Review-Chronicle of Human Rights Violation in Belarus in November 2012
The human rights situation in Belarus in November can be described as
a period of stagnation and crisis: the stably bad situation remained
the same, and a significant deterioration was registered.
This characteristic ensues from the general crisis in the relations between the Belarusian authorities and the European Union, as far as the level of respect to human rights in Belarus strongly depends on the foreign policy factors. In fact, the exchange of messages between the Belarusian side and representatives of the European community lasted throughout the month. The statements concerned the possibilities to renew the dialogue and cooperation, and the preconditions for this.
On 14 November, at the expert conference "Belarus at the crossroads of integration: the relationships with the EU in the situation of forming a Eurasian Union", the head of the European Union mission in Belarus Maira Mora reported that a technical dialogue between Brussels and official Minsk was going on, but noted that the negotiations were very difficult due to the failure of the Belarusian side to implement the main requirement – the "liberation and restoration of rights of political prisoners." "The relations between the EU and Belarus were once much better than now", – said M. Mora.
"The relations between the EU and Belarus are at a stage when the parties need to take time for reflection", said the British Ambassador to Belarus Bruce Bucknall on 14 November. According to him, the EU offers clear conditions that must be fulfilled in order to improve relations. "The most important one is the release of political prisoners. Belarus is in Europe, and we want to see that it shares European values", said the diplomat.
The Belarusian side, in its turn, replied: "If you want us to change in the desirable direction, then sanctions is not the best way", stated A. Lukashenka in an interview to "Reuters" on 26 November. "We have already made so many steps at the request of the EU and certain politicians that one could walk 10 kilometers, but have received no promised steps towards us. Therefore, it's up to you to conclude who is to make such steps now. We are ready to do it, but you must not come to us for negotiations and audiences and put conditions to us. We have implemented several dozens of such conditions and have received increased sanctions in response." Lukashenka also pointed that almost all people convicted in the aftermath of the presidential election had been released. "You have come to me and said that Europeans demanded their release. I said fine, but according to our laws. You have to appeal to the President to get pardoned. All those who had appealed, were pardoned, despite their guilt. One or two have not applied. They say they feel better in prison, they will be heroes then. Alright, let you stay in jail," added A. Lukashenka.
Thus, the EU has consistently demanded the release of all political prisoners, without any exceptions, to restore relations with the official Minsk, which, in its turn, waited for a positive reaction to each of the previous intermediate steps. This deadlock could not find a positive solution, and 12 political prisoners remained hostage to the stubborn position of the Belarusian authorities.
At the same time, Aliaksandr Lukashenka returned to rejecting the existence of political prisoners. During the October press conference for Russian regional journalists he said: "We have two or three prisoners, who stormed and broke the House of Government", whereas in the interview with "Reuters" he said: "What for do you smother Belarus with sanctions? You say, there are some political prisoners here. Well, come and show at least one political prisoner, but as specialists. Show at least one person illegally convicted by us, and we'll show you all our materials."
The same position was also voiced concerning the convicted head of the Human Rights Center "Viasna" Ales Bialiatski, sentenced to 4.5 years in prison on charges of tax evasion. At his meeting with students of the Belarusian State Economic University on 13 November Lukashenka stated about double standards in the assessment of the case: "The information was given to us by the European Union through Lithuania, where he kept his money. Well, in America, you can get a life sentence for tax evasion – this is normal."
Aliaksandr Lukashenka also denied the existence of problems in other
spheres of human rights, including freedom of speech and expression.
In the same interview, he told "Reuters": "We can not
close people's access to the media. All Russian channels are
broadcast," Euronews ", CNN, BBC, BBC, we receive the
"Reuters" news line. There is Internet in everyone's
houses. Please, open and read if you like." Meanwhile, foreign
mass media have been still subject to censorship, and the existing
Belarusian ones (both national and regional) were under pressure,
forced to survive in discriminative conditions. The criminal cases
against the journalist Andrei Pachobut and the student-journalist
Anton Surapin (who was the first to post "Teddy Troopers"
on his website in July) were not dropped. The practice of harassment
of media personnel for the performance of their professional duties
Arbitrary detentions and administrative punishments were still used towards activists of public organizations and movements and political parties. The persons who tried to express alternative opinions through public events, faced severe restrictions. The practice of pressure and harassment of human rights defenders human rights organizations continued too.
An important event in the field of human rights was the official inauguration of the UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Belarus, Miklos Haraszti on 1 November. The Rapporteur addressed his first official statement to the Belarusian civil society and the Government of Belarus to call both sides to open dialogue in order to promote and protect human rights in the country. According to the expert, his first step will be to seek a meeting with the Government of Belarus to discuss ways to share information needed for a better implementation of his mandate. "Open channels of communication and dialogue with the authorities and other stakeholders are necessary to ensure the accuracy of the reports that I must submit to the Human Rights Council and the General Assembly next year in accordance with my mandate", said Mr. Haraszti. The Belarusian human rights community responded to the invitation of the Special Rapporteur, and on 12-13 November the Belarusian Human Rights House in Vilnius hosted a meeting of the Belarusian human rights defenders with Miklos Haraszti. Consultations were held on a wide range of issues concerning the human rights situation in Belarus.
