viasna on patreon

Review-Chronicle of Human Rights Violations in Belarus in February 2012

2012 2012-03-12T18:08:53+0300 1970-01-01T03:00:00+0300 en The Human Rights Center “Viasna” The Human Rights Center “Viasna”
The Human Rights Center “Viasna”
Review-Chronicle of Human Rights Violations

Review-Chronicle of Human Rights Violations

In February, the absence of positive developments in the field of human rights, especially the unresolved issue of political prisoners was in the center of political relations between the EU and the Belarusian authorities.

The Director of the Department of the European External Action Service Gunnar Wiegand, who visited Minsk on 9 February, said that the EU would not change its policy towards Belarus until political prisoners were kept behind bars. During one of the meetings he noted that as a result of contacts with the official there was some hope that a number of key political prisoners would be freed in the coming weeks. First of all, this could concern the ex-presidential candidate Andrei Sannikau and his colleague Dzmitry Bandarenka, the both of whom had written petitions for clemency. However, there was still no progress in this direction at the end of February.

On the contrary the situation became more tense after the issuance of a politically-motivated conviction (2 years and 1 month imprisonment) to Siarhei Kavalenka, Vitsebsk activist of the Conservative-Christian Party "Belarusian Popular Front" (who was still keeping a hunger-strike of protest), which was perceived as the reluctance to any dialogue.

Giving a clear political message to the Belarusian side, the EU Council adopted a resolution at its sitting on 10 February, increasing the possibility of sanctions against individuals and entities of Belarus involved in violations of fundamental rights and freedoms. Visa and financial sanctions against 19 representatives of the court system of Belarus and 2 police officials were introduced during the sitting of the Council of Foreign Ministers of the EU on 27 February.

The answer of the official Minsk was quick and nervous: the following day, on 28 February, the Foreign Ministry suggested that the head of the European Commission's mission to Belarus Maira Mora and the Ambassador of Poland Leszek Szerepka go to their capitals for consultations in order to "convey to their authorities the tough position of the Belarusian side about the unacceptability of pressure and sanctions". At the same time, the Permanent Representative of Belarus to the European Union Andrei Yeudachenka and Ambassador of Belarus to Poland Viktar Haisionak were called to Belarus for consultations. It was also stated that "the Belarusian side will close the entry to Belarus to the officials of EU countries who have contributed to the introduction of restrictive measures." The same evening Brussels announced the revocation of all EU ambassadors from Belarus "as a sign of solidarity and unity".

On 2 March the leaders of the EU countries proved their principled position at a summit in Brussels by calling on the Council of EU Foreign Ministers to continue exercising pressure on the official Minsk. President of the European Council Herman Van Rompuy announced an agreed statement of the summit on Belarus: "The European Council expresses its grave concern at the continued deterioration of the situation in Belarus. It welcomes the decision of the EU Council to extend the list of persons responsible for serious human rights violations and repression of civil society, as well as those who support Lukashenka's regime, or receive benefits from it. to whom visa sanctions and freezing of assets are to be applied.

Thus, February was marked by serious political statements and actions of the EU on issues related to the critical human rights situation in Belarus, sparking fierce opposition of the Belarusian authorities. The Belarusian side not only refused to make any steps to eliminate the causes of conflict, but also demonstrated a will to its further escalation.

Political prisoners. Politically motivated criminal prosecution

15 political prisoners were still kept in jail: Mikalai Autukhovich, Ihar Alinevich, Dzmitry Bandarenka, Ales Bialiatski, Dzmitry Dashkevich, Mikalai Dziadok, Aliaksandr Frantskevich, Siarhei Kavalenka, Eduard Lobau, Artsiom Prakapenka, Andrei Sannikau, Pavel Seviarynets, Mikalai Statkevich, Pavel Syramalotau and Yauhen Vaskovich.

