News for October 2009
23.10.2009 “Young front” activists beaten for Belarusian language
On October 22 in Barysau known persons beat Young Front members Maxim Akhrymenka and Yury Bahdanovich during collection of signatures in support of the Belarusian language.
“We collected signatures among passers-by together, when four unknown people in plainclothes came near us,” Maxim Akhrymenka said to mfront.net website. “They asked whether we are Young Front members, and when we said yes, they started to beat us”.
As said by the young activist, when police patrol saw the fight, policemen turned around and went the other way. Then people in plainclothes disappeared.
23.10.2009 Amendments to Electoral Code turn lipstick
On 20 October during a meeting with President Lukashenka, head of the Central Electoral Committee Mrs. Lidziya Yarmoshyna spoke on the changes to be introduced to the Belarusian electoral legislation. Political parties, whose member wants to run in the election, will not have to possess a regional office within the territory of the respective constituency. Besides, signature sheets will not have to be approved by local authorities before their submission to the Central Electoral Committee. Grounds for denying registration to a candidate will also be reviewed. Apart from that, voter turnout quota will be lifted in the upcoming local elections. However, the quota for presidential and parliamentary elections will be preserved.
23.10.2009 Opposition activist beaten by police
Zmitser Kuchun, member of the Belarusian Social Democratic Party (Hramada), has been beaten by the police, Radio Racyja reports. Representatives of Masty district police department charged the activist with disobedience of orders and disorderly conduct. However, Masty Regional Court redirected the case to the local prosecutor’s office to verify the legality of the actions by the police, which Mr. Kuchun calls ‘gangsterism’: ‘I was hit several times at the head from aback, then four policemen knocked me down and started kicking me with their feet. I would not call those persons policemen – in my opinion, they are simply gangsters’, says Zmitser Kuchun. The beating of the activist was witnessed by his wife.
23.10.2009 Human rights activist keeps reminding Foreign Ministry about its commitments
Baranavichy human rights activist Siarhei Housha has lodged a repeated complaint with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, voicing his opposition to the Ministry’s reply, which named the Optional Protocol as ‘not having a binding effect’ for the parties to the Treaty to implement the conclusions by the UN Human Rights Committee. In his complaint, the human rights activist stresses that the conclusions by the Committee ARE binding, which is stated in Article 61 of the Belarusian Constitution, securing everyone’s right, under international legal acts, ratified by Belarus, to address international organizations to protect one’s rights and freedoms, in case he or she is unable to find rehabilitation within the national legal system. According to the universal international law, a country which is a party to an international treaty must implement its provisions, which is enshrined in the Vienna Convention, to which Belarus is a party.
23.10.2009 Journalists to be supervised by special police unit, says Interior Ministry
The Belarusian police are going to reform their means of contacting journalists during demonstrations and rallies, says Deputy Minister of the Interior Yauhen Poludzen. The official said special ‘press-officers’ would soon be supervising journalists working at mass actions. They will be wearing blue retro-reflective vests. Besides, the rallies will be supervised by policemen in red retro-reflective vests. They will talk to the demonstrators who do not want to obey ‘the legal orders’ by the police.
23.10.2009 Former Parliament deputy candidate goes on hunger-strike
According to the United Civil Party’s pres-service, Andrei Bandarenka, who was running for the Parliament in 2008, who is now serving a 7-year term for an economic crime, has embarked on a hunger-strike as a protest against the groundless sentence. ‘Mr. Bandarenka has chosen for himself this kind of protest. For my own part, I and a colleague of mine are using procedure means – drawing up a number of complaints. As for Andrei, all he can do is express his protest in this way’, says Mr. Bandarenka’s lawyer Zmitser Layeuski.
22.10.2009 Swedish MPs join ‘Stop 193-1!’ campaign
A number of members of the National Parliament of Sweden (Representative of the Swedish Christian Democracy Annelie Enochson, as well as two Liberal People’s Party MPs Cecilia Wigström and Birgitta Ohlsson), which currently holds the EU Presidency, have joined the ‘Stop 193-1!’ campaign, by addressing the Belarusian authorities with a statement demanding to abolish the application of the shameful Article ahead of imposing sanctions against several Belarusian high-rank officials. By doing this, the Riksdag deputies have shown that they possess full and unbiased information on the actual situation in the sphere of the freedom of association in Belarus.