At the same time, the official Minsk repeated that it did not recognize the mandate of the Special Representative. On 20 November the Belarusian delegation stated at the 67th session of the UN General Assembly that it did not support the resolution on the report of the UN Council on Human Rights. According to the Counselor of the Permanent Mission of Belarus to the UN Larysa Belskaya, the decision was made by the Belarusian side for reasons of principle, including those related to the adoption by the Council of a resolution in July 2012 that established the "politically motivated mandate of the Special Rapporteur on Belarus": "We have repeatedly stated that the Council's decision had nothing to do with the real situation of human rights in Belarus and is aimed at interfering with the internal affairs of our country. Both the resolution and the mandate of the Special Rapporteur on Belarus were imposed on the international community by a group of EU states which promote their political agenda in the Council. The main task of the resolution and the mandate based at it is deliberate anti-government activities in Belarus under the cover of the UN."
Political prisoners. Criminal prosecution of public activists
On 5 November the grandmother of the political prisoner Yauhen Vaskovich received a letter in which he asked not to file any complaints and show no initiative concerning his case."The press can write about me. But not often, and only that I am a prisoner. " He also asked that the press did not write about the specific content of his letters. It is possible that the publication of some details of Yauhen's life in the press and electronic media irritates the prison administration, which has a negative impact on the prisoner.
On 8 November MEP Marek Migalski sent an appeal to the prison #4 in Mahiliou and the Head of the MIA Department of Corrections, asking to stop the repression of the former presidential candidate Mikalai Statkevich. The reason for the appeal was the information that the prison administration seeks to isolate him completely: he was not allowed to meet with an Orthodox priest, the correspondence is blocked, parcels, newspapers and books do not reach him. On 9 November Mikalai Statkevich met with his counsel. Referring to the counsel's words, the wife of the political prisoner Maryna Adamovich said that M. Statkevich had been transferred to another cell with better conditions, and on 1 November he had been visited by an Orthodox priest. Maryna Adamovich also told about the reaction of the administration of the Mahiliou prison to Statkevich's complaint about non-issuance of hygienic means despite the exaction of money on it from his pension. "They tried to convince him that the expenditures on toilet paper, soap, razors and so on had no relation to the exacted money. At the same time, he was promised that all these things will be issued to prisoners starting from the new year."
On 8 November it became known that the political prisoner Zmitser Dashkevich had been transferred to the prison #1 in Hrodna. On 9 November he had a meeting with his counsel, who then told about the details of escorting his client from Mazyr to Hrodna. As it turned out, the process of the transfer started on 4 November. He spent a day in the Mahiliou prison and one more day – in the Baranavichy prison. In the morning of 7 November he arrived at the Hrodna prison, where he spent a day in quarantine, after which he was transferred to a cell in the new prison building, called "American" because of the greater control on part of the administration in comparison to the old building. At the same time, the question of sleeping places is not so acute in the new building. The conditions in Hrodna prison have no considerable differences from those in the cell-type buildings in the Hlybokaye and Mazyr prisons, where Dashkevich was kept before this. On 15 November the counsel had another meeting with Dzmitry Dashkevich. As it is known, the political prisoner is kept in the cell alone. In the conditions of high security he is allowed to receive only one parcel weighing 2 kilograms a year, so he has to eat what is given in prison. In the local kiosk he can buy something after filing an application, for no more than 100,000 rubles a month (about $ 12).
On 8 November the 22-year-old deputy head of the youth association "Union of Young Intellectuals," mechanic of the "Naftan" enterprise Andrei Haidukou from Navapolatsk was detained in Vitsebsk. Several days after it he was transferred to the remand prison of the KGB in Minsk. An activist of the organizing committee of the Belarusian Christian Democracy Party, Navapolatsk citizen Illia Bahdanau was interrogated on the case and released from jail under a written recognizance not to leave. The KGB official website reported that "the State Security Committee prevented the illegal activities of a citizen of the Republic of Belarus, who was engaged by a foreign intelligence service in collection and transmission of information of political and economic nature. This citizen was detained by the KGB while making a cache with some information requested by foreign intelligence services. A criminal case under part 1 of Article 356 of the Criminal Code of Belarus "Treason in the form of intelligence activities" was instigated against him, a complex of operational-investigative activities aimed at identifying other episodes of his illegal activities is conducted." On 22 November the civil initiative "European Belarus" stated that Andrei Haidukou was arrested when transporting a part of the circulation of the newspaper "Charter'97" for distribution in the Vitsebsk region. On 29 November it became known that he would be transferred from the KGB detention center to prison #2 in Vitsebsk.
