Review-Chronicle of Human Rights Violations in Belarus in February 2013

2013 2013-03-14T22:47:26+0300 1970-01-01T03:00:00+0300 en The Human Rights Center “Viasna” The Human Rights Center “Viasna”
The Human Rights Center “Viasna”

Though the situation of human rights remained stably bad in February, an important event concerning the situation of political prisoners took place – On 9 February Vasil Parfiankou, a figurant of the "case of 19 December 2010", pardoned in 2011 and convicted in 2012 for violation of the conditions of preventive supervision, was released from the arrest house due to the end of the six-month arrest term. However, this fact brought no changes for the overall situation of political prisoners, as it could by no means be considered as a manifestation of change in the attitude of the Belarusian authorities to political prisoners. 11 prisoners of conscience are still kept in Belarusian prisons.

The European Union kept to its principled position and continued to insist on the release of political prisoners as a precondition of the restoration of political dialogue with the official Minsk. Belarus, in its turn, showed a reluctance to meet these requirements, at the same time building up contacts with European structures and diplomatic missions of the EU, which could indicate a desire for dialogue, but on pragmatic terms. On 13 February, following negotiations with European Commissioner for Enlargement and Neighborhood Policy Štefan Füle in Tbilisi within the framework of a the two-day round of talks at the ministerial level between the EU and the member countries of the EU "Eastern Partnership", the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Belarus Uladzimir Makei stated that only engagement in the European integration process, not isolation, could help the country to become democratic. At the same time, commenting on the results of these negotiations, Füle said: "Belarus is one of our partners. Unfortunately, Belarus is our only partner with whom we have no legal basis for a strong bilateral relationship, as with other partners. In such circumstances, the EU can only occasionally point out that in Belarus there is the prospect of the development of relations enjoyed by our other partners. The prerequisite for this development is the release of political prisoners."

During the month, the leaders of the Belarusian Foreign Ministry kept looking for opportunities to establish contacts with European diplomats. On 7 February, Foreign Minister of Belarus Uladzimir Makei received the Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the Republic of Latvia Michail Popkovs. As a result, the Belarusian side spread the information that the results of bilateral cooperation in 2012 in the political, trade and economic spheres were summed up during the meeting and the interest in maintaining the dynamics of the development of relations between Belarus and Latvia was expressed. According to the Belarusian Foreign Ministry, on 21 February Mr. Makei and Finland's Ambassador to Belarus Harri Mäki-Reynika discussed the state and prospects of bilateral cooperation and interaction in the region of Northern Europe. "There was an exchange of views on the subject of the development of relations between Belarus and the EU, as well as other issues on the international agenda".

The public information of the Foreign Ministry of Belarus had no references to the fundamental condition for the resumption of the dialogue of the EU with the official Minsk, but it is possible that it was viced by European diplomats at the meeting. An indirect confirmation of the fact that the Belarusian authorities have to react to the position of the EU is the increased pressure on political prisoners in order to force them to write a request for clemency to the President. Most likely that in such a way the Belarusian authorities are trying to implement the EU condition and at the same time save their own reputation by extorting clemency petitions from political prisoners.

The official Minsk continued the policy of non-recognition of the mandate of the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Belarus, established by a resolution of the Human Rights Council in July 2012. During his meeting with Belarusian journalists in Kyiv on 18 February Miklos Haraszti, who was appointed to the position of Special Rapporteur, said he had asked to be issued with a Belarusian visa several times, but hadn't received a positive answer. According to him, he has only been able to meet with representatives of Belarusian civil society while working on the report which is to be presented to the UN Human Rights Council in June 2013. All these meetings were held outside Belarus.

