Picks of the week
Belarusian author Slavamir Adamovich is facing a heavy fine over a short story published in the Novy Chas newspaper 9 years ago. The story entitled “Never Ask Me Where I’m From” is said to feature extremist content, according to a finding by a group of experts.
Belarusian human rights community is concerned about the arbitrary use of anti-extremist legislation to limit freedom of opinion and expression, as more and more people face administrative charges for the spread of so-called “extremist materials,” including on the Internet. In most cases, the charges constitute an illegal and disproportionate restriction on freedom of expression.
In the period from 2014 to May 2019, there were 31 documented cases of charges under Article 17.11 of the Administrative Code (distribution of extremist materials). Most of them (20) were opened in the last 12 months.
Former political prisoner Dzmitry Paliyenka has been fined in absentia, palitviazni.info said. The activist was not allowed to attend the trial where he was sentenced to a fine of 1,275 rubles (615 EUR) for “disseminating extremist content.”
Paliyenka was arrested on March 20. He is charged with three criminal offenses: malicious hooliganism, inciting social hatred and damage to property.
Viasna leader Ales Bialiatski has written to Prosecutor General asking to investigate the illegal arrest of nearly a hundred Roma men over their alleged involvement in the death of a police officer in Mahilioŭ. The reported murder, which later was officially called a suicide, triggered a wave of police raids in the city’s outskirts inhabited by the national minority. The men were mistreated during the arrest and threatened during interrogations.
The human rights defenders say the arrests were clearly illegal, as they violated numerous procedures and constituted a form of ethnic profiling, which is of a systemic nature in Belarus. Some 50 persons were eventually charged with disorderly conduct to justify the police-related abuse.
A similar complaint was submitted by Viasna’s activists in Mahilioŭ, who report numerous violations of the rights of the Roma minority, including beatings, torture and insults.
“We have been working to convince the Roma community to appeal against the unlawful actions of the police, but they are afraid of reprisals,” human rights activist Aliaksandr Burakou said.