On 9 November the political prisoner Eduard Lobau, who is serving a sentence in Ivatsevichy colony #5, met with a priest. The last meeting of the believer with the priest took place almost a year ago. On 16-19 November the mother of Eduard Lobau, Maryna Lobava, had a long-term meeting with her son. She reported that the son did not complain about the conditions of detention, he was still in a good health, although he had recently had a cold, but then felt better, kept cheerfully and was in a good mood. According to her, Eduard didn't work in the colony as far as there was no work there – only one working brigade was left. Instead of it, he read a lot. He was subscribed to many newspapers and received all of them. He had no problems with the administration of the colony and other prisoners.
On 10 November the mother of Ihar Alinevich, who is serving a prison sentence in the Navapolatsk colony, had a long-term appointment with her son, which was abridged from three days to just one. The colony administration did not let her pass food, including two sacks of apples she wanted to donate to the brigade where her son was kept. Ihar Alinevich has been deprived of food parcels for the last six months. He is a vegetarian. The sum of money he could spend on food and means of hygiene was decreased to 100,000 Belarusian rubles (about $12) a month, as he was a "persistent violator" of the prison regime.
On 21 November the official representative of the Investigative Committee of the Hrodna region Siarhei Sharshanevich announced continuation of the preliminary investigation in the criminal case of the Hrodna correspondent of the Polish weekly «Gazeta Wyborcza» Andrei Pachobut for another month. According to him, it was done "to conduct additional investigative and process actions," and a number of linguistic examinations was appointed "to give an objective assessment of the actions of the accused." On 29 November Andrei Pachobut was summoned to the investigator's office and informed about the appointment of another linguistic examination on his writings, to be held by workers of the Hrodna State University. It was already the fourth linguistic examination in the case. The previous ones were carried out by experts of the Academy of Management under the President, the Belarusian State University and the Academy of Sciences. A. Pachobut expressed the view that the new examination was scheduled to give more time to the investigators. The investigator also familiarized the journalist with the results of technical examination of the seized computers. "The computers were well familiar to the experts, who had checked them the previous time. The result met the expectations: "BelPartizan" and "Charter'97" were really accessed from the computer. The text files of the articles which appear in the indictment, were found there," said Mr. Pachobut. The equipment was not returned to him, being attached to evidence. Andrei Pachobut was charged under Part 2 of Article 367 of the Criminal Code "Defamation of the President of the Republic of Belarus." The case was brought by the Department of the Investigative Committee of the Hrodna region in June 2012 on the basis of a number of web-articles by him. On 21 June his apartment in Hrodna was searched. The journalist was kept in the remand prison in Hrodna till 30 June, after which he was released on a written undertaking not to leave the city. According to the Criminal Code of the Republic of Belarus, he can be punished by restriction of freedom for up to 5 years, or imprisonment for the same term. A three-year sentence, imposed on Mr. Pachobut on 5 July 2011 with a 2-year deferment, can be added to this term. At that time Andrei Pachobut was found guilty of violating Article 367, Part 1, "Defamation of President". According to the law, if the convict violated this article during these two years, the 3-year imprisonment must be used towards him.
On 22 November the the Prize of Peter Kelly, awarded by Heinrich Böll Foundation to the head of the Human Rights Center "Viasna" Ales Bialiatski, was passed to his wife, Natallia Pinchuk. The prize was awarded as a sign of recognition of Bialiatski's achievements in human rights advocacy in the authoritarian Belarus. Earlier Ales refused from the monetary part of the prize, 10,000 Euros, asking to direct these means on support of human rights activities in Belarus. On 24 November a year has turned since the moment when the Pershamaiski District Court of Minsk sentenced Ales Bialiatski to 4.5 years of imprisonment in a maximum security colony with confiscation of property, including the apartment where the Minsk office of "Viasna" was situated (the confiscation was appointed on 26 November 2012). On 26 November François Hollande, the President of the French Republic, awarded the President of the International Federation for Human Rights Souhayr Belhassen with the distinction of Knight of the Legion of Honor. He dedicated this award to all FIDH activists, especially those who were kept in prison, including the vice-president, Ales Bialiatski. On 29 November Ales Bialiatski called home from the Babruisk colony. According to Natallia Pinchuk, she hadn't received letters from him for several weeks before it, that's why this short call became an important event for her. Ales Bialiatski said he was aware of the confiscation of the apartment where the "Viasna" office was situated.
As it became known on 28 November, an ambulatory
sitting of the Shklou District Court on the case of the political
prisoner Mikalai Dziadok was scheduled for 4 December. The question
of directing Mr. Dziadok to a cell-type prison as a "repeated
violator" was to be considered at the sitting. The judge Vital
Volkau allowed Dziadok's counsel to defend him at the trial, but
dismissed the motion for the presence of his father, former judge of
the Minsk Region Court Aliaksandr Dziadok.
