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Weekly Review of post-election situation in Belarus (6-12 June)

2011 2011-06-14T18:31:35+0300 1970-01-01T03:00:00+0300 en The Human Rights Center “Viasna” The Human Rights Center “Viasna”
The Human Rights Center “Viasna”

The total sum of fines given to participants of the Stop Petrol protest exceeds 3 mln Belarusian rubles. On 12 June the riot police violently dispersed a spontaneous protest action of drivers at the border crossing point Bruzgi. Human rights defenders demand that the authorities stop cruel treatment and torture of political prison Mikita Likhavid. A member of the United Civil Party, businessman Andrei Bandarenka was acquitted by the Supreme Court after spending two years in jail. The Belarusian democratic organizations the Belarusian Association of Journalists, the Human Rights Center Viasna and the Free Theater received the Freedom Award at the Wroclaw Global Forum held on 9-11 June.

1. Torture and other kinds of cruel and inhuman treatment

The administration of the Navapolatsk penal colony continues pressurizing 21-year-old Mikita Likhavid, sentenced to 3.5 years in jail for participation in the protest action of 19 December 2010. As it became known on 9 June, he was put in the penal isolation ward for the third time since his imprisonment. The same day the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH) and the Human Rights Center Viasna issued a joint statement demanding to stop the cruel treatment and torture of the political prisoner. The human rights defenders state that in the case of M.Likhavid his placement in the punitive isolator cannot be considered as anything else by an additional instrument of pressure on him by the Belarusian authorities.

On 10 June Daryia Korsak, wife of the political prisoner Aliaksandr Atroshchankau, was summonsed to the military procuracy in Minsk for giving testimony concerning the facts of torture in the KGB prison known to her. She came to the interrogation together with an independent lawyer Alena Tankachova who wanted to represent her interests. However, the investigator refused to interrogate Mrs. Korsak in Tankachova's presence.

2. Prison conditions

The mother and friends of Fiodar Mirzayanau, convicted for participation in the rally against the rigged presidential election held in central Minsk on 19 December 2010, stopped getting letters from him, though they are sure that he regularly writes to them. At present Fiodar is kept in the pre-trial prison in Valadarski Street in Minsk, waiting for the transfer to the penal colony Vouchyia Nory.

The Hrodna resident Ales Kirkevich, convicted for 4 years for participation in the so-called “mass riot” on 19 December 2010 in Minsk, is still kept in the pre-trial prison in the same overcrowded and extremely hot cell in Valadarski Street in Minsk. However, he didn't file an application for a quick transfer to the penal colony in Navapolatsk. The convict receives letters only from his wife and mother, though many other residents of Hrodna keep writing to him. Earlier Mr. Kirkevich didn't receive some of the newspapers he was subscribed to. Thus, the prison administration continues filtering his correspondence.

According to Volha Klaskouskaya, sister of Aliaksandr Klasksouski, convicted in the mass riots case, he was sent to the penal colony near the town of Shklou on 11 June. As said by her, one more person involved in the case of so-called “mass riots” in Minsk on 19 December 2010, presidential candidate Mikalai Statkevich, was convoyed together with him. Two more persons involved in the case, a presidential candidate Dzmitry Uss and Dzmitry Bulanau – were to be transported to the colony in Mahiliou the same day.

Zmitser Dashkevich, the leader of the Yioung Front, sentenced to 2 years of imprisonment, was transferred from the pre-trial prison in Valadarski Street in Minsk to the pre-trial prison in the town of Zhodzina. The reasons for the transfer remain unknown. According to his deputy, Nasta Palazhanka, he will be transferred to the penal colony in the town of Horki after the consideration of his cassation appeal by court.

3. Persecution of human rights defenders

The Ministry of Justice issued the second warning to the Belarusian Helsinki Committee this year, allegedly because of “continuous violations of the tax legislation”. The authorities demand that the BHC paid more than 205 million of rubles in fines and taxes concerning the grants issued to it by the European Commission in 2002-2003, thought this aid was exempt from taxes according to international agreements. Moreover, more than 30 public associations were financed by the European Commission, but taxes were imposed just on 2 of them. The Ministry of Justice orders the BHC to liquidate its “debt” within a month's term. The first warning was issued to the organization 12 January 2011 after it had Gabriela Knaul, the UN Special Rapporteur on independence of judges and lawyers, with statement about pressurization of counsels, particularly those who defended participants of the 19 December post-election rally.

4. Freedom of peaceful assemblies

A mass action of protest of car owners against the increase of the prices on fuels took place in Minsk on 7 June. Several hundred drivers took part in it. Some participants of the action (Pavel Hruzdzilovich, Zmitser Kavalhin, Alesia Makas and Aliaksandra Redzkina) were detained and fined. The total sum of the fines exceeded 3 mln rubles. During one day the civil community collected as much as 5 mln rubles to compensate the fines. Nevertheless, persecution of participants of the protest action continues. The owners of the cars that had taken part in the actions were identified. The appropriate lists were sent to the district road police departments of Minsk together with the photos and videos witnessing their participation in the action. According to Zhanna Traino, chair of the agitation and propaganda department of the road police, each department will summon the protesters who are registered on its territory.

On 8 June the police detained several participants of the rally Revolution through social network, organized by users of the popular social net They were guarded to the Salihorsk District Police Department, allegedly for “identification, and were released in an hour. Bear in mind that participants of the action don’t wear any symbols and don’t chant any slogans at it. The organizers ask people just to come to the central squares of their towns and cities at 7 p.m. each Wednesdays and stay there till 7.30. “If thousands of people start coming to the actions, it will be a signal that more active steps can be taken. But we need to come out first,” they say.