At the same time, the Belarusian Foreign Ministry continued criticizing human rights mechanisms and bodies of the United Nations. On 25 February, during the 22nd session of the UN Human Rights, the Permanent Representative of Belarus to the United Nations in Geneva Mikhail Khvastou criticized the current state of affairs in the Council. He noted that there were "numerous problems in the human rights body: selectivity, a serious imbalance in the consideration of human rights violations in different regions, lack of awareness of human rights issues in countries that have positioned themselves as "advanced democracies", the promotion of controversial human rights concepts, etc.". Speaking about the readiness of Belarus to "help bridge these gaps," the diplomat at the same time expressed no desire to allow the Rapporteur of the Council to Belarus, so that the latter could get acquainted with the state of human rights and thus have a comprehensive view of the situation in the country, in order to later put it in his report. Mr. Khvastou offered to focus on human rights violations in other countries, including through the "presentation of our annual country reports on resonant human rights violations in specific countries". The first such report appeared under the auspices of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Belarus in February, providing information on human rights violations in 23 European countries, USA and Canada. The MFA stated that the purpose of the report was to draw attention to human rights violations in countries that traditionally identified themselves as "advanced democracies" and demonstrate their non-compliance with the international legal obligations. By this report of the Belarusian Foreign Ministry tried to distract the attention of the international human rights community from the situation of human rights in Belarus and switch criticism to other countries, at the same time avoiding the recognition and solving of internal problems.

Political prisoners, criminal prosecution of public activists

On 2 February, during the first telephone call from Mahiliou prison for eight months, activist of the anarchist movement Mikalai Dziadok stated that he had been examined at the prison hospital, diagnosed with a chronic stomach illness and assigned a course of medical treatment.

On 3 February it became known that the Norwegian parliament allocated the imprisoned human rights activist Ales Bialiatski for the Nobel Peace Prize. On February Henk Hulshof, European Coordinator of Amnesty International, and Harry van Baumel, MEP, met with the Ambassador of Belarus in Hague, Alena Hrytsenka, to pass her 84,000 signatures collected in support of Ales Bialiatski, along with a gold coin engraved with a portrait of the political prisoner and the inscription "Freedom for Ales Bialiatski." On the same day a book by Ales Bialiatski, "Enlightened by Belarusian issue", which included his literary articles and essays, was issued. Ales Bialiatski started composing the book in 2011 at large and continued to work at it after his arrest, in the prisons of Minsk, Babruisk and Zhodzina. On 13 February it was announced that Ales Bialiatski was denied visits, which he was to have received in the next six months. This information was confirmed to the prisoner's wife Natallia Pinchuk by the administration of Babruisk penal colony #2 where Ales is kept. Before that, in 2012, the imprisoned head of the HRC "Viasna" was deprived of one short-term (of the three) and one long-term (two possible) visits with family members. The short term meeting was to have taken place in April, and the long-term one was scheduled for 21 August. Increased pressure on Ales Bialiatski may be connected with the attempts of the Belarusian authorities to extort a clemency petition from him.

As it became known on 3 February, the ex-presidential candidate Nikolai Statkevich, who is serving a prison sentence in Mahiliou, received the first food parcel for a year. The wife of the political prisoner Maryna Adamovich noted that the prison administration had not accepted some of the products – most of the vegetables and herbs, as well as honey, citing sanitary rules as the reason. On 11 February Mr. Statkevich called to his wife Maryna Adamovich and stated that another wave of provocations against him had started. A former intelligence officer, known for a very tough attitude towards inmates, humiliation and beatings, was put in his cell. A few days later it became known that the man didn't stay in the cell for a long time. He apologized to M. Statkevich after discriminating in the situation and asked to be transferred to another cell. At the same time, at the press conference of 12 February the Deputy Prosecutor General of Belarus Aliaksei Stuk said that the prison conditions of ex-presidential candidates Mikalai Statkevich and human rights activist Ales Bialiatski were the same as that of all other prisoners.

On 4 February, during a ten-minute call home from Mahiliou penal colony, political prisoner Artsiom Prakapenka told his mother Vialeta Prakapenka that he had returned to work after bronchitis, but didn't feel quite well, and the workshop was very cold. The prisoner asked his mother to send him vitamins.

On 6 February it became known that entrepreneur Mikalai Autukhovich, who is serving a prison sentence in Hrodna, couldn't solve the problems that had arisen due to poor dental prosthesis, made in Ivatsevichy penal colony. Toothache accompanies his entire sentence. According to his former lawyer Pavel Sapelka, they plan some steps to get the problem solved. As it became clear from Autukhovich's letter to civil activist Leanid Haravy, he was not going to apply to A. Lukashenka for clemency. Noting that the president expected the prisoners to write at least three words: "Please, release me," the political prisoner wrote that he wouldn't get even these three words from him.

