Picks of the week
The coronavirus pandemic is beginning to tell on the rights of prisoners in Belarus, as multiple correction facilities across the country have ordered to suspend all visits until the disease is taken under control.
Meanwhile, prison authorities allowed one extra parcel with vitamins and fruits expected to help fight the transmission of the virus among the inmates.
In January, it was announced that the prisoners might be allowed to use video call apps to speak with their families. Skype was tested in penal colony No. 2 in Babrujsk, according to mspring.online.
However, it is still unknown whether all prisoners will be allowed to use video calls instead of visits during the quarantine.
Although not so strict as in other European countries, the quarantine measures have affected the already scarce opportunities of conducting peaceful protests.
Pro-democratic forces have cancelled the annual Freedom Day demonstration scheduled for March 25. The protests were expected to be held in Minsk and Hrodna.
In addition, opposition politicians have announced a 2-week pause in their travels around the country planned as part of a series of primaries ahead of the August presidential election.
Ihar Komlik, an activist of the REP trade union who is serving a 4-year sentence of home imprisonment, has been allowed to enjoy a milder imprisonment mode. In particular, he is now required to check in with the police once a month, instead of once a week.
Henadz Fiadynich, his trade union associate and co-defendant, says the police control is still extremely strict.
“Last month, they came to check on me three times in just one week. They paid two visits at about midnight. In general, they come when they want, but, fortunately, not during the night,” REP’s former leader said.
The two activists were convicted of tax evasion in August 2018. They were sentenced to four years of confinement to their homes, which bears numerous restrictions, including a ban on occupying managerial positions in their trade union. The country’s human rights community called the trial politically biased. Last year, the activists’ terms were reduced by 12 months as a result of an amnesty bill.
The Pieršamajski District Prosecutor’s Office of Minsk has ordered a new investigation in the case of Yana Chulitskaya, a 19-old girl who was badly beaten by the police during a peaceful protest in March 2017.
During arrest, the then-under-aged girl received a head injury at the hands of a policeman. She was later diagnosed with epilepsy.
Yana says she has six to seven attacks a week. In addition to epilepsy, she developed several related diseases. The girl also says she hasn’t been able to find a job, which she says is due to the head injury.
Meanwhile, the authorities have repeatedly refused to thoroughly investigate the police-related violence, despite video footage showing the attackers.