (Article 17.1 of the Administrative Code). At about 8 p.m. on 30 August he stood in a metro train with a white-red- white flag in honor of the release of the leader of the "Young Front" Dzmitry Dashkevich from jail. The police detained Mr. Dabratvor at the metro station "Uruchcha". The same day he was taken to the detention facility. Judge Siarhei Bandarenka found the activist guilty and sentenced him to 5 days of arrest.
On 4 September the activist of the National-Bolshevik movement Dzianis Sakhar was found guilty of disobeying the lawful demands of an official (Article 23.4 of the Administrative Code) and was fined 40 basic units. The case was considered in the Minsk District Court by Judge Andrei Bialila. The charges concerned the events of 10 August, when Dzianis Sakhar and his friends were detained by the police in the course of the NBP sports field training near the Voukavichy water reservoir in Minsk district. The case of Dzianis Sakhar was twice postponed due to the failure of the witnesses to appear in court.
On 9 September the Kastryhnitski District Court of Vitsebsk fined a member of the party "Fair World" Andrei Andreyeu 20 basic units for distributing leaflets about the "People's Referendum". The verdict was issued by by Judge Alena Protas under Article 22.9 of the Administrative Code (violation of the legislation on the media). In August Andreyeu was detained while distributing leaflets in an apartment building.
On 14 September the relatives and friends of Ihar Ptsichkin, who had died under mysterious circumstances in the remand prison No. 1 in Minsk, were detained during an attempt to arrange a minute of silence at the walls of the prison. 13 protesters were arrested near the prison and taken to the Maskouski District Police Department. Five more were detained in Niamiha Street and taken to the Tsentralny District Police Department. The police also detained journalists of Radio “Liberty" and "Nasha Niva". The journalists were released in about thre hours. Officers of the Tsentralny DPD drew up reports of administrative violation on Aliaksandr Haurysh, Siarhei Yaumenau, Ihar Kavaliou, Viktar Katlianik and Ihar Ptsichkin's pregnant sister, Iryna Miranovich, accusing them of holding an unauthorized mass event (Article 23.34 of the Administrative Code). All detainees, except for I. Miranovich, were taken to the detention facility. Similar reports were also drawn up on the 12 participants of the event who were taken to the Maskouski District Police Department of Minsk. However, they were released from jail without receiving writs. Only one of them, Aliaksei Kruhlik, was taken to the detention facility as a hunting gun was found in his car. On 16 September he was fined 5 basic units on charges in violating the order of holding mass events. The administrative charges concerning the storage of the hunting gun were considered separately. On 16 September four participants of the action were tried at the Tsentralny District Court of Minsk. Judge Viktoryia Shabunia fined Ihar Kavaliou and Viktar Katlianik 5 basic units each, Judge Natallia Vaitsiakhovich fined Aliaksandr Haurysh 5 basic units and Siarhei Yaumenau – 6 basic units. Iryna Moranovich was served a warning by Judge Leanid Yasinovich.
On 16 September former the political prisoners Uladzimir Yaromenak and Vasi Parfiankou were summonsed to the Pershamaiski District Police Department of Minsk and informed that on 13 September Judge of the Pershamaiski District Court of Minsk Yury Harbatouski tried them in absentia and sentenced to five days of arrest for violating the conditions of preventive supervision (Art. 24.12 of the Administrative Code). Uladzimir Yaromenak and Vasil Parfiankou were taken to the DPD in order to serve the sentence at the Center for isolation of offenders. The both political prisoners are under criminal prosecution for similar deeds. On 20 August the Pershamaiski District Court of Minsk sentenced Uladzimir Yaromenak to three months of arrest, and Vasil Parfiankou was waiting for his case to be passed to the court. On 21 September Vasil Parfiankou was taken from the Center for isolation of offenders to the Pershamaiski DPD and then – to the activity therapy center No.1 in Svetlahorsk for 12 months. The ruling about sending Mr. Parfiankou to the ATC was adopted by the Pershamaiski District Court of Minsk back on 4 September. The civil case was considered by Judge Siarhei Bandarenka. As far as the court verdict wasn't appealed to the Minsk City Court, it entered into force on 17 September. Human rights defenders consider the practice of forced isolation of citizens in ATCs outside the framework of criminal prosecution as a human rights violation.