22.10.2009 Brest Viasna human rights organization denied registration again
The Brest Viasna human rights organization has been denied state registration for the fourth time, Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty reports quoting local human rights activist and one of Brest Viasna’s leaders Uladzimer Malei. In its official reply, the General Department of Justice of Brest Regional Executive Committee says that the applicants failed to provide a valid duty payment certificate. Mr.Malei says they are going to appeal the decision at Brest Regional Court.
22.10.2009 Viasna presents analytical survey on political prisoners
On 21 October the Belarusian Popular Front office in Minsk hosted the presentation of a book ‘Political Prisoners: politically-motivated criminal sentences in 2008’, compiled with assistance by the Human Rights Center Viasna. The edition covers the events of 2008, pertaining to the existence of political prisoners, which still attract much public attention. The book is meant to highlight the facts of numerous and continuous politically-motivated harassment, practiced by the Belarusian authorities despite demands by international democratic structures. Meanwhile, the release of all the Belarusian political prisoners remains one of the basic conditions within the EU-Belarus dialogue.
21.10.2009 Jean-Eric Holzapfel hopes Belarus declares moratorium on death penalty
The declaration of a moratorium on the death penalty is the key point for further development of EU-Belarus dialogue, said Jean-Eric Holzapfel, European Commission representative in Belarus, in his interview with the European Radio for Belarus during a round table discussion, concluding the international technical support project ‘Promotion of wider use of international human rights standards in the administration of justice in the Republic of Belarus.’ ‘This issue should be addressed by respective authorities in Belarus. But I can say that the declaration of a moratorium on the death penalty is the most important element for the development of relations between Belarus and the Council of Europe. It is one of the points laid in the 2006 document – the so called 12 points’, said Mr. Holzapfel.
21.10.2009 Belarusian Party of Workers denied registration
he refusal of the Ministry of Justice to register the Belarusian Party of Workers will be appealed to the Supreme Court.
The Ministry of Justice concluded that “the real number of the founders is less than the minimal number necessary to create a political party”.
The Ministry asked the BPW Council to give a protocol of the founding congress and other documents concerning the founding congress holding to check the materials presented are authentic. The BPW response was negative. They said the order of proposing delegates for the congress was studied by the credentials commission. In this connection, it was decided to suspend the state registration of the BPW and give additional time to fulfil the demands. The demands, mentioned in the delay of the registration, haven’t been performed.
20.10.2009 Belarus leaps 4 positions in Reporters without Borders Press Freedom Index
The Reporters without Borders international organization has issued its annual index of freedom of the press, placing Belarus 151st out of 175 countries. ‘Indicators point to a deterioration in the press freedom situation in almost all of the former Soviet Republics except Georgia (81st) and, to a lesser extent, Belarus (151st), whose government has initiated a cautious and so far limited improvement in its relations with the press as part of a renewed dialogue with the EU. It is hard at this stage to predict whether this ripple on the surface will swell or fade away’, says the report.
20.10.2009 More fines awarded to participants of 16 October memorial picket
On 19 October Judge Ilya Svirydau of Homel Chyhunachny Court fined Valery Rybchanka, head of the Belarusian Party of Communists’ Zhlobin district office, BYR 700,000. Mr.Rybchanka is a tenth activists convicted for participating in the 16 October Hanchar and Krasouski memorial action. The total amount of fines is now BYR 10,325,000. Mr.Rybchanka says he is not surprised by the verdict: ‘Our trials are a conveyor. Once the authorities place you on the conveyor, you WILL be punished.
20.10.2009 UN Human Rights Committee registers complaint by activist Halina Yubko
The Geneva-based UN Human Rights Committee has registered an individual complaint submitted by Minsk resident Halina Yubko, the Nasha Niva newspaper reports. In her interview with the BelaPAN news agency, Mrs.Yubko said that on 19 January 2007 she applied for holding a picket to Minsk city authorities. She, together with 50 other women from all over the country, was going to express her dissent to the conviction judgments awarded to their relatives for civil and criminal offences. The picket was meant to attract public and governmental attention to the issue of violating Constitutional rights and international treaties while considering criminal and civil cases.
20.10.2009 Military enlistment office denies alternative service to believers
On October 19 the court of Tsentralny district of Homel continued hearings in the criminal case against a member of Jehovah's Witnesses, Zmitser Smyk.
As noted by “Radio Svaboda”, at the instigation of city military enlistment office, the prosecutor’s office charges Smyk of draft evasion.
On the initiative if judge Ryhor Dzmitrenka who is ion charge of the case of the believer, not only a representative of the military enlistment office Bursevich, but the city’s chief enlistment officer, colonel Vyachaslau Tsatsaryn.