According to A. Dziadok, his son had already 22 penalties for various violations of discipline, and a special commission upheld his transfer to a cell-type prison. The father thinks that the real reason for all these penalties is that the son refuses to sign a petition for clemency.
As it was found on 28 November, Aliaksandr Frantskevich, who is serving his prison term in a maximum security colony "Vouchyia Nory", was placed in a penal cell. His mother Tatsiana Frantskevich didn't manage to find out for how long and for what reason he was put there, but does not rule out that it could be dictated by the wish of the prison administration to undermine his spirit.
On 21 November the mother of the executed death convict Uladzislau Kavaliou received a decision of the UN Human Rights Committee dated 14 November. The appeal was considered in a record time – less than a year. The Committee recognized that the investigation was conducted with numerous violations: physical violence was used towards Kavaliou, he was forced to testify against himself. The trial was not impartial and his right to life was violated. Liubou Kavaliova and her daughter Tatsiana Kaziar filed the communication to the HRC on 14 December 2011, and it was registered the following day. During the correspondence with the Committee the Belarusian State kept on appealing against the registration of the complaint, though its proceedings were not appealed by any country. In their responses the Belarusian authorities stressed that the decision of the Human Rights Committee was politicized and predictable, and therefore would be implemented by them. What concerns the applicants, Liubou Kavaliova and Tatsiana Kaziar, the Human Rights Committee acknowledged the violation of their right to receive the body of the dead relative and information about the time and place of his burial, and recommended that the state change Article 175 part 5 of the Criminal Code, which prohibited the issuance of the bodies to relatives. The state was also recommended to publish the HRC decision in the state-owned media. The document was sent both to the applicants (Kavaliova and Kaziar) and to representatives of the authorities (the Ministry of Foreign Affairs). Four cases concerning the death verdicts which were issued in Belarus are still pending at the HRC.
On 30 November activists of the campaign "Human Rights Defenders against the Death Penalty" joined the worldwide campaign "Cities for Life, Cities against the Death Penalty". They illuminated the outer walls of the St. Symon and Alena Church with candles. This building was not chosen by chance, it is well-known not only in Minsk, but also abroad. Moreover, the "special corridor" where death verdicts are implemented is located near the church, in the remand prison on Valadarski Street 1.
Harassment of human rights activists and organizations
On 8 November in Sikorski Street in Brest the road police stopped the car by which the human rights defender Raman Kisliak was driving. After checking his documents they said Kisliak they detained him because he allegedly evaded from some administrative proceedings. When Raman Kisliak was taken to the Leninski District Police Department of Brest, it was found out that the reason for the detention was that he refused from fingerprinting. R. Kisliak had been detained for the same reason before, but applied against the demand to undergo fingerprinting at the prosecutor's office. However, on 8 November Mr. Kisliak had to undergo fingerprinting, as otherwise he could be prohibited to go abroad, which could hinder his human rights activities. Mr. Kisliak considers as illegal the fact of his inclusion in the special database, on the basis of which his car was detained, and stated his detention to appeal this decision.
On 12 November the Vitsebsk human rights defender Pavel Levin who stayed in place of the explosion near the KGB building in Vitsebsk in the night time reporting news, was taken to the Kastrychnitski DPD and fined 200,000 Belarusian rubles (2 basic units) for crossing the road in the wrong place. The report about the administrative offense was drawn up by the inspector Baranau. Mr. Levinau believes the inspector did it on the order of the chief inspector Khaladnou, who demanded that his subordinate divert attention from the KGB building. Before this Baranau paid no reaction to the KGB officers who also crossed the road without using the pedestrian crossing.
As it became known on 20 November, the appeal instance of the Minsk Economic Court turned down the appeal against the liquidation of the "Platform" institution. According to the head of the "Platform" Andrei Bandarenka, the appeal was considered on 13 November in the absence of representatives of the institution. The court secretary allegedly "lost" the appeal of the human rights defenders about the postponement of the trial, and the judge pretended that it was impossible to do anything as the trial had already taken place. Andrei Bandarenka stated that a cassation appeal had been filed to the Supreme Economical Court. Another appeal was sent to the prosecutor's office.
On 21 November the human rights defender Leanid Sudalenka was fined 500,000 rubles (5 basic units) on decision of the Savetski District Tax Inspection of Homel. He was charged with not presenting an income and assets declaration (Article 23.9 of the Code of Administrative Offenses). Bear in mind that the tax inspection demanded income and assets declarations from Mr. Sudalenka, his wife and even his son who was is serving in the army. Leanid Sudalenka refused to present the declaration, and drew a number of important reasons. First, in 2008 the tax inspection had already demanded his return, which he had presented, after which the information from it was published in the state-owned newspaper "Homelskaya Prauda" which is illegal and violates the law (disclosure of private information by a duty official). The human rights defender also asked: who ordered such actions to the inspection, and why did the inspection pay so much interest to his family and his son who was in the army? The head of the Savetski District Tax Inspection Kanstantsin Tratseuski considered an administrative report against Sudalenka with the words "I have to do it", after which the human rights defender was immediately issued with a new demand to present the declaration.