At about 11 a.m. on 9 February, political prisoner Vasil Parfiankou was released from Baranavichy remand prison #6, in which there is a house of detention, where he was serving a six-month sentence for violating the terms of preventive supervision. At large he was greeted by friends and associates, human rights defenders, activists from Minsk and Baranavichy. Parfiankou told reporters that he was waiting for this day. He didn't complain about the prison conditions. Vasil said that he knew the situation in the country as he regularly read newspapers. He also said that he received many letters (some days even a few hundred), from Belarus and abroad, thanked everyone for their support. When asked if he was going to stop social activities, Parfiankou said no. What concerns his life in the house of detention, Mr. Parfinakou said that his cell was spacious, and some 6-8 people were serving arrest with him.

On 11 February "Young Front" activist Eduard Lobau phoned his mother Maryna Lobava and told that he had received a permit for a short meeting, the possibility of which had previously been under threat because of a violation report drawn up on him. On 14 February M. Lobava had a short meeting with his son, speaking to him through a glass barrier. Despite the fact that Eduard Lobau was serving his sentence in a penal colony, he said that the conditions resembled that of a prison. Mother of the political prisoner said that in recent months her son had some minor violations, but only preventive talks were used as punishment. She also emphasized that the opportunities for self-development of prisoners were rather limited.

On 11 February, community activist from Navapolatsk Andrei Haidukou, accused of high treason in the form of intelligence activity in KGB jail, had a meeting with his lawyer. According to the mother of the detainee, Volha Haidukova, the meeting lasted several hours and was the first since the transfer of her son to the KGB remand prison in Minsk. "The lawyer came to him at ten o'clock and talked with him till afternoon, but doesn't tell any details". The lawyer was only able to say that Andrew kept properly, looked good and said that he was healthy. Before this, the lawyer could not meet with his client: the permission was given, but the meeting did not happen as the KGB prison allegedly was short of the meeting rooms. On 19 February, Human Rights Center "Viasna" and the Belarusian Helsinki Committee, issued a statement in which they demanded transparency and compliance with all procedural norms in the case of Andrei Haidukou, providing him with adequate protection and realization of his rights in accordance with the Belarusian legislation and international obligations. On 28 February, civil activist Yauhen Kanstrantsinau was questioned on Haidukou's case at Minsk KGB.

On 14 February, wife of former presidential candidate Andrei Sannikau, journalist Iryna Khalip was allowed to temporary leave Belarus. "I was called to the penal inspection of Partyzanski District Police Department where I am registered. The head of the penal inspection Natallia Kaliada informed me that my application was approved, and I could visit my husband and the editorial office of "Novaya Gazeta" before 3 April," said Iryna Khalip. "But my status remains unchanged. I am still an arrestee awaiting a trial in July, at which they will decide what to do with me." On 18 February I. Khalip came to get registered at Partyzanski District Police Department. However, in the room of the head of the criminal executive inspection she was met by another official – the head of the supervisory and executive department of Main Police Department of Minsk City Executive Committee Aliaksandr Kupchenia. "Instead of giving me the register for putting my signature Kupchenia asked when exactly I was going abroad. I explained that I hadn't determined the day of my travel to husband yet, as far as my child was ill. Then Kupchenia started shouting: "We have opened the border for you, and you refuse going. Tell me the truth, you didn't intend to go anywhere. You didn't think you'd be given permission. And we did it, contrary to your expectations. Take your child, go there and get political asylum, but do not come back here! You are not needed here! You only distort facts!" Obviously, the sputtering colonel shouted somebody else's words. Didn't he realize he was blatantly violating not only the law, but also the duty instructions? After all, he threatened me and openly provoked to a violation of the regime of sentence. And he didn't do it somewhere on the street, he did it in the penal inspection, while performing his office duties. Now I understand that they just want to expel from the country, like it was done with dissidents in the USSR," said the journalist.