On 1 February Dzmitry Bandarenka filed a petition for clemency. The day before, the conditions of the prison regime were toughened for him despite a recent operation on his spine. In particular, he was deprived of his crutches and special orthopedic shoes. They were returned to him immediately after he wrote the petition. On 15 February the Commission on Parole of Mahiliou penal colony #15 stated it wouldn't recommend releasing Dzmitry Bandarenka on parole. Though Dzmitry Bandarenka had the right to be released on parole, the prison administration refused to do it.

Andrei Sannikau filed a clemency petition as early as 23 November 2011. However, neither he nor Bandarenka were freed as a result. On 8 February Mikalai Samaseika, a member of the Presidential Commission on Pardon pointed out that he still didn't have the relevant documents concerning Sannikau and Bandarenka at his disposal, and that a sitting of the commission usually takes 2-3 days after their receipt. The fact that the commission didn't consider the petitions of A.Sannikau and Dz.Bandarenka by the end of the month witnessed that the decision depended not on the commission, but solely on the president and the results of the political communication between the Belarusian authorities and the European Union.

The political factor could possibly play a considerable role in the situation of human rights defender Ales Bialiatski on political factors, too. On 17 February he was transferred from prison #8 in Zhodzina to remand prison #1 in Valadarski Street, where he was kept for 11 days. Only on 28 February he was transferred to penal colony #2 in Babruisk for serving his term. According to some information, the Belarusian MFA insisted that the liberation of the prisoner would directly depend on the EU decisions on applying sanctions towards Belarus.

On 24 February Alena Zhuk, Judge of Pershamaiski District Court of Minsk, found member of the CCP-BPF Siarhei Kavalenka guilty of evasion of serving punishment of personal restraint (Article 415 of the Criminal Code) and sentenced him to 2 years and 1 month in a minumum security prison (Prosecutor Dzmitry Luhau demanded 2 years and 8 months). Siarhei Kavalenka had been sentenced to personal restraint without direction to an open penitentiary institution for hanging out a white-red-white flag on 7 January 2010 on the main New Year Tree of Vitsebsk. During the present trial, Siarhei Kavalenka was kept in custody, keeping a hunger-strike of protest for almost two months. He didn't stop hungering even after the verdict was announced. On 17 February Siarhei Kavalenka re-married his former wife Alena, with whom they have two children.

On 29 February it became known that Barysau District Prosecutor's Office canceled the order for the termination of criminal proceedings under Article 370 of the Criminal Code, "Insult of state symbols" towards Aliaksandr Malchanau and Andrei Mikalayeuski. The persecution of the youngsters started after 26 October 2011, when state red-green flags of Belarus were covered with paint in the center of Barysau. The criminal proceedings were dropped in the beginning of February due to the lack of evidence. However, Aliaksandr Malchanau was kept in Zhodzina prison on charges of committing crimes under part 2 of Article 205 of the Criminal Code (theft committed by a group of persons). He and one more person were arrested in Zhodzina in early January 2012 on suspicion of theft of scrap metal from a forging plant.

Harassment and pressurization of human rights defenders

On 13 February, Minsk City Court considered the appeal of the deputy head of the Human Rights Center "Viasna" Valiantsin Stefanovich against the verdict of Partyzanski District of Minsk, issued 16 December 2011 to exact taxes in accordance with a claim filed by Partyzanski District Inspectorate of the Ministry of Taxes and Duties. The panel of judges of Minsk City Court considered the appeal of the human rights defender and left the verdict standing.

On 29 February Valiantsin Stefanovich received two rulings concerning the initiation of executive proceedings by a court for the recovery of the allegedly unpaid income tax, fine and state fee. According to these documents, he was to pay 31,515,540 rubles (about $3,870) of income tax, 22,841,830 rubles (about $2,800)of fine for the failure to pay the taxes, and 2,717,870 rubles (about $333) of the state fee.

The administrative proceedings towards Valiantsin Stefanovich were directly related to the case of the convicted human rights defender Ales Bialiatski and extensive harassment of the Human Rights Center "Viasna" for human rights activities and assistance to political prisoners. The harassment of both Ales Bialiatski and Valiantsin Stefanovich was initiated by the KGB.

The Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders condemned the rejection of Valiantsin Stefanovich's appeal by Minsk City Court, noting that the amounts which were considered as the "personal income" of the human rights defender had been transferred to his bank account in Lithuania by international organizations such as Amnesty International and the Danish Institute for Human Rights for human rights activities within the framework of the HRC "Viasna".


Torture and cruel treatment, poor conditions of detention

On 22 February political prisoner Dzmitry Dashkevich had a meeting with a lawyer, during which he stated that he was placed to the penal isolator of Hlybokaye penal colony #13 for 10 days for the second time during the month. He didn't manage to tell about the reasons for this action of the prison administration. During the previous meeting with the lawyer, on 17 February, Mr. Dashkevich was also kept in the penal isolator, where he was placed for the refusal to enter a cell where a convict with a low social status was kept. If he agreed, he would have acquired the same low status according to the informal prison rules.

On 29 February Siarhei Kavalenka was transported to prison hospital in Valadarski Street from the remand prison of Vitsebsk. The political prisoner who has been keeping a hunger-strike for more than 2 months lost about 30 kilos and feels very weak. It's hard for him to sit and even to lie down. S. Kavalenka demanded taking him to a civilian hospital, release from jail and acquittal on all charges.

The state of health of political prisoner Zmitser Bandarenka got worse. As he wrote in a letter to his wife, Volha Bandarenka, there had been a great examination at the colony. As a result of a long standing in cold he got a cold and his temperature went up. When he went to the medical department, he was given some medicines. However, at first the doctors refused to leave him at the medical department and did it after the further deterioration of his state.

Death penalty

In early February it became known that the Belarusian government considered as inadmissible the complaint of the death convict Uladzislau Kavaliou, filed with the Human Rights Committee and registered by it on 15 December 2011. According to the Belarusian government, it was unacceptable because it had been filed before exhausting all domestic remedies, since Kavaliou's appeal is pending at the Supreme Court in the exercise of supervision and he also applied for pardon to Aliaksandr Lukashenka. However, the petition for supervisory review is not recognized by international bodies on human rights as a legal means of protecting one's rights because no legal procedures are initiated as a result. Petition for pardon cannot be considered as a means of legal defense, because the decisions taken are motivated not by legal but by moral or humanitarian reasons. In practice, a death convict finds about the denial of his petition for pardon several minutes before the execution, therefore having no legal opportunity to file an individual communication with the UN Human Rights Committee and wait for its registration. That's why the demand of the Belarusian authorities to "exhaust all national means of remedy" before filing such a communication with the UN was groundless. Uladzislau Kavaliou's mother explained it in her response to the commentaries, given by the Belarusian authorities to the Human Rights Committee in connection with Uladzislau's case.

Liubou Kavaliova also addressed the state bodies which have the right to apply to the Constitutional Court: the Presidential Administration, the Soviet of Ministers, the Supreme Court, the Soviet of the Republic and the Chamber of Representatives. She asked these agencies to submit proposals to the Constitutional Court on supplying the Criminal Executive Code with an article which would provide for the suspension of execution of death sentence in connection with filing an appeal to the UN Human Rights Committee. On 18 February she received an answer from the Presidential Administration, signed by the head of the Department of Citizenship and Pardons Aliaksandr Kisialiou. There it was stated that a complex analysis of the legislation with the participation of competent state agencies was necessary for considering her proposal.

On 27 February relatives of death convict Ihar Mialik stated they hadn't received letters from him for more than a month, though he used to write them every week. They expressed fear that the death sentence could be carried out. Ihar Mialik was sentenced to death by Mahiliou District Court on 14 September 2010 for committing a series of murders, robbery, theft in the criminal group and illegal actions with firearms and ammunition. On 11 February 2011 the Board of the Supreme Court left the sentence unchanged.