At 10 a.m. on 26 November bailiffs, policemen, a cameraman in mufti, workers of public utilities and two witnesses came to the apartment where the office of the Human Rights Center "Viasna" had been situated for the last 12 years. The court officers sealed the premises of the organization. A few minutes before the confiscation of the office the deputy chairman of the Human Rights Center "Viasna" Valiantsin Stefanovich voiced the statement, adopted by the Board of the organization. It noted that the loss of office was a serious blow to "Vasna", but it wouldn't stop its human rights activities. The organization continues helping the people whose rights are violated and monitoring the general situation of human rights in Belarus.
In November, the tax authorities used new methods of pressure on a member of the Human Rights Center "Viasna", the President of the Belarusian Human Rights House Tatsiana Reviaka. The check-up of the income and assets of the human rights defender for 2004-2010, held by the Pershamaiski District Tax Inspection of Minsk, found no violations connected to the concealment of income. However, during the check-up it was found that some data from the case head of the Human Rights Centre "Viasna" Ales Bialiatski had been transferred to the tax organ. On 20 and 27 November Tatsiana Reviaka was questioned by the senior tax inspector of the department of control over income and property declaration of the Pershamaiski District Tax Inspection Valiantsina Burava concerning the sums which appear in the criminal case and human rights activist Ales Bialiatski and which were supposedly transferred to her. Tatsiana Reviaka was proposed to answer questions concerning the existence of the accounts in the Lithuanian bank, the purposes of their opening and details of the transfers of financial means on them. As it was stated in the protocol of the questioning, "the inspection has copies of the account statements of AB DnB NORD bank in Vilnius, Lithuania, according to which the Tatiana Reviaka was the receiver of the financial means" (from A. Bialiatski). However, as far as the inspector refused to provide these documents for studying by Tatsiana Reviaka, the latter refused to answer any questions concerning them, referring to her constitutional right not to testify against herself. The inspector Burava stated that the tax inspection would check the information from Bialiatski's case and decide whether to consider the means which had been allegedly transferred to Tatsiana Reviaka as her personal income from which no taxes were paid.
Pressurization of social and political activists by security services
On 19 November a member of the Asipovichy District Council, member of the organizing committee of the Belarusian Christian Democracy Aliaksei Tsiulkou was summoned to the local KGB. After a lengthy conversation, which lasted about four hours, he was warned that about the possibility of his punishment under Article 193.1 of the Criminal Code for acting on behalf of an unregistered organization. Earlier, other Asipovichy BCD activists, Uladzimir Klimanovich and Anatol Tserash, were summonsed to KGB as well.
Administrative prosecution of social and political activists, arbitrary detention
On 2 November the administrative commission of the Slutsk District Executive Committee found the civil activist Vital Amialkovich guilty of violating the rules of urban maintenance. During its second sitting, the commission considered the alleged posting stickers on a lamp-post near a shop as a proven fact. This was considered as a violation of Article 21.14, Part 2 of the Code of Administrative Offenses and the urban maintenance rules adopted by the Slutsk District Executive Committee. The decision was issued behind closed doors. The head f the commission Natallia Charnushevich proposed that Amialkovich left the room after learning that he had recorded the previous sitting on a Dictaphone. However, this time he managed to find out who had detained him in the night of 14 November and "seen him pasting stickers on a pole" – it was the head of the Slutsk District Police Department Aliaksei Strom. The civil activist disagrees with the decision of the administrative commission, according to which he was sentenced to a fine of 1 million rubles, and expressed the intention to appeal it at the Slutsk District Court.
On 8 November in Svislach (Hrodna region) the police drew up reports of administrative offense on the local residents Viktar Dzesiatsik, Yury Hlebik and Anatol Valiuk for taking part in a commemorative action in honor of the brothers Kanstantsin and Viktar Kalinouski. The Memorial Day of participants of the anti-Russian uprising of 1863-1864 has been marked in the Svislach district for 19 years in succession. Its participants have never violated the public order or staged any provocations. However, this year four activists were arrested from different cities of Belarus, three of them were sentenced to three-day arrest terms, and the fourth – to a fine. Several days after this the police started disturbing local participants of the holiday. On 27 November the Svislach District Court considered three administrative reports, drawn up on Viktar Dzesiatsik, Yury Hlebik and Anatol Valiuk. The poet Anatol Valiuk was fined first. The judge Zhana Salahubik, who led the trial, refused to summon his witnesses referring to the case that they were defendants in a similar case. The police video from the action was not demonstrated at court that day. Mr. Valiuk states that he could not be seen on the video and was really fined just for his presence in the city center on that day. Afterwards, the judge Salahubik quickly considered two similar cases, as a result of which the head of the Svislach branch of the Belarusian Social Democratic Hramada Viktar Dzesiatsik and the member of the educational public association "Leu Sapeha Foundation" Yury Hlebik were fined 1 million rubles each.