On 17 September the civil activist Mikalai Charnavus was summoned to the Baranavichy District Prosecutor's Office and issued with an official warning. As it was stated in a letter, signed by the Baranavichy interdistrict prosecutor A. Bildzeika, M. Charnavus was found an organizer of unauthorized rallies of the Baranavichy entrepreneurs on 27 June at the local cooperative market and in front of the Baranavichy City Executive Committee. The official warning also indicates that M. Charnavus was the organizer of the mass event held on 1 July in front of the building of the Ministry of Taxes and Levies of Belarus. The prosecutor's office reminded Mikalai Charnavus about the need to abide by the provisions of the law "On Mass Events" and officially warned him about the inadmissibility of actions that violate them. The prosecutor's office warned the activist that he could be subject to statutory liability in the event of a further breach of the order of organizing and holding mass events.
On 22 September a private minivan “Fiat” with eight delegates to the constituent assembly of the coalition "For honest and fair elections for a better life" was stopped by police major Ihar Lapatsin and captain Vasilchuk, who said that the vehicle was very similar to the one which committed an accident on 17 September, as a result of which a woman was injured. An examination of the minivan was held, as a result of which it was found out that a plate under the hood was affixed with different rivets. On the basis of these two mentioned reasons the minivan with its driver and passengers was directed to the Rechytsa District Police Department. The driver was summonsed to the DPD, whereas the passengers remained in the car. For some unknown reasons, the police demanded that the driver gave his fingerprints and was shot on video. The fingerprints were then found in the police database, and the driver refused to be shot on video without specification of his status. The traffic policemen explained to the delegates that they were interested only in the driver, and they could go. In two hours the driver was released, and the traffic policemen said they would call him by a special notice in order to clarify the situation with the tag under the hood. After the release of the driver all delegates went to Homel, as far as it was too late to go to the constituent assembly in Minsk. The same day, two delegates from Barysau, Leu Marholin and Aleh Lysko, were detained.
On 27 September, Pavel Vinahradau, the leader of the youth wing of the civil campaign “Tell the Truth!”, “Zmena”, was detained in Minsk while returning from a mass event held by “Zmena” activists in Yakub Kolas Square. They put pig heads on the benches with posters calling for the release of political prisoners, raising the wages of medical workers, against imposing an exit fee, etc. Vinahradau was initially taken to the Maskouski DPD (as he resides in the Maskouski district), and then – to the Savetski DPD, on the territory of which the event was held. The same day the Savetski District Court of Minsk sentenced Pavel Vinahradau to 15 days of arrest under Article 23.34 of the Administrative Code (violation of the order of organizing and holding mass events or picketing). The decision was passed by Judge Kiryl Polulekh.
On 28 September, four members of the race festival “Challenge Cup”, held in Minsk on the initiative of the Belarusian athletes Alina Talai and Aliaksandra Herasimenia, were detained. The reason for the detention were the T-shirts, in which the team of the web-project “Serabranka” intended to run – they featured portraits of the political prisoner Mikalai Statkevich and inscriptions – “Serabranka – for sports, Belarus and Statkevich”. The detainees, Kiryl Zhyvalovich, Yauhen Naporka, Maksim Dubouski and Andrei Vislovich, were taken to the Tsentralny District Police Department and kept there for about five hours. Violation reports under Part 1 of Art. 23.34 of the Administrative Code (violation of the order of holding mass events) were drawn up on them. All detainees except for K. Zhyvalovich were then taken to the Center for isolation of offenders before the trial. On 30 September the Tsentralny District Court of Minsk considered the cases of journalists and technical staff of the Internet project. Judge Viktoryia Shabunia sentenced Kiryl Zhyvalovich to a fine of 20 basic units, the same sentences were given to Yauhen Naporka (Judge Natallia Vaitsiakhovich), Andrei Vislovich (Judge Aliaksandr Yakunchykhin) and Maksim Dubouski. The trials were actually closed to the public: no journalists and human rights defenders were let in.