On 13 February Valiantsin Stefanovich received an answer from the Presidential Administration to his request to introduce a moratorium on the death penalty (the appeal was sent on 9 December 2011, on the eve of the Human Rights Day). The response states that "the Republic of Belarus has been consistently moving towards limiting the use of the death penalty". "The movement towards exclusion of the death penalty from the criminal penalties can not be the same in different countries of the world. It is impossible to change the historically pre-determined attitudes towards this issue immediately," reads the reply, signed by the Head of the Department of Citizenship and Pardons Aliaksandr Kisialiou.

On 14 February, President of the European Parliament Martin Schulz addressed Aliaksandr Lukashenka with the request to pardon Uladzislau Kavaliou and Dzmitry Kanavalau who are standing on the death row. We oppose the death penalty in all circumstances, and call on Belarus, the last country in Europe which uses it, for a moratorium on the death penalty," - he said.

On 16 February the European Parliament adopted a resolution on the death penalty in Belarus, which condemned the death sentences issued to Kavaliou and Kanavalau and insistently urged Aliaksandr Lukashenka to pardon these persons and introduce a moratorium on death sentences and executions with a view to abolishing the death penalty from the penal system by ratifying the Second Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, in accordance with international standards.


Administrative prosecution of social and political activists, arbitrary detentions

On 1 February the administrative commission of Maskouski district of Minsk fined under-aged activist of the organizing committee of the Belarusian National-Bolshevik party Uladzislau Lobau 1,050,000 rubles (about $128) for participation in a protest action near the entrance of the Belarusian National State TV and Radio Company, during which three youngsters had emptied a bucket with noodles and scattered around leaflets to protest against the spread of false information by the state media. Lobau's actions were considered as a violation of Article 17.1 of the Code of Administrative Offenses (disorderly conduct).

After 7 p.m. on 8 February police officers wearing masks broke into the house where meetings of the so-called "Litvins' Club" have been held for many years already. They broke the windows in the house when the temperature outdoors was about -20C, though the entrance door was open. 32 participants of a club meeting were detained, including 2 minors. All of them were guarded to Partyzanski District Police Department of Minsk. At first the police stated that the reason for the detention was anonymous information about the storage of drugs in the house, and then – some information about a sect's masses there. All detainees were released in 90 minutes without receiving any charges.

On 11 February activists of "European Belarus" Aliaksandr Tarnahutski, Anatol Zhuletnikau and Uladzimir Dzenisevich were detained while trying to hang out a banner "Freedom to Bialiatski!". The activists were taken to Dziarzhynsk District Police Department. The banner was confiscated, the detainees were questioned and then let go. In early March, Aliaksandr Tarnahurski and Uladzimir Dzenisevich were fined 700,000 and 350,000 rubles ($86 and $43) under part 2 of Article 21.14 of the Administrative Code (violation of urban maintenance rules).

On 22 February Tatsiana Matyl, Judge of Maskouski District Court of Minsk, sentenced activist of the civil campaign "Tell the Truth!" Pavel Vinahradau to 10 days of arrest under Article 23.34 of the Administrative Code (violation of the order of organizing and holding mass events) for participation in the action "Toys Protest", held near Minsk City Executive Committee on 10 February. Pavel Vinahradau was suddenly arrested after 5 p.m. on 21 February and for a long time about his whereabouts were unknown. The activist was kept at the delinquents' isolation center in Minsk during the night before the trial.

Another activist of "Tell the Truth!", Aliaksandr Artsybashau, was detained at the courthouse while trying to pass foodstuffs to Pavel Vinahradau. He was taken to Maskouski District Police Department to be given charges for participation in the action "Toys Protest". The same day A.Artsybashau was sentenced to 10 days of arrest by Maskouski District Court of Minsk.

After 3 p.m. on 22 February, Vitsebsk District Court considered the administrative cases against the "Young Front" activists Dzmitry Kremianetski, Mikhail Muski, Raman Vasilyeu and Uladzimir Yaromenak and a member of the Belarusian Association of Journalists, Pavel Sitnik (who was the only defendant who came to the trial). All of them had been detained while driving to the trial of Siarhei Kavalenka by Sitnik's car. The court found all defendants guilty of disorderly conduct (Article 17.1 of the Code of Administrative Violations). Mr. Sitnik was fined 105,000 rubles (about $13), while all others were sentenced to 3 days of arrest in absentia.