On 22 November the civil activist Ales Kirkevich was questioned at the Leninski District Police Department of Hrodna concerning his participation in the Insurgents' Day in the Svislach district. Mr. Kirkevich answered that he had really been at this event in Svislach, and refused to answer a number of other questions.
On 8 November the judge of the Maskouski District Court of Minsk Tatiana Motal sentenced the "Young Front" activist Uladzmir Yaromenak to 15 days of arrest on charges in disorderly conduct (Article 17.1 of the Code of Administrative Offenses). The activist was detained in the evening of 6 November on Nezalezhnasts Square in Minsk for spilling valerian tincture on the monument to Lenin, on the eve of 7 November, the day of the October Revolution. The purpose of the action was to encourage cats from the surrounding areas come under the monument and "express their feelings" towards Lenin. Uladzimir Yaromenak was detained by the guards of the House of the Government while preparing to the "cat protest" near the monument and guarded to the Maskouski District Police Department of Minsk.
On 9 November the judge of the Maskouski District Court of Minsk Tatiana Motal sentenced the "Young Front" activist Raman Vasilyeu to 15 days of arrest on charges of disorderly conduct, Article17.1 CAO. Raman Vasilyeu was detained in Minsk on 8 November and spent the night in the Maskouski District Police Department. The detention was conducted when the activist went out of his house, going for a meeting. The judge considered as "disorderly conduct" Vasilyeu's participation in the action on Nezalezhnasts Square in Minsk, where "Young Front" activists had spilled valerian tincture on the pedestal of the monument to Lenin on the eve of 7 November.
On 18 November the Homel resident Stanislau Yalenski was returning from Ukraine through the border crossing point "Novaya Huta" and was stopped by border guards for a thorough inspection. The reason for this was the application on the rear window of the car – a bear with a parachute, holding an inscription "Hi, air defense!" in his hands. One of the border guards paid a special interest to the bear, asked what the application meant and then called the head of the shift. The car was put in a special place. Then there came another border guard with a camera and took pictures of the bear from all angles. The reaction of the border guards must be an outcome of the "Teddy Troopers" action, held in July by Swedish citizens. The Swedes used a light aircraft to get to the territory of Belarus and drop teddy bears with demands to respect fundamental rights and civil liberties in the country.
On 19 November the Baranavichy City and District Court fined the entrepreneur Mikalai Charnavus was fined 3 million rubles (3 basic units) for "organizing and holding an unauthorized mass event", Article 23.34 Part 2 of the Administrative Code, for organizing a charity dinner at the local market on 6 October. The sentence was delivered by the judge Aksana Sarakhman.
On 21 November customs officer held a personal examination of a coordinator of the youth network of the Trade Union of Radio-Electronic Industry Andrei Stryzhak. As a result, his laptop he had was taken away for examination. The detention was conducted by the senior lieutenant Raman Tofan.
At about 3.30 p.m. on 22 November the police detained the activists of the "European Belarus" Siarhei Kazakou and Valiantsina Tsiurava for handing out the "Charter'97" newspaper. The detainees were taken to the Zavadski DPD and released after 7 p.m.
On 26 November representatives of political parties and NGOs gathered near the monument to Uladzimir Karatkevich in Vitsebsk to mark an anniversary of his birthday. The police considered the reading of his poems and speeches of lovers of his creative works as an unauthorized mass event. As a result, the present people had to disperse for fear of detention. All in all, 14 police officers were present at the action. All participants of the action were shot on video by a cameraman in mufti. At first the police just watched the events. Then a policeman in the uniform, but without a badge with his surname, stated that those who gathered there were participants of an unauthorized mass event who used unregistered symbols – he meant the white-red-white ribbons fastened on the chest of the audience. When the regional coordinator of the "For Freedom" movement Khrystafor Zhaliapau asked the policeman to introduce himself, the latter told he was major Bahdanau and threatened to detain the people if they refused to disperse. On hearing Bahdanau's words about the unauthorized event the policemen ringed the action participants. The people decided not to spoil the celebration of the anniversary by proceedings at the police and at court, that's why the people dispersed in 10-15 minutes.