Restrictions on freedom of speech and the right to disseminate information, harassment of journalists
On 2 September the Baranavichy City Police Department refused to provide the local newspaper "Intex-press" with the statistics on offenses committed in the state of intoxication, the facts of illegal brewing and sale of alcohol, etc. The correspondent of the newspaper "Intex-press" Tatsiana Nekrashevich was preparing an article on the limitation of sales of alcohol at night, which was initiated by the police. At first the journalist applied to the information and public relations department of the Baranavichy City Police Department in order to obtain such information. Inspector Volha Sakuta promised to prepare the information, but during the following week she was giving just one answer: “The computer freezes, we cannot obtain the necessary data”. On 2 September Volha Sakuta stated that the administration of the city police department prohibited giving information to “Intex-press”. The same day the journalist had a conversation on this topic with the head of the department of law enforcement and crime prevention of the Baranavichy DPD, Eduard Sudnik. On 3 September she came to the meeting at the appointed time, but was told that he couldn't give any information as he was prohibited from providing information to the edition. Being asked who issued the prohibition, Eduard Sudnik said that it came from the administration of the city police department, which received it from the Baranavichy City Executive Committee.
On 3 September the independent journalist Uladzimir Zhyhulou received an official warning, signed by the deputy prosecutor of the Vitsebsk region Heorhi Karanko, about the inadmissibility of work without accreditation for the foreign newspaper "Vitebskiy Kuryer", registered in the Russian city of Smolensk. Prosecutor Pavel Zaitsau, to whom the independent journalist was summonsed, referred to the precedent at the regional psychiatric hospital, to which Mr. Zhyhulou came at the invitation of the head physician, Alena Martynava, who agreed to give an interview about the work of the institution and the state of Ihar Pastnou, placed there for compulsory psychiatric treatment. However, A. Martynava refused to talk with the journalist referring to her busy schedule, and her deputy Ihar Svirkunou didn't talk to the journalist at all. He stated that the newspaper “Vitebskiy Kuryer” where the story of Ihar Patnou was described in detail, had no official registration in Belarus. The prosecutor's office took the opinion that the fact of the meeting of Uladzimir Zhyhulou with Ihar Svirkunou was sufficient to conclude that the journalist cooperated with “Vitebskiy Kuryer” and issue him with a warning.
On 4 September in Babruisk the well-known local blogger Aleh Zhalnou and his son shot on video a violation of the traffic rules – wrong parking of cars belonging to employees of the department of drug control, located in the same building. The blogger filed an oral inquiry on this occasion to the traffic police inspector Aliaksandr Butouski, who also drove on the pavement at that time. The inspector said that his working hours were over, and called other police officers over his cell phone. The traffic policemen who came to the site, Aliaksandr Aliaksandrau, Vital Paduta and Yauhen Serashtan, tried to stop filming, and then detained both Zhalnous, charging them with a violation of point 35 of the traffic rules (an unjustified interference with the movement of the vehicle). They were dragged into the building with the use of force and knocked to the floor, handcuffed. Then they were taken to the police, where a personal search was held and some things were seized, including telephones, a video camera, smart-phones, bank cards, a work pass and passports. The detainees were released after three hours, after giving explanations to the investigator. The things were returned to them the following evening, except for the video tape and the memory card of the smart phone with the recordings of the events which had taken place in front of the traffic police office. At the traffic police office, the blogger was threatened with imprisonment for alleged insubordination and wounding a police officer.
On 5 September the investigator of the Investigation committee in Minsk, Andrei Yeulash, gave the procedural status of a witness in a criminal case to the TUT.BY journalist Katsiaryna Siniuk and warned her of possible liability for disclosure of information concerning her article about the former head of the International Charity Association "In support of orphans” Viachaslau Davidovich, detained on 29 August on suspicion of illegal business activities. After Davydovich's detention Katsiaryna Siniuk officially applied to the law enforcement agencies of Belarus to receive the necessary information. After she published her article, she started receiving demands not to tell anything about the fate of Viachaslau Davydovich. The same demand was set by the investigator Andrei Yeulash. He announced to the journalist his decision to give her the status of a witness in the criminal case and warned that she could be fined or imprisoned for up to six months in case of disclosure of the materials of the criminal case. Katsiaryna Siniuk believes that such action is an attempt to make her refuse from writing about the arrest of Viachaslau Davydovich.
