"Chronicles of Belarusian Political Prisoners"

2015 2015-06-12T14:42:40+0300 2015-06-12T14:43:16+0300 en http://spring96.org/files/images/sources/salaueu-zmicer.jpg
Zmitser Salauyou. Photo by RFE/RL

Zmitser Salauyou. Photo by RFE/RL

There are 187 names in the book “Chronicles of Belarusian Political Prisoners”, a book compiled by the Belarusian human rights activists and presented on June 11, 2015 at the headquarters of the BPF Party.

As noted at the presentation by Zmitser Salauyou, a member of the Human Rights Center “Viasna”, deprived of the official status by the Belarusian authorities, as of today the book should have included 188 names, as on May 28 Yury Rubtsou was sentenced to 2 years of imprisonment and literally the following day was recognized a prisoner of conscience by “Amnesty International”.

According to Mr. Salauyou, the book which was issued in two versions (Belarusian-Polish and English-Polish) is designed for “dissemination of the information about the situation of political prisoners in the Republic of Belarus in Belarus and abroad”. Belarusian and international human rights organizations regard the criminal prosecution of the persons, the information on whom is presented in the book, as politically motivated.

No politically motivated cases were brought in Belarus since 1991 (when it gained the state independence) until 1995. However, there were some cases even before this period. For instance, in 1989 artist Ales Pushkin was sentenced to two years of conditional imprisonment for an exhibition and procession of the Freedom Day, an anniversary of the Declaration of Independence of the Belarusian People's Republic.

In 1990, a criminal case was instigated against Valery Siadou. The reason was a protest action, staged by Mr. Siadou. On an anniversary of the October Revolution he decided to remind the people about the mass repression, conducted by the Communist regime against millions of people. He hanged a cross wrapped with barbed wire, and a quilted jacket (a symbol of Stalin's GULag prisoners), on the monument to Lenin in the central square of Minsk. After this, he was placed in a remand prison and kept a hunger-strike for 32 days.

Therefore, according to Dzmitry Salauyou the issue of political prisoners in Belarus is a systemic one, and is certainly not just an episode in the political momentum. “At present Belarus is holding 6 political prisoners. Four years ago there were 50, and noone knows how many it will have after the presidential election. There are such codes in the Criminal Code as “participation in unregistered organization” [Art. 193.1 – auth.], under which anyone who decides to deal with political opposition to the authorities can be jailed. Our book is another call to the society to eradicate the issue of political prisoners,” pointed Mr. Salauyou.

Dzmitry Kaspiarovich, a former political prisoner jailed for five months for hanging out a white-red-white flag on the building of Minsk City Executive Committee, confessed: “I was surprised with such a large number of people who have undergone criminal prosecution under Lukashenka's rule. Moreover, we don't count here the thousands or maybe even dozens of thousands of people who have received administrative penalties. It seems to me that such number of political prisoners witnesses that though Belarusian are said to be quiet and submissive, in fact they are not. Belarusians are ready to struggle, they don't want to put up with the current regime and are ready to go to fight, even under the threat of criminal liability," said the former political prisoner.

Among the heroes of the book is also the current "political prisoner number one" there are presidential candidate in the 2010 elections Mikalai Statkevich, former Prime Minister of Belarus Mikhail Chyhir, the Young Front leader Zmitser Dashkevich, YF activists Eduard Lobau and Dzmitry Fedaruk, journalists Iryna Khalip, Mikalai Markevich, Pavel Mazheika, scientist Yury Bandazheuski, cameraman Dzmitry Zavadski and many others.