On 18 February it was reported that Ihar Alinevich got the first food parcel since May 2012. His mother Valiantsina Alinevich said she had a short meeting with her son. V. Alinevich noted that the administration kept prohibiting Ihar to study in vocational school in Navapolatsk penal colony #10 for the third year already. "Despite the fact that my song has a higher education, he is committed to further development. In order not to waste time, he tried to get permission to study at the vocational school in the colony. It's also a chance for him to feel like a man sitting at a desk in a warm room, which cannot be done in prison. But the administration has repeatedly denied Ihar this opportunity without explaining its decision. It should say that other prisoners were allowed to study," commented the woman.

On 19 February Tamara Vaskovich, grandmother of an activist of the organizing committee of the party "Belarusian Christian Democracy" Yauhen Vaskovich, stated she hadn't received letters from him for more than a month. After end of the trial he was kept in the penal cell for almost every fourth day. Since May 2011, he had 40 penalties and was put in the penal cell more than 20 times, spending more than 150 days there.

On 19 February it became known that political prisoner Aliaksandr Frantskevich was placed in a penal cell in Ivatsevichy penal colony for 20 days. This was reported by his mother Tatiana Frantskevich. This is the fourth case since the moment of imprisonment, the last time he was kept in the penal cell for ten days before the New Year. "Harder conditions of detention are created for those who refuse to write clemency petitions for Lukashenka. This is done in order to undermine their moral strength and will," said T. Frantskevich. She says the son started having problems with his stomach in jail, that's why she prepared for him a medical packet. A long-term meeting with the son was appointed on May.

Death penalty

On 11 February Liubou Kavaliova, the mother of Uladzislau Kavaliou executed by shooting on charges of terrorism, was declared "Person of the year 2012 in Vitsebsk". The woman is an active advocate of the abolition of the death penalty in Belarus.

On 13 February it became known that the review appeal filed in September 2012 against the death sentence to Uladzislau Kavaliou was still pending. Counsel Stanislau Abrazei applied to the head of the Supreme Court with the demand to immediately consider it.

Enforced disappearances

On 12 February, representatives of political parties, social movements and human rights organizations met to develop a common tactics that would allow to prevent the closure of the criminal cases concerning the disappearance of former Interior Minister Yury Zakharanka, politician Viktar Hanchar, businessman Anatol Krasouski and journalist Dzmitry Zavadsky. The cases can be closed due to the expiry of the terms of investigation. BHC lawyer Hary Pahaniaila reported that relatives of the missing and their officials had prepared a petition to the Prosecutor General of Belarus with the request to extend the investigation of these cases. Deputy Chairman of the Human Rights Centre "Viasna" Valiantsin Stefanovich identified three main sets of actions: 1. legal actions under the national law and 2. international ones, including the presentation of complete and accurate information to the UN Special Rapporteur on Belarus, Miklos Haraszti, and the use of other instruments, including the UN Human Rights Committee, 3. informational ones, designed to work with the community and public opinion. The meeting participants approved the idea of a national report on the missing and its broad presentation, creation of professional documentaries, and a wide collection of signatures by means of electronic petitions.

Harassment of human rights defenders and human rights organizations

On 7 February 7 Hrodna human rights defender Uladzimir Khilmanovich was detained by the border guards and customs officers of the border crossing point "Bruzgi" while returning from Poland by Bialystok-Hrodna shuttle. His belongings were searched, after which the human rights defender had to wait for about an hour to be issued with a copy of the search report. Then he was returned his passport, put on another bus and finally allowed to continue his trip after a 2.5 hour detention on the border.

On 17 February, Hrodna human rights defenders Uladzimir Khilmanovich, Raman Yurhel and Viktar Sazonau filed review complaints to the chairman of Hrodna Region Court against verdicts of Hrodna City Court and Hrodna Region Court which confirmed the legality of their administrative punishment for publishing photos on the web, which was qualified as an unauthorized picket. The human rights defenders had been sentenced to administrative fines of half a million each for the photos in which they could be seen holding portraits of political prisoner Ales Bialiatski, head of the Human Rights Center "Viasna".

On 25 February, officers of the Ministry of Dues and Taxes of the Republic of Belarus came to the office of the Belarusian Helsinki Committee without any warning. They passed to the head of the organization, Aleh Hulak, a warrant for arrest and/or seizure of property and the notice about the actions aimed at identifying the property of the payer. BHC has to pay to the budget over 284 million Belarusian rubles as taxes and penalties for the grants from the European Commission which were received in 2002-2003 and were exempt from taxes.