On 6 September, on the eve of the International Day of Solidarity of Journalists, the chairman of the NGO "Belarusian Association of Journalists" Zhana Litvina and her deputy Andrei Bastunets voiced the results of the research index, according to which Belarus is the most problematic country in respect of freedom of the media among all countries of the Eastern Partnership. The most favorable conditions for the media now exist in Georgia, then come Moldova, Armenia, Ukraine and Azerbaijan. The consolidated Index was prepared by the international public organization “Internews-Ukraine" supported by the European Union in the framework of the project "Monitoring of freedom of speech in the East Region of the European Neighborhood Policy", which was initiated by the Civil Society Forum of the Eastern Partnership.
On 8 September an exhibition of photo amateurs and professionals, “Sushka” (“Drying”) was held at the city park of culture and rest in Babruisk. The exhibitors could attach his photograph with linen clothespins to a rope stretched between two trees, and exchange their photos to the works which they liked most. As it became known on the eve of the exhibition, the local ideologists ordered the organizers to ban from the exhibition any photographs of the opposition nature, as well as those which promote fascism, Nazism, racism, ethnic hatred and violence. The notion “opposition” in the eyes of the local authorities means anything that doesn't fit into the official ideological doctrine – for example , photos of the homeless, poor roads or the posh car of the city mayor. “Drying” is an international exhibition project of photo sharing, which unites more than 90 cities and 40,000 participants in different countries.
On 9 September the NGO "Belarusian Association of Journalists" published the results of a survey on the issue of access to information in the journalists' work with government agencies. The “closeness rating” is topped by the Ministry of Health – more than 46 % of journalists reported problems in accessing the information in this ministry. The second place belongs to the Ministry of Agriculture (40% ) and the third – to the Committee for State Security (KGB, 33%).
On 18 and 19 September the Krychau District Court continued the consideration of another lawsuit of Cherykau PMK-280 to the newspaper "Volny Horad". Judge Antanina Kachanova tried to find out whether the journalists of “Volny Horad” really discredited the administration of Cherykau PMK-280 and undermined its business reputation. This article was published in issue No. 25 of the newspaper “Volny Horad” for 29 June 2013. Judge Antanina Kachanava showed a responsible approach to the case. She demanded that the administration of Cherykau PMK-280 presented to the court the collective agreements of the workers, their working records, as well as the book of registration of orders in the enterprise. She appointed the next hearing on 21 October, so that the administration of PMK-280 could prepare all necessary documents.
Restriction of freedom of assembly
On 2 September the Hrodna human rights defenders Viktar Sazonau, Uladzimir Khilmanovich and Raman Yurhel filed an appeal to the Leninski District Court of Hrodna against the ruling of the Hrodna City Executive Committee dated 1 August, by which they were forbidden to hold an information picket in support of Ales Bialiatski. According to the applicants, the executive committee violated their constitutional right to disseminate information and the Law "On Mass Events in the Republic of Belarus". Under the law, the local authority is obliged to give an official response to the applicants no later than 5 days before the alleged event. In this case, the Hrodna City Executive Committee adopted its decision only on 1 August and sent it on 2 August, which is witnessed by an appropriate seal on the envelope. As a result, two of the defenders received the ruling by mail the day before the stated event, which was scheduled for 4 August, and Viktar Sazonau – as late as on 6 August. On 23 September, having considered the civil case, Judge of the Leninski District Court Zhana Krauchanka turned down the appeal of the human rights defenders. Predictably enough, she took the side of the Hrodna City Executive Committee, ignoring the fact that the executive committee had missed the legal terms of answering. The prosecutor also completely supported the authorities and didn't turn the attention of the court to the violation of the law on the part of of the executive committee. Zhana Krauchanka also turned down several solicitations of the applicants – in particular, the solicitation for putting down their speeches and testimonies in the minutes of the trial in the Belarusian language.
On 2 September the Brest Regional Court Judge Natallia Surma didn't grant the cassation appeal of Viktar Syrytsa against the ruling o f the judge of the Baranavichy City and District Court Katsiaryna Hruda on the case of the Milavidy festival. The activist was convicted of an offense under Part 2 of Art. 23.34 of the Administrative Code and sentenced to a fine of 20 basic units for preparing and organizing an unsanctioned rally in Milavidy on 2 June 2013. Viktar Syrytsa tried to prove to the court that there hadn't been any unauthorized event there and he had just organized the journey of the people to the public holiday, announced by the state newspaper "Nash Krai". However, Judge Natallia Surma found no grounds for the cancellation of the penalties.