On 8 June in Mazyr the police interfered with the Revolution through social network action in Mazyr. They detained people on the way to the square. 12 participants of the action were guarded to the police department and released in 90 minutes, after a long “prophylactic talk”. Revolution through social network gathered more than 400 participants in Minsk and more than 100 – in Homel.

spontaneous rally of protest against a new customs fee took place on 12 June evening at the border crossing point Bruzgi in the Hrodna region. The action was dispersed by the riot police with the use of tear gas and police gear. 15 protesters were detained. The matter is that according to the new customs rules the people who go abroad more often than once in five days must pay a special fee if they have more than 5 liters of petrol in their fuel tanks. As a result, many people had to return home. Thus, the number of the cars returning from the border crossing point started to increase. As a result there took place a spontaneous rally of dissatisfied drivers. More than 100 people took one another by the hands and overlapped the carriage way, demanding to abolish the presidential decree banning the export of fuels. The police violently dispersed the rally with the use of the police gear and tear gas. 22 people were detained. There are allegations of beating in the paddy wagons.

5.  Persecution of civil and political activsits

On 3 June the apartment of an activist of the Movement Forward Dzmitry Niafiodau was searched by the police headed by investigator Khamenka. Before this, he was also interrogated concernign the case of arson of the Palace of Justice in Minsk. Then he was guarded to the Minsk KGB, from which he was transferred to the Zavadski District Police Department of Minsk. He spent the weekend at the delinquents’ isolation center in Akrestsin Street in Minsk. The police charged him under Article 17.1 of the Code of Administrative Offences, “using obscene language in public” for alleged use of four-letter words during the search. On 6 June Niafiodau’s case was tried by Mikalai Balauniou, Judge of the Zavadski District Court of Minsk. The judge noticed that the alleged time of the offence indicated in the police report differed from the time of the search. As a result, he returned the case to the police for revising.

Ivan Stasiuk, a civil activist from Brest, was detained on the Belarusian-Polish border and guarded to the local KGB department. The Belarusian border guards took away Ivan’s passport and told him that the document would be returned to him after a “prophylactic talk”. According to Stasiuk, the KGB wanted him to stop his activities in the Internet social networks. They also asked him about his trips to assemblies of the Ukrainian National Alliance and contacts with Poles and Ukrainians. They also threatened to pressurize his relatives and misinform his friends and acquaintances about his cooperation with the KGB.

Mikalai Pakhabau, Chair of the Barysau town organization of the Belarusian Independent Trade Union of Radio Electronic Industry, was detained twice this week. On 8 June the road police stopped him near the town of Smaliavichy and guarded to the police department, where about 100 copies of the Novy Chas newspaper and a trade union bulletin were confiscated from him. On 10 June the activist was detained again, though he was driving somebody else’s car. This time the police confiscated 110 copies of the Rabochaya Salidarnasts bulletin.

After the presidential elections 2010 the tax inspections started frequently checking the business of Dzianis Dashkevich, a coordinator of the organizing commtitee of the Belarusian Christian Democracy in the town of Rahachou. As a result, Dzianis is required to pay 1.2 mln rubles as a fine. However, the tax inspectors hinted that the sum of the fine could be reduced to 400,000 rubles if he gave up political activism.

6. Freedom of word

 In the evening of 5 June security services burst into the apartment of another activist, Siarhei Pauliukevich. They deleted the community “We are for great Belarus!”, calling people to take part in the March of Millions in central Minsk on 15 July and demand resignation of Lukashenka, from the social network Vkontakte. There were about 120,000 members in the community.

On 11 June the community Revolution through social network in Salihorsk was deleted under the KGB pressure. KGB officers phoned to the organizer of the community and threatened him with trouble.

The General Procuracy of Belarus didn’t grant the appeal of a Brest entrepreneur Viktar Chaikouski, Deputy Chair of the civil association Perspective, against the warning issued to him by the Brest Region Procuracy in May 2011 for alleged violations of Article 369, part 1, “discredit of the Republic of Belarus”. The answer is signed by the Deputy Prosecutor General, Mikalai Kuklis. Mr. Chaikouski is convinced of the truthfulness of all information he voices in the press and on the radio.


7. Language discrimination

The only form with the Belarusian language of instruction was closed down in secondary school #2 in the town of Biaroza after four years of work. The form was established after Aleh Labovich, engineer of one of Biaroza enterprises, spent a year on correspondence with different scientific and educational institutions. 16 parents also signed for the establishment of the form. However, now the administration of the secondary school decided that it was inexpedient to continue teaching children in the first state language of the country.

8. Freedom of association

The Hrodna Region Court didn't grant the appeal of the organization founders against the registration denial by the Hrodna Region Justice Department. The court explained it by referring to the absence of the description of the procedure of appealing against decisions of the governing structures of the NGO in its charter.

On 6 June in Minsk the presentation of the civil web-archive Vytoki took place.  It is the first attempt to create an archive on the history the civil society for the last 30 years of the Belarusian history. The project is a joint initiative of the Human Rights Center Viasna, the Assembly of NGOs and the Supolnasts Center.


9. Court system

On 9 June representatives of a civil initiatives passed to the Presidential Administration a collective appeal signed by 111 people whose relatives fell victims to lawlessness in the Belarusian courts.

On 10 June the Supreme Court of Belarus confirmed the acquittal of a member of the National Council of the United Civil Party, businessman Andrei Bandarenka, of charges in theft of property by fraud. The businessman spent two years in jail on charges in stealing property by fraud, and was acquitted by the Minsk City Court.

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