Intensification of pressure on the social security services and political activists

On 14 February Frunzenski District Police Department of Minsk refused to bring a criminal case against the unidentified people who had assaulted activist of "European Belarus" Yulia Stsiapanava. In the official response to Yuliya Stsiapanava it was stated that there was no criminal corpus delicti in the actions of the offenders and they could only be punished with up to 15 days of arrest under the Code of Administrative Offenses. In the document received by Yuliuya, it is also stated that the actions of the strangers manifest a hostile attitude to her social activities. An activist said that the police admit political implications of the case, but it are not going to look for the criminals and bring them to the proportionate liability. The activist applied to the police after being attacked by unidentified people in the night of 14 January near the porch of her house. The offenders used foul language to express their attitude to her political convictions and activities in support of political prisoners, threw her in the snow with her face down and cut her hair.

Administrative prosecution of social and political activists, arbitrary detention

On 1 February civil activist Ales Mekh was detained in a queue for phluorography. The officer of the local police department Anatol Dzhyha didn't like Mekh's private conversation with a neighbor about the new loans taken by Belarus. A. Dzhyha led him out of the queue, then to the street and called the KGB. Instead of the expected KGB car there arrived a police "Niva" which took them to Kobryn District Police Department. A KGB officer came up to Mr. Mekh and started speaking about something that had nothing to do with the aforementioned situation. The activist told him that he needed to know the Belarusian language and speak it if he defended the state security. The talk with the KGB officer ended, and Mr. Mekh was taken to an office room where he was told to write an explanatory note. He wrote that an unknown man in mufti who hadn't introduced himself led him out of the queue.

In the night of 1-2 February, about ten policemen in mufti came to Minsk club "6 A", a place of gatherings of LGBT community, for the third examination during the last month. They put down the passport data of the present people, about 40 of whom were detained for identification. All of them were guarded to the police department. One of the boys, who demanded that a police officer introduce himself, was forcedly dragged to the bus and then fastened to the seat with handcuffs. All detainees were forbidden to use mobile phones and promised to be kept at the police department till the evening. The pressure on the LGBT community in Belarus started about a week after the submission of documents for registration of LGBT organization to the Ministry of Justice.

On 5 February activist from the city of Biarozauka Vitold Ashurak received a notification from Lida District Court, according to which was to pay 150,000 rubles for legal expenses incurred by Svislach District Court. The case was related to his arrest on 27 October 2012 for holding a white-red-white flag during a memorial action in honor of insurgents of 1863 and subsequent arrest for three days on verdict of Svislach District Court. Mr. Ashurak paid the expenses for foodstuffs during the prison term in the due time. However, now he is also required to pay for the court expenses related to the trial. Before this, Vitold Ashurak received an official letter stating that he had to pay 78,000 rubles for detention in December 2010, the cost of which was recalculated, as a result of which some strange surcharge was imposed.

On 7 February "Alternative" activist Dzmitry Silchanka was sentenced to ten days of arrest by Savetski District Court of Minsk under Article 23.34 of the Administrative Code, violation of the order of organization or holding mass events, for participating in a flash mob dedicated to the official unemployment rate in Belarus. On 29 January activists of the "Alternative" attached to the fence near Kamarouski market some improvised mannequins which which symbolized the unemployed, holding posters: "Like the other 1.5 million Belarusians, I'm going to work in Moscow," "The authorities ignore me", "I can not buy anything at the market" and others. The activists were summoned to the police station for a preventive conversation. Only Dzmitry Silchanka went there, whereas all others refused to come to the DPD without their lawyers.

On 12 February Minsk City Court considered the appeal of Salihorsk activist of the public initiative "European Belarus" Uladzimir Lemesh against the verdict of Pershamaiski District Courtof Minsk, according to which he was fined three million rubles for allegedly disobeying policemen in plain clothes. The trial lasted just fifteen minutes, the complaint was turned down.