Restrictions on freedom of speech and the right to impart information, persecution of journalists
On 13 November it became known that the former head of the "ARCHE" magazine Valery Bulhakau had left Belarus. According to him, he was made to do it due to the investigation which was started against the intellectual edition by the authorities. He also suggested that the investigation may consider various options to incriminate him various crimes: associated either with the spread of extremist publications or illegal business activities, or the abuse of official position. On 16 November the editorial board of the "ARCHE" magazine decided not to include the edition in the subscription catalog of "BelPoshta" for the first half of 2013 and asked this state enterprise to return to the subscribers the means for the second half of 2012. According to the statement, published at the website of the magazine, the edition has experienced a constant pressure since the middle of September, especially on the part of the Financial Investigation Department (FID) of the Committee of State Control. "An enhanced scrutiny of the "ARCHE" business is conducted, its staff is called for interrogations at the FID, the state TV seeks to create the impression that some of the historical materials published in the magazine are extremist. The blockage of the "ARCHE" accounts disrupted the printing of several issues, which had been prepared for publication." Appeals to the FID and higher authorities with the request to unblock the accounts of the edition were futile", reads the statement. "We do not believe it is honest to take on new responsibilities to our subscribers while the old ones remain unimplemented (the editorial board didn't manage to publish five issues for the second half of 2012). That's why we decided to refuse from including our edition in the subscription catalog for the first half of 2013 until the situation becomes clear, and ask "BelPoshta" to return the "ARCHE" subscribers the money for the second half of 2012." On 30 November the Minsk City and Region FID Bureau responded to the written request of the Belarusian Association of Journalists to unblock the bank accounts of "ARCHE". FID stated that the editorial board of the magazine failed to provide the necessary documents for examination. The deputy head of the Minsk City and Region FID Bureau A.S. Lahunou wrote that this was the reason for blocking the accounts. However, the editorial board of "ARCHE" insisted they had passed the FID all the documents which were demanded from them.
As it became known on 14 November, Belarus was put on the "Europe Watch List" of the International Press Institute (IPI). Along with our country, it includes Turkey, Hungary and Ukraine. All of them are disturbing examples of deviation from the freedom of the media in Europe. The list of countries is made on the basis of reports of experts of IPI and its affiliate, the South East Europe Media Organization (SEEMO). "Although the List focuses on particular countries to increase its impact, that limitation is not a suggestion that other countries lack similar concerns, but a reflection of IPI and SEEMO’s view that media freedom in these four particular countries is under major threat", explains the organization.
On 21 November the Belarusian Consulate in Bialystok refused to issue a long-term visa to the president of the Belarusian Radio "Racyja", chairman of the Belarusian Union in Poland Jauhen Vapa. In May 2011 his valid Belarusian visa was annulled.
On 22 November the Svetlahorsk City Executive Committee issued a ruling which obliged the local enterprises and organizations to subscribe to the state press for the next year, starting from "Sovetskaya Belorussiya" and ending with the district state-owned newspaper "Svetlahorskiya Naviny". The appropriate order of the Director General of the Svetlahorsk enterprise "Khimvalakno" ("Chemical Fiber") Vasil Kastsiukevich to its structural subdivision concerning the obligatory subscription to 8 official newspapers leaked to the Internet. The heads of the subdivisions were made put in charge of "organizing the subscription to periodicals among the subordinates". According to the order, it is done "to provide a better information of employees about the political, economic, social and trade union life of the country and the region," and for "the formation of a common spirit and goals". To do this, they must subscribe to 465 copies of "Sovetskaya Belorussiya", 5 copies of "Zviazda", "Narodnaya Hazeta" and "Znamia Yunosti", 12 copies of "Gomelskaya Pravda", 1 copy of "Respublika" and 501 copies of "Svetlahorskiya Naviny". The practice of forced subscription to state-owned editions also exists at other enterprises. The Steel Works Plant, situated in the neighboring town of Zhlobin, needs to subscribe to the district state-owned newspaper "Novy Dzen" and the factory one, "Metalurh", in addition to the aforementioned ones. Rechytsa teachers say they are being forced to subscribe to "Nastaunitskaya Hazeta" for the small sums they are issued on the purchase of instructional materials.
On 12 November 41 copies of the BELARUS PRESS PHOTO 2011 album were taken away from the photographers Yuliya Darashkevich and Aliaksandr Vasiukovich at the border crossing point "Kamenny Loh". The photographer and organizer of the "Press-photo of Belarus" contest Yuliya Darashkevich stated that the customs officers decided to examine the albums to find whether they had any information which harmed the Belarusian state. She notes that these albums were published quite legally and all fees for them had been paid off a long time ago. On 26 November the Ashmiany customs office informed A.Vasiukovich that "the printed matter – 41 copies of BELARUS PRESS PHOTO was recognized illegal (not corresponding to the State Standard of the Republic of Belarus STB 7.4-2009. "Editions. Imprint") as a result of the customs examination and must be destroyed. BELARUS PRESS PHOTO is an annual competition of media photographers, founded in 2009 by Belarusian photographers. Dozens of Belarusian photographers take part in this prestigious competition every year. The final exhibitions are demonstrated far beyond the Belarusian borders. Two compilation albums of the best photos have been published so far.