On 2 September the Slonim District Executive Committee banned the pickets against the deployment of foreign military bases on the territory of Belarus, which the BPF members Ivan Sheha and Viktar Marchyk intended to hold on 8 September. The following reason was called in the refusal, signed by the head of the Slonim District Executive Committee Iosif Pauliukevich: "The Slonim District Executive Committee states that you are denied a picket in the city park in Opernaya Street on 8 September 2013 due to the fact that, according to the plan of the department of ideology, culture and youth affairs of the Slonim District Executive Committee, the “Colors of Autumn” holiday was appointed on the aforementioned date.
On 2 September the Mahiliou City Executive Committee banned the rally and march against the deployment on the territory of Belarus of a Russian air base, which was appointed on 8 September. The collective application to hold the event was signed by eight leaders of democratic organizations and parties. In their response, officials of the executive committee explained the reason for the refusal by saying that the application didn't meet the requirements of the executive committee. The authorities alleged that they were to have first signedservice agreements with the police, medics and communal utilities and only then apply for the rally. Meanwhile, some of these agencies refuse to conclude service agreements without authorization of the executive committee. This creates a vicious circle resulting in the prohibition of any mass events organized by the Mahiliou democrats.
On 3 September Judge of the LeninskiDistrict Court of Mahiliou Andrei Yurchanka upheld the ban on the4 August picket in front of the Mahiliou main post office on the occasion of the biennium of the imprisonment of the human rights activist Ales Bialiatski. Human rights defender Barys Bukhel also appealed at court the ruling of the Mahiliou City Executive Committee about determining only one place for mass events in the city. As it was found during the trial, Judge Yurchankawas unaware of the mechanism of filing appeals with the UN Human Rights Committee, and of the cases related to Belarus. The human rights defenders had to “educate” him: after a break in the court hearing they brought samples of such cases, in which the Committee recognizes the violations committed by the judicial system of Belarus in respect of certain social activists. The judge was impressed, but it had no influence on the outcome of the case.
As it became known on 4 September, the Baranavichy City Executive Committee didn't authorize a rally against the Russian air base, which the social activist Mikalai Charnavus intended to hold on 8 September. In response, signed by the deputy chairman of the executive committee Dzmitry Kastsiukevich it is stated that on 19 November 2012 Mikalai Charnavus was brought to administrative liability under Art. 23.34 Part 2 of the Administrative Code, “violation of the order of organizing and holding mass events”, for holding a charity dinner at the Baranavichy cooperative market. The ban picketing was explained by this fact, with a reference to Art. 5 (paragraph 6) of the Republic of Belarus "On Mass Events" of 30 December 1997.
On 5 September Valery Misnikau, legal inspector of the trade union of radio industry in the Vitebsk region , was rejected by the district administration of the Railway on its bid to host the rally dedicated to the social problems of the workers. The one-man picket was planned for 8 September. The action was prohibited on the basis of the ruling ofthe Vitebsk City Executive Committee No. 881 "On the organization and conduct of mass events", which sets additional and practically impossible demands to the organizers of mass events held without the participation of the state.
On 5 September the Bialynichy DistrictExecutive Committee refused the local representatives of the Belarusian Popular Front Party in holding a picket against the deployment of foreign military bases on the territory of our country. The appropriate response, signed by the the chairman of the BPF council fromthe Bilynichy district, Barys Vyrvich. The reason for refusal was the fact that an autumn fair for the sale of agricultural products was allegedly to take place from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. on 8 September on the ground in front of the building of he district Culture center.
On 5 September a new ruling on mass events, adopted by the Homel CityExecutive Committee, came into force. The site executive committee reported that the purpose of the ruling was to "expand the list of places for public events in the city of Homel, organized by citizens, political parties, trade unions and other organizations, as well as improving the interaction between the organizers of mass events and the local authorities". Previously, the city had only one ground for pickets and rallies – in a residential area, near the Palace of Culture of the Society of the Deaf, "Vipra". The new ruling determined two grounds for pickets and rallies. One of them is in a remote district, Navabelitsa , near a children's sports school, and the second oneis on the other side of town, in an area of industrial buildings and factories, a ground near a public garden at the intersection of Barykin and Vaiskovaya Streets. Interestingly, the ground near “Vipra” was just a few kilometers away from the center of Homel, whereas the new ones are generally located in places that are difficult to find. The provisions about the necessity to enter into service agreements with the police, ambulance and community services were transferred from the old ruling to the new one.