On 16 February Vitsebsk member of the organizing committee of the Belarusian Christian Democracy party and Aliaksei Kishchuk and Stanislau Laurenau were detained for an action of solidarity with political prisoners and taken to Kastrychnitski District Police Department. The action took place in the center of Vitsebsk, near the Summer Amphitheater. Aliaksei Kishchuk and Stanislau Laurenau unfurled a banner with the word "Freedom!" and took out portraits of political prisoners. That's all they managed to do, as a police car arrived several minutes after it. The detainees were charged under Article 23.34 of the Code of Administrative Offenses, participation in an unauthorized mass event. The trial started on 18 February. Before that, the activists were kept at remand prison. The hearings were postponed on 21 February as the defendants solicited for being provided with advocatory services. On 21 February Judge of Kastrychnitski District Court of Vitsebsk Ina Hrabouskaya sentenced Stanislav Laurenau and Aliaksei Kishchuk to fines of 3 million rubles, declaring them guilty of holding an unsanctioned rally. At the trial, both the activists did not plead guilty, trying to prove they just expressed their opinions.

On 20 February Aliaksandr Kalyshka, head of the civil association "Polish Culture in Lida area", was tried at Lida District Court for laying flowers and lighting candles on the place of the burial of priest Adam Falkouski together with his friends. Judge Siarhei Pipko found the activist guilty of organizing an unauthorized rally. On 22 Mr. Kalyshka was sentenced to a fine of 2.5 million rubles.

On 21 February sculptor Henik Loika held a one-man picket at the entrance to the gymnasium #4 in Minsk, protesting against the russification of school teaching in Belarusian. He unfurled a poster "Happy Native Language Day! Gymnasium № 4 was the last one with the Belarusian language of instruction." The sculptor was detained on the way home. On the same day Frunzenski District Court of Minsk charged him with participating in an unsanctioned rally and sentenced him to 5 days of arrest.

At about 1 p.m. on 24 February about ten activists of cultural and educational movement "European Action" were detained in Viasnianka suburb of Minsk where they gathered to take part in an organized jogging. A paddy wagon was waiting for them near "Minsk-Arena". The police accused the activists of hooliganism. The detainees were kept I the delinquents' isolation center in Akrestsin Street during the night before the trial. The court hearings were held behind closed doors. Anatol Naumovich was sentenced to 15 days of arrest, all others received 10-15 days of arrest. One of the activists pleaded guilty at the trial and was sentenced only to 2 days of arrest.

On 25 February Pershamaiski District Police Department demanded that former political prisoner Mikita Likhavid serve 10 days of administrative arrest for participation in the protest rally of 19 December 2010. Local police inspector told Mr. Likhavid that he was to come to the delinquents' isolation center in Akrestisn Street on his own. According to him, he got an appropriate document from Pershamaiski DPD, not only concerning Likhavid, but also concerning many other people who hadn't served arrest terms till the end. The paper explains that there are no time limitations for such cases. Mikita Likhavid concerns such decision as unlawful, as far as ore than two years passed since the issue of the verdict. Moreover, he served a prison term for the participation in the aforementioned rally, and no one cannot be punished twice for the same violation.

On 28 February one of the leaders of the youth organization "Zmena" Pavel Vinahradau was sentenced to 7 days of arrest by Judge of Maskouski District Court of Minsk Yauhen Khatkevich, for violation of the regime of preventive supervision. The matter was that on 22 February Mr. Vinahradau took part in a party dedicated to the third anniversary of the establishment of the civil initiative "Tell the Truth" in "Zhuravinka" restaurant, whereas the rules of preventive supervision prohibit visiting the places where alcoholic beverages are served – cafes, restaurants and bars. Pavel Vinahradau was arrested on 28 February, when he came to the police for weekly registration, and was immediately taken to court. He didn't deny being present at the party.

Restrictions on freedom of speech and the right to impart information, persecution
of journalists

On 4 February the Ministry of Information refused to re-register the "ARHE" magazine with the new founder. According to Acting Editor of "ARHE-Pachatak" Ales Pashkevich, this time the ministry was dissatisfied with the procedure of filing the documents, although it completely repeated the previous attempt.

On 6 February, the first day of the International Book Fair in Minsk, the presentation of a new novel by Uladzimir Niakliayeu was to have taken place at the stand of the Polish Embassy among the books which were on the short-list of Giedroyc Literary Prize. Organizers of the exhibition came up to the staff of the Polish Embassy and prohibited to hold the presentation of Niakliayeu's book, but it was started in an improvised manner. Soon the host, poet Andrei Hadanovich, was approached by the guards who gave him five minutes to curtail the presentation. At the same time, an autograph-session of Uladzimir Niakliayeu was prohibited at the stand of "Lohvinau" bookstore.