On 22 February police stopped a car with Orsha activists of the steering committee of the Belarusian Christian Party who were going to Vitsebsk to support Siarhei Kavalenka at the trial. The documents of all passengers were taken away and were returned only three hours later. No charges were given.

On 23 February activists of the coalition "Our Alternative" Dzmitry Karashkou, Andrei Papou and Kanstantsin Zhukouski were detained while holding an anti-alcoholization action near the supermarket "Homel". They were released after 2.5 hours at the Tsentralny District Police Department of Homel. Policemen confiscated from them about 430 copies of anti-alcoholic leaflets with the inscription "Stop drinking – it's time to become breadwinner and defender of the Fatherland!".


Politically motivated expulsions from educational establishments

On 6 February the activists of "European Belarus" Mikita Kavalenka, Aliaksandr Saldatsenka and Aliaksandr Vialitchanka were expelled from Minsk State Linguistic University (MSLU). Aliaksandr Saldatsenka had been sentenced to 7 days of arrest for participation in an action on 25 October 2011. Aliaksandr Vialitchanka was sentenced to 15 days of arrest after the detention at a street action on 26 October 2011, Mikita Kavalenka was sentenced to 10 days of arrest for participation in that action, and on 8 January – to 5 more days of arrest for participation in another action. Aliaksandr Vialitchanka had also been detained during a protest action near Horki penal colony (where political prisoner Zmitser Dashkevich was serving his prison at the time) and fined 1,050,000 rubles (about $129).

In November 2011 the rector of Minsk State Linguistic University Natallia Baranava had issued the students with official warnings about the inadmissibility of unlawful actions, thereby exceeding her official powers.

On 14 February "Young Front" activist Anastasiya Shuleika learned that she was expelled from the Institute of Journalism of Belarusian State University. Anastasiya has been repeatedly detained for participation in protest actions, which became the reason for the expulsion. In particular, after the first arrest for a rally in support of human rights activist Ales Bialiatski on 25 November 2011, the administration of the institute issued her with a reprimand. During the action of 19 December 2011, dedicated to the anniversary of the tragic events on Nezalezhnasts Square in Minsk, Anastasiya, was detained near the Red Church and fined the following day. She was also detained near the delinquents' isolation center in Akrestsin Street on 31 December 2011 and fined 700,000 rubles (about $86). She also met the New Year in prison cell.


Restrictions on freedom of speech

On 6 February the road police again detained the car of the editor of the private newspaper "Vitsebski Kur'yer", driven by journalist Yuliya Kanapliova. It is the fifth detention for the last months. The police officers asked her to open the trunk, but were refused. The driver demanded the witnesses and invited a representative of the owner of the car and journalists. The inspection of the car lasted for 4 hours. The police found just one copy of "Vitsebski Kur'yer". Then the journalist was returned her documents and let go.

On 16 February Siarhei Serabro, the editor of the website, "People's News of Vitsebsk" Siarhei Serabro was questioned in the transport police for information about white-red-white flags hanged out on 8 February in solidarity with the imprisoned activist of the Conservative-Christian Party "Belarusian Popular Front" Siarhei Kavalenka. Transport policemen asked the journalist whether he had written an article about it and whether he confirmed it. Mr. Serabro answered that a journalist had a legal right not to disclose the sources of his information unless he testifies at court. By the way, Siarhei Serabro had been detained while taking photos of the flags on 8 February. At first the policemen who detained him demanded that he erased the photos, but failed to provide any legal grounding and had to release the journalist after putting down his personal data.

On 16 February, Hrodna cameraman Mikalai Dziatchenia got a warning from Hrodna Region Prosecutor's Office for work without accreditation for the Polish satellite TV channel "BelSat". According to the prosecutors, some footage from the rally in the town of Svislach which was shown on "BelSat" was made by Mikalai Dziatchenia. This conclusion was made on the basis of the fact that the journalist was present at the action. The procuracy's officers proved their stance by showing him photos, made by unknown officers of law-enforcement agencies. Though the journalist was issued with a warning, the procuracy's officers refused to provide him with a copy of the document.