On 7 September the chairman of the Bykhau district branch of the BPF, writer and journalist Siarhei Antonau, received a notice from the Bykhau District Executive Committee about the prohibition of the picket against the deployment of foreign military bases in Belarus, which he intended to hold on 8 September in 50 Hod Peramohi Park. The official reason for the prohibition of the picket was that from 3 to 10 September the “Bykhauraivodakanal” was holding repairs in “50 Hod Peramohi” Park.
On 12 September the Minsk City Executive Committee banned a march against abortion, which was organized by the public charitable association "Center for Family and Motherhood “Matulia” (“Mommy”), the Brest youth cultural and educational association" In defense of life and family values" and the local charity fund "Open Hearts". The march was blessed by the heads of the Orthodox and Catholic churches in the country – Metropolitans Filaret and Tadevush Kandrusevich. The purpose of the march was to draw attention to the protection of traditional family values and the lives of unborn children. The organizers of the march called the reasons for the ban "incomprehensible".
On 12 September the Constitutional Court of the Republic of Belarus dismissed an appeal of the Salihorsk social activist Uladzimir Shyla, in which he stated the unconstitutionality of the practice of the law enforcement bodies of the executive power and the courts of general jurisdiction in the country and the undue restriction of the constitutional right to freedom of expression and the right to peaceful assembly. In its response, the Constitutional Court reminded U. Shyla, that the instigation of proceedings and making conclusions about the constitutionality of laws and regulations is carried out only on proposals of the president, the Parliament, the Supreme Court and the Council of Ministers. What concerns ordinary citizens, the Constitutional Court is unattainable in this respect.
On 14 September the Baranavichy City Executive Committee banned the rally against the impoverishment of families who are raising children. This became known from a letter signed by the deputy chairman of the executive committee Dz. Kastsiukevich, received by the activist of the city unit of the Trade Union of the Radio Electronic Industry. The official stated that the government didn't authorize the rally, since in accordance with the ruling of the Baranavichy CEC No. 1497 for 16 June 2009 "organizers of mass events must enter into service contracts regardless of the number of proposed participants of the events". The applicant said that he knew about this requirement, but it was simply impossible to enter into contracts with public utilities, the polyclinic and the police. Therefore, in his statement he said that the activists of the trade union would ensure public order during the rally, clean the area from debris after its end, and would surely pay the expenses for the health care for the picket participants within a ten-day period after the mass event. However it did not affect the decision of the Executive Committee.
On 19 September the Biaroza District Court considered the appeal of the human rights defenders Siarhei Rusetski and Tamara Shchapiotkina and the social activist Tatsiana Tarasevich, who asked the court to declare illegal the refusal of the Biaroza District Executive Committee to authorize a picket of solidarity with political prisoners on 4 August, as well as to recognize the violation of the terms of answering (instead of 30 July, as required by law, the reply was sent to the applicants on 2 August). The Head of the Legal Department of the Executive Committee Yauhen Kashtelian argued that the delay in response was due to the fact that the executive committee waited patiently for the applicants to provide the service contracts, which they hadn't done. At the same time, the police stated they would enter into the service contract only after seeing the permission for the event, issued by the Biaroza DEC. The Biaroza communal utilities entered into a service agreement, and the Biaroza hospital refused to do it refusing to the fact that serving of mass event was absent in the list of services enumerated in a ruling of the Ministry of Health, and therefore there was no price list for it. The head of the Biaroza District Court Vadzim Mazol, who conducted the trial, as well as the assistant prosecutor Aksana Hardzeyuk, found no law violations in the refusal and the actions of the executive committee.
On 24 September the head of the Slonim association of democratic forces Ivan Sheha received a ban on holding a picket he intended to hold on 28 September to protest against the practice of prohibitions of public events planned by the democratic forces in Slonim. The ban was signed by the head of the Slonim District Executive Committee, Iosif Pauliukevich, and explained in the following way: "According to the schedule of work of the Department of Education, Sports and Tourism of the Slonim District Executive Committee, we are unable to provide You with the space in Opernaya Street at the stated time, as far as the sportive event “Sport can help us multiply our forces” will start there at 12 a.m. on 28 September."