On 14 February Chairman of Vitebsk regional BPF branch Leanid Autukhou addressed the head of TV company "Vitsebsk" Anatol Kamovich with a proposal to create a new TV show of social and political orientation. In response, A.Kamovich sent a polite refusal, citing a lack of funding. "Your offer is very sensible, but the creation of new projects is not planned this year due to lack of funds", stated the head of the TV company in his answer. According to L. Autukhou, such a program on television would be fully consistent with the declared right to free access to information, which supposedly exists in Belarus. Meanwhile, Vitsebsk TV hasn't had such a program for many years, and not for financial reasons, but for ideological ones.

On 15 February it was announced that Belarus was among the ten most censored countries. It was the conclusion of the International Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ). CPJ notes that Aliaksandr Lukashenka ruled one of the most "censored" countries in the world, continuing the policy of suppressing critical journalism and freedom of opinion.

On 18 February independent cameraman Aliaksandr Barazenka was asked to come to the Minsk City Prosecutor's Office on 20 February "within the framework of a check-up". Appropriate notice was sent to the place of Barazenka's official registration. During the conversation at the prosecutor's office Barazenka was asked about his work on the TV channel "Belsat" but he refused to explain anything, referring to Article 27 of the Constitution, which allows citizens not to testify against themselves. "I was given a paper which says that I allegedly violated the law working for foreign media without accreditation, being a member of "BelSat" staff. I do not agree with this warning, as such provisions of the law violate my constitutional rights to gather and disseminate information. But this is a reality that must be considered, so I will not appeal the warning because I know it's pointless," said Aliaksandr Barazenka.

On 25 February Navapolatsk activist Yauhen Parchynski received an anonymous threat call from a person who introduced himself as an officer of the city administration and advised the activist to remove the article "Navapolatsk authorities got frightened again" from a local independent website, threatening with trouble otherwise. The author of the article wrote that the situation when people were unable to exercise their right to freedom of expression of ideas and opinions was abnormal. It was also written that it was possible to get permission for a mass event under the former head of Navapolatsk City Executive Committee, but it became absolutely impossible after Natallia Kachanava replaced him at this position.

On 27 February senior police lieutenant Siarhei Karytkin drew up two reports of administrative violations on Valery Vusik. The first report was drawn up for the alleged libel against the chairman of the "Lebiadzianka" farm Piatro Bialou, and the other – for the distribution of the independent newspaper "Mahiliouski Vybar", which was allegedly distributed in violation of Art. 17 of the Law on Mass Media.

On 28 February in the afternoon, Minsk police detained BelaPAN journalists Vasil Siamashka, Hanna Afonina and Siarhei Satsiuk who were holding a video poll near the Academy of Sciences, asking citizens who they would support financially, the opposition or the authorities. The detainees were taken Pershamaiski District Department of Minsk. The police put down their passport data, watched the video and then released the journalists. At the departure the police officers advised them to hold their polls in another city district next time.

Restriction of the freedom of assembly

On 7 February Baranavichy entrepreneur and civil activist Milakai Charnavus received a letter signed by the deputy chairman of Baranavichy City Executive Committee Dz. Kastsiukevich in which it was stated that the committee does not agree to his holding a rally on 12 February. As it is stated in the letter, "those who violate the order of organization or holding mass events cannot be the organizers of mass events within 1 year after the imposition of an administrative penalty for it".

As it became known on 25 February, a member of the Conservative Christian Party BPF Yan Dzyarzhautsau was struggling for the right to express his their views by means of picketing and other mass actions. The order of these events is regulated by ruling #881 of Vitebsk City Executive Committee. The opposition activist tried to litigate with Vitsebsk city housing utilities and amenities, which he accused of violating the aforementioned ruling and hindering the realization of the right to freedom of expression by refusing to conclude agreements for serving mass events. Mr. Dziarzhautsau demanded that the court either oblige this institution to conclude a service agreement or advise the executive committee to amend the ruling so as to ensure the realization of the right to freedom of expression.