Restriction of freedom of assembly
On 5 November Vitsebsk members of the Conservative-Christian Party "Belarusian Popular Front" received an answer from the Vitsebsk City Executive Committee. They were denied in holding their procession and meeting, as they intended to hold them in the places that hadn't been determined by the authorities. At present, there are three places for mass events in Vitsebsk. All of them are located on the outskirts of the city. The CCP BPF activists disagree with this situation: they applied for the authorization of a procession from the railway station to Lenin Square, where they intended to hold a picket. The CCP BPF member Yan Dziarzhautsau pointed that on 7 November they planned to talk to citizens about the harmful role of the communist ideology in the development of Belarus and the activities of Communists to destroy the national culture, language and identity of the Belarusian people.
On 25 November there was held the authorized "Slavonic March", initially appointed on 11 November. The event was organized by Dzmitry Dzenisenka, who has a relation to the web resource http://14vn.com and is an informal member of a pro-Russian radical organization acting on the territory of Belarus. The aforementioned website has a radical orientation and stands against Belarus as an independent state. Among the objectives of the "Slavic March" stated on the website there were rebuilding a united and indivisible Russia, Russian Slavic brotherhood and unity, traditional moral values, a true Orthodox spirituality, the revival of the pan-Russian traditions, social justice, resistance to the global electronic concentration camp (chipization of the population). The local authorities allowed the event, but did not allow to use black-yellow-white flags, a symbol of the monarchic movement which used to be the official flag during the times of the Russian Empire. The prohibition on the use of the flag was explained by the fact that it hadn't been registered officially in Belarus. During the procession the marchers chanted "Glory to Russia", "Russians advance!", etc. Some time after the action, on 29 November it was reported that an activist who had posted anti-fascist leaflets on lampposts short before the action had been detained. The leaflets featured a crossed Nazi symbol (eagle holding a swastika) and the Russian coat of arms, double-headed eagle. The activist printed them on his own printer. He was noticed by the road policemen who called the police who then guarded the detainee to the Leninski District Police Department, where he was interrogated, got charges and a summons for 29 November. According to the activist, before he was taken to the DPD, a KGB officer had approached him, examined the leaflets and made it clear that he would not have any problems with them. At the DPD the activist was charged with posting leaflets without a special permission and in an undisclosed location. When Aliaksandr came to the police on 29 November, he was told that the case was dropped and the appropriate ruling had been mailed to him.
On 28 November the Slutsk City Executive Committee prohibited the BPF Party to hold a rally in the memory of participants of the Slutsk uprising. The rally was scheduled for 1 December at the city stadium. The reason for the ban was that the local authorities would allegedly hold some events on the occasion of the World AIDS Day. Among the organizers of the rally in the memory of members of the Slutsk uprising there were the chairman of the BPF Party Aliaksei Yanukevich and the head of the Slutsk BPF branch Vital Amialkovich. The stated number of participants was about 100 people. The week before this members of the CCP BPF held unauthorized procession and rally dated to the Heroes' Day near the Slutsk local core museum.
Restriction of freedom of association
On 27 November believers of the Protestant church "New Life" received the decision of the Supreme Economic Court, according to which they were ordered to leave their temple by 5 December. At 11 a.m. they were to pass the keys to the Maskouski District Housing Repairs and Utilities Association of Minsk. The believers have been struggling for their building for seven years already. In 2005, the Minsk City Executive Committee adopted a ruling, according to which the church was deprived of its plot of land. The believers passed 30 court proceedings defending their property rights, but lost all of them. In 2006 they had to resort to a hunger-strike. After this, the church pastor was invited to the Presidential Administration for a talk with Aleh Praliaskouski, the then deputy head of the Presidential Administration on ideology. Lukashenka knew about this case and asked the believers to stop the hunger-strike for solving the case by legal means. The believers went for it, but the case was transferred to the Supreme Economic Court for reconsideration. In 2008 the Minsk City Executive Committee proposed them to choose another territory for constructing a new church, in Sharanhovich Street. However, the Protestants refused from this proposal, referring to the fact that the decision on their case hadn't been taken yet. Moreover, the proposed area was insufficient for the church. On 27 November the believers held a gathering to decide on the future actions to protect the church. The parishioners didn't even consider the option of voluntary leaving the temple, which they had constructed from an old cowshed. On 29 November the Maskouski District Executive Committee of Minsk informed the bailiffs that the Housing Repairs and Utilities Association refused from the building of the"New Life". On 4 December the church lawyer Siarhei Lukanin was told about this in a telephone conversation with the bailiff of the Economic Court Volha Shcharbovich. Thus, the court decision about the eviction was still in force, but the court proceedings on the case were stopped and the case was passed to the archive. Siarhei Lukanin received the appropriate documents in the evening of 4 December in the Minsk City Economic Court.