On 24, 25 and 26 September activists of the Belarusian Party of the Left "Fair World" intended to hold pickets in Homel in order to promote the party's ideas to the public and hold a public discussion of the socio-economic situation of the country. The head of the Homel regional branch of the party Uladzimir Siakerka received refusals to all applications for it. The deputy head of the Homel City Executive Committee Aksana Rudzinok banned "Fair World" to hold the pickets because the applicationsweren't supplied with service contracts with the city polyclinic for the medical serving of the event. The Homel central city polyclinic explained its refusal to conclude the service agreement with Uladzimir Siakerka by stating that "the daily withdrawal of an ambulance brigade on 24, 25 and 26 September will result in delaysof services on telephone calls and the non-implementation of the default standards of work". The answer was signed by the chief physician of the polyclinic, Viachaslau Yaschanka.
On 25 September the member of the organizing committee of the Belarusian Christian Democracy Ales Masiuk received a prohibition on holding a picket on 29 September in the city park in defense of the newspaper “Gazeta Slonimskaya” and the right of the citizens of the Slonim are to subscribe to the independent edition in the offices of "Belpochta " and buy it at the newsstands of "Belsayuzdruk". The waiver,signed by head of the Slonim District Executive Committee Iosif Pauliukevich, provided the following motivation for banning the event: "According to the working schedule of the department of ideological work, culture and youth affairs of the Slonim District Executive Committee, at 12 a.m. on 29 September the NGO “Belarusian Republican Youth Union" will hold its traditional cross- quiz "Know your land" in the city park in Opernaya Street”.
Restriction of freedom of association
On 11 September the Luninets District Court issued a verdict in the case of an activist of the independent trade union Leanid Dubanosau, who considered as unlawful his dismissal from the state enterprise “Granite” in Mikashevichy. As it follows from the court ruling, Mr. Dubanosau was fired in violation of the law (for which a special ruling was issued), and he had the reasons to demand a compensation for moral damage. In addition, the administration of "Granite" must pay the trade union activist a financial assistance in the amount of 1,000,000 rubles. However, the chairman of the District Court Mikhail Dzenisovich stated that the discovered violations could not serve as the basis for the reinstatement of Leanid Dubanosau at work. The judge also dismissed the part of the lawsuit related to the termination of adverse discrimination of members of the independent trade union organization by the administration of the “Granite”, on which Mr. Dubanosau insisted. On 27 September Leanid Dubanosau filed a review appeal to the Brest Regional Court.
On 18 September the first trial on the appeal of the Belaaziorsk activist of the civil campaign “Tell the Truth” Aliaksandr Kuzmin was held. He asked to find unlawful the warning which was issued to him for activities on behalf of unregistered organization by the Biaroza District Prosecutor's Office (signed by DanilaDziarabin) and upheld by the Brest Regional Prosecutor's Office. The activist still keeps to the position which was first set out at the Biaroza District Police Department (addressed by the former head of the Belaaziorsk City Executive Committee Viachaslau Dambrouski, who asked to punish Mr. Kuzmin for activities on behalf of unregistered organization), and then – at the prosecutors' offices: that his actions did not violate the law because the campaign "Tell the Truth" was not a public organization, but a civil initiative. The Biaroza DPD actually accepted the position of Aliaksandr Kuzmin, confirming the absence of corpus delicti in his action, but the prosecutor decided otherwise.
On 19 September the social activist Mikalai Charnavus sued to the Baranavichy District and City Court against the actions of the head of the economy department of the Baranavichy City Executive Committee Raisa Ulasovich. M. Charnavus pointed that he had repeatedly appealed to the Baranavichy City Executive Committee and the Brest Regional Executive Committee in order to get a room for the public association of Ukrainians of Baranavichy "Kabzar". At first the executive committee allocated a space in Savetskaya Street 60 for it, but then rapidly refused from its decision. At the same time, the official website of the Baranavichy City Executive Committee says that there are many free rooms in the city. However, all requests of M. Charnavus to allocate space for the NGO “Kabzar” so that he could receive a legal address are answered with the requirement for the activists to pay 2 million rubles at take part in the auction. Mikalai Charnavus asks the court to oblige the Baranavichy City Executive Committee to allocate one of the free spaces for the NGO “Kabzar”.