On 21 February, Hrodna journalist Viktar Parfionenka (who had thrice applied for official accreditation as a journalist for Radio "Racyja" during the last three years) was summonsed to Hrodna Region Prosecutor's Office and issued with an official warning for work without accreditation. While talking with the journalist, the deputy head of the department on supervision over the law abidance Valery Paviadaika mentioned Parfionenka's report of 8 December 2011, dedicated to the celebration of Maksim Bahdanovich's jubilee in Hrodna. Viktar Parfionenka wasn't issued with the text of the warning either, although he demanded to be provided with such a paper. The journalist is going to apply for the accreditation for the fourth time.

On 21 February Hrodna Region Prosecutor's Office issued an official warning to independent journalist Aliaksandr Dzianisau. The conversation with Dzianisau was also led by Valery Paviadaika. The formal reason for the warning was the journalist's report about the day of commemoration of insurgents of 1863, held in the town of Svislach in late October 2011. The Prosecutor's Office warned Dzianisau for journalist work without accreditation, as he had allegedly shot footage for the "BelSat" TV channel. Mr. Dzianisau responded that such warning is groundless because it is unproven.

On 21 February Alena Hermanovich, a correspondent of BelaPAN, wasn't allowed to attend a seminar on questions of business activity held with the participation of the head of the State Control Committee Aliaksandr Yakabson, the Prosecutor General Aliaksandr Kaniuk and the head of Minsk Regional Executive Committee Aliaksandr Dvornik. The ideologist of the executive committee Volha Rabikava told the journalist to leave the room as she hadn't received a special invitation. The words that a journalist has a legal right to receive and disseminate information and attend official events were ignored by the official.

On 22 February KGB officers invited for an "informal talk" chief editor of the website "Svabodny Rehiyon" Yauhen Parchynski from Navapolatsk. At the meeting they reminded him about the possibility of criminal punishment for "discredit of the Republic of Belarus" in articles, audio and video materials, as well as for violating the law by working without official accreditation.

At about 7 p.m. on 26 February the police detained a volunteer of the civil campaign "Our House", Anna Hadleuskaya, who was handing out the newspaper "Nash Dom Info". The detention was performed by a police officer in plain clothes who called a police patrol after showing his ID card. The detainee was guarded to Kastrychnitski District Police Department of Vitsebsk and charged with illegal distribution of printed editions. The police confiscated from her 430 copies of the newspaper and released her three hours after the detention.

On 27 February, Hrodna Regional Prosecutor's Office also issued a warning to journalist Hrazhyna Shalkevich for work without accreditation for Radio "Racyja". Valery Paviadaika not only refused to provide her with a copy of the document, but even didn't let her put down its content and essence.

On 27 February a man who introduced himself as KGB major Zhukau phoned to the mobile phone of independent journalist Andrei Mialeshka and invited him for a "prophylactic talk". Mr. Mialeshka demanded to be provided with an official summons and said he would come only after receiving such a document. He was already the fifth Hrodna journalist disturbed by the KGB or the Procuracy those days.


Restrictions on freedom of assembly

By 14 February Salihorsk authorities banned 18 actions since the beginning of the year. The organizers of the actions wanted to express their opinion about the civil and political situation in the country, including the situation of political prisoners and the necessity of their liberation. The applications for the authorization of pickets in Salihorsk on 17, 18 and 19 February were also banned by the head of Salihorsk District Executive Committee Aliaksandr Rymasheuski, who stated that the applicants allegedly failed to attach to their applications written undertakings concerning the organization and the holding of the mass events. Applicant Uladzimir Shyla states that these undertakings were occasionally or intentionally lost by the authorities. At the end of February Uladzimir Shyla received refusals to the applications for five more actions, which he intended to hold at the end of the month. The activist decided to apply to Salihorsk deputies with the demand to provide a real opportunity of exercising the right to freedom of peaceful assemblies in Salihorsk.