On 27 February chief ideologist of Salihorsk District Executive Committee Mikalai Maskevich banned a rally in support of the construction of a new polyclinic. A correspondent application was submitted to the local authorities on 8 February by a member of the United Civil Party Viktar Malochka. He intended to hold the picket on 2 March in order to collect signatures under a petition to the authorities with the requirement to build a new modern polyclinic in the city. As it was stated in the application, the collection of signatures was permitted in the stated place of the action during the 2012 parliamentary elections and the 2010 presidential elections. However, this argument did not convince the deputy chairman of the executive committee on ideology. Mr. Maskevich refused to authorize the picket due to its incompatibility with the ruling of Salihorsk DEC "On measures to prevent accidents and rule of law during public events."

On 27 February it became known that the Human Rights Committee of the United Nations had registered a complaint of Zhlobin members of "Fair World" concerning the ban of their pickets in 2012 by Zhlobin District Executive Committee. The head of Zhlobin "Fair World" branch Valery Rybchanka noted that two such complains had been filed to the Human Rights Committee. One of them, which was registered by the committee, concerns the prohibition of pickets in support of political prisoners in 2012. What concerns the other complaint, which concerned the rigging of the presidential election in 2010 and the appeals of party members to various state institutions, the Committee required more detailed comments on it.

Restriction of freedom of association

At the press conference of 7 February, the Minister of Justice of Belarus Aleh Slizheuski said that the Ministry of Justice of Belarus denied registration to 19 public organizations in 2012, including two parties: "Belarusian Christian Democracy" and "Belarusian Communist Workers Party". The Minister noted that the founders of the parties didn't prepare to the holding of the activities they needed to carry out according to the legislation for the establishment of the associations. A. Slizheuski reported that 111 new associations, registered four unions (associations) of public associations and 29 new organizational structures of political parties were registered with the state in 2012.

On 8 February, the Ministry of Justice refused to provide the state registration for the National Youth Human Rights Association "Human Rights Center "Lambda" (the name under which the human rights project "GayBelarus" made the second attempt to legalize its activities). The registration denial was signed by the head of the board of non-profit organizations of the Ministry of Justice Alena Kirychenka. The official reason was that the "presented statute of the Human Rights Center "Lambda" does not contain any provisions witnessing that the statutory activities of the public association will seek to provide a comprehensive social formation and development of young people".

On 14 February Belarusian Ministry of Justice refused to register the public association "Young Christian Democrats." A month ago, the Ministry of Justice suspended the registration of the organization due to the requirement to provide additional documents, such as the paper confirming the registration of the constituent assembly, and the agreement for the lease of premises for the assembly. The organizing committee of association considered that the presentation of these documents to the ministry was not required by law, and therefore did not fulfill this requirement. The founding congress of the organization "Young Christian Democrats" was held in Minsk on 3 November 2012.

On 21 February the Assembly Democratic NGOs and the Center for Legal Transformation released an annual survey, "Freedom of association and the legal status of non-profit organizations in Belarus" for the year 2012. As noted in the review, "in 2012, opportunities for the exercise of freedom of association in Belarus weren't extended. No significant changes in the situation of public associations were registered in the sphere of legislation despite the introduction of some positive legal norms. The earlier negative trends persisted in the at the level of enforcement, whose intensity remained unchanged." The Center for Legal Transformation also prepared a separate analysis of the registration of public associations in 2012 and the lists of the non-profit organizations which were registered or liquidated during the year.

On 25 February it was reported that another activist of the trade union organization at "Granite" plant was threatened with dismissal. The administration was trying to find irregularities in the work of the assistant excavator operator Leanid Dubanosau who was a member of the local branch of the Belarusian Independent Trade Union. A special commission kept coming to his working place everyday. One day he was forced to write two explanatory notes concerning the allegedly discovered shortcomings in his work. Leanid Dubanosau has worked at "Granite" for more than twenty years and hasn't received any reprimands from the company's management before that. He thinks that the special attitude to him is connected to his membership in the trade union and the fact that his labor contract expires on 2 May. As far as Leanid is going to have a vacation, they want to issue him with a reprimand before his leaving on holiday in order to have an explanation for not extending the labor agreement with him.