In a situation of total prohibition of mass events in Salihorsk, on 24 February social activists and human rights defenders of the city held an informational action against the death penalty. On 29 February one of its participants, Andrei Tychyna, was summonsed to the police because some leaflets against the death penalty had been posted in Salihorsk.

On 20 February it became known that anti-impoverishment pickets were banned in Brest district. Activists of the Belarusian Leftist Party "Fair World" wanted to hold three such actions in the villages of Stradzech and Znamenka and the town of Damachava. The official reason for banning the picket in the village of Stradzech is that the organizers hadn't concluded service agreements with police, medics and public utilities, in the village of Znamenka – that one of the organizers hadn't put down his birthday and in the town of Damachava – that the applicants allegedly violated the legal terms for filing the application.

On 28 February, Hrodna authorities banned human rights defenders Viktar Sazonau and Raman Yurhel from holding a picket in support of political prisoners on 8 March. The ban was signed by the deputy head of Hrodna City Executive Committee Iryna Senchakova. The official reason is that the organizers allegedly didn't take adequate measures for securing the public order during the action.

On 27 February human rights defenders Anatol Paplauny and Leanid Sudalenka filed a communication with the UN Human Rights Committee. The activists believe that their right to freedom of peaceful assembly and of expression provided for in Articles 19 and 21 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights was violated by the Belarusian authorities. The case concerns the fact that on 22 November 2010 Paplauny and Sudalenka applied to Homel City Executive Committee for permission to hold a rally, timed to the Day of Human Rights. The city authorities didn't authorize the action. This decision was appealed at the district, the regional and the Supreme Court, which sided with the authorities. In their communication with the UN Human Rights Committee the human rights defenders state that Homel authorities determined just one place for opposition's rallies in Homel, though as many as 500,000 people live there. Moreover, according to the appropriate ruling, people must pay for services of police, medics and public utilities in order to exercise their right to peaceful assemblies.

On 23 February a similar communication was filed by Zinaida Shumilina, a member of the United Civil Party from Homel. In February 2011 she and 12 more people applied to Homel authorities for authorization of informational pickets concerning the political persecution of former presidential candidates who were imprisoned after the election. Homel City Executive Committee banned the actions. The district, the regional and the Supreme Courts upheld the decision of the authorities.


Situation of freedom of association

On 3 February the coordinator of the campaign "Right to Faith" Aliaksei Shein and a leader of the Assembly of NGOs, Siarhei Lisichonak, received an answer from the Soviet of the Republic. There it was stated that the legislative body did not see the need to initiate the elimination of Article 193-1 of the Criminal Code (actions on behalf of the unregistered organization). In the letter signed by deputy head of the Standing Committee on Legislation and State Construction L. Marozau it is stated that "Article 193-1 of the Criminal Code, together with other provisions of the Law is a legal means to deal with crimes that violate the constitutional rights and freedoms of citizens as well as order and security in the society. In our opinion, it protects human rights and fundamental freedoms and does not violate international standards of human rights."

On 10 February, Baranavichy District and City Court found the activist of the Ukrainian diaspora Mikalai Charnavus guilty under Article 23.39 of the Code of Administrative Violation (arbitrary rule during the establishment of a civil association) and fined him 70,000 rubles. Judge Stanislau Pivavar considered as violation the fact that Mr. Charnavus signed his appeals to the Baranavichy City Executive Committee as chairman of "Kobzar", though the organization hadn't been registered with the state by that time. On 16 February 16 Mikalai Charnavus filed an appeal with Brest Regional Court, where he stated that on 24 February 2011 the Constituent Assembly of Baranavichy Ukrainians established the civil association "Kobzar", elected him its chairman and asked him to represent the association during the process of registration and at courts. On 29 February the Brest Region Court granted the appeal of Mikalai Charnavus. This was one of the unexpected and rare cases of restoration of law and justice in the sphere of freedom of association.



Latest news