This analytical report is a result of cooperation between Belarusian human rights organizations: Committee “Salidarnasc”, Belarusian Helsinki Committee (BHC), Belarusian Association of Journalists (BAJ), Assembly of Democratic NGOs of Belarus, Centre for Legal Transformation (CLT), Human Rights Centre “Viasna”, Belarusian Institute for Strategic Studies (BISS), International Consortium “Eurobelarus” and Centre for European Transformation. The main purpose of this report is to identify the medium-term trends regarding the human rights, socio-political and economic situation in Belarus. The report covers period July through September 2012.




Part 1: General trends3

Part 2: Human Rights violations in Belarus10

Freedom of the Media. 10

Freedom of assembly. 12

Freedom of association and conditions for non-governmental organizations in Belarus14

Administration of justice. 19

Preliminary Report. Elections of members of the Chamber of Representatives of the National Assembly of the Republic of Belarus of the fifth convocation. 22

Annex 1. The state and development of civil society in Belarus24



Part 1: General trends

Political liberalization / political democratization

In the political democratization/political liberalization segment, the situation with the administration of election legislation has obviously worsened.There used to be certain relaxation of election restrictions ahead of the elections that took place during the relative liberalization phase (parliamentary elections of 2008, local elections of 2010 and presidential election of 2010); however, the 2012 campaign witnessed a consistent phasedown of previously introduced positive amendments to the election legislation.

Such phasedown included additional restrictions imposed on campaigning in the state media (including the introduction of censorship for the candidates’ programs on radio and television and change in the format of the debate, which is now pre-recorded) and limitations on the previously simplified procedure for holding mass campaigning events. The registration barrier proved too high even for the strongest candidates, who could have been able to hold large-scale campaigns in their districts. The new restraints were frequently at odds with the requirements of the Electoral Code.

In the course of the campaign to elect members of the lower chamber of parliament, the House of Representatives, the authorities consistently increased their pressure on the civil society structures involved in the campaign, especially election monitoring organizations and advocates of an election boycott in the political opposition. The authorities initiated a judicial liquidation of the human rights center Platforma, whereas many other organizations have repeatedly been denied registration.

At the same time, the election campaign itself was more significant and became a reason for the opposition to step up its activity – it showed some creativity possibly for the first time since the presidential election, but, paradoxically, most of the concerted efforts advocated a boycott of the elections or a very limited engagement.In this regard, the opposition turned out to be quite effective, as it succeeded in making the non-participation of opposition candidates the top issue on the political agenda. The tactics developed by the opposition forced the authorities to make certain steps, including media statements and regulatory changes, which envisaged limitations on the advertizing of an election boycott and censorship of candidates’ campaigns.

At the same time, the voting procedure (balloting and vote counting) was held exactly as the authorities wanted it, with no deviations. A single failure was in Gomel’s Novobelsk election district No.36, where the nomination of the former presidential aide was thwarted by administrative reshuffles, which caused him to quit the race. The elections did not take place there because of that last-minute change.

District and polling site commissions were formed including very few representatives of opposition parties. The early voting of up to 26% of all voters with an extensive use of the administrative resource, coercion and encouragement enabled the state administration to ensure that sufficient numbers of voters were involved in the well-controlled election process.

As has already been mentioned, a stagnation characteristic rather of an inter-election period currently prevails

In the liberalization segment as far as the freedom of associations, freedom of assembly and freedom of speech are concerned, stagnation prevails that is rather characteristic rather for the inter-election periods.In this regard, the parliamentary elections were not reason enough for initiating a new repression campaign by the authorities. Repression has turned into a routine, which is why the number of cases of administrative prosecution and administrative arrests has decreased.

However, this reduction should be attributed to the lower intensity of efforts of the opposition and its choice of boycotting the elections without holding a campaign rather than the conscientious endeavor of the authorities to restrain their repressive policy. As a result, the authorities were spared the need to escalate violence ahead of and during the elections.

At the same time, the repression machine was ready to be set in motion any minute during the elections, and it was only the lack of command from the political administration that it was not openly used in the campaign. This is corroborated by many group and mass administrative arrests, crackdown on some mass events, numerous preventive arrests on false charges of disorderly conduct, arrests of election monitors and campaigners without making relevant protocols and seizure of campaigning materials.

Even the inert campaign during the parliamentary elections called for the few opposition organizations to redouble their efforts, therefore, it is highly unlikely that the opposition will undertake any significant actions or stage any protests in the fourth quarter, which is why no escalation of repression by the authorities is expected.

Many of the opposition structures calling for boycotting the elections are located abroad; therefore, they will hardly take any serious action. Apparently, the country will see routine and ritualized activities intended to rearrange power inside the opposition, hold traditional events and awareness campaigns (for instance, Dziady). The interference of repressive agencies in such events is highly unlikely and can only be limited in its scale.


Economic liberalization

In the economic sector, the country got back to subsidizing loan rates for the enterprises engaged in modernization projects. The indiscreet fiscal policy of the authorities aiming to stimulate economic growth in the public sector makes monetary policy too heavy a burden for the rest of the economy.

Analysts have an impression that the authorities tend to raise state-controlled prices before such an increase is really required in a bid to meet the USD 500 average wage target and reduce the pressure on the consumer market and exchange rate. August saw the biggest rise in consumer prices since January this year, 2.3% and 1.9% month-on-month, respectively.

The privatization process has stalled, and the privatization of larger enterprises is considered to be a last resort measure, when it is time “to sell family silver”. It is also indicative that in their Belarus Country Economic Memorandum, which was published in early July, World Bank specialists note: “all main stakeholders are interested in avoiding privatization, even when it is mandated by high level policies and decisions.”

It looks like Belarus will have to embark on privatization in order to receive a fourth installment of the EurAsEC Anti-Crisis Fund (ACF) loan. The country will likely complete a single USD 2.5 billion deal by the end of the year – this amount of state property privatization revenues is required by the ACF to provide the next loan installment. The Belarusian authorities are stepping up their efforts to have the IMF launch a new program for Belarus. The authorities are getting ready to attend the next annual meetings of the IMF and the World Bank this October.

The anticipated economic growth will be impossible without introducing structural reforms. The growth has slowed, and some industries have even reported a setback. Despite the lack of resources to create new highly productive jobs and obvious unfeasibility of economic objectives set for the period through 2015, the government is not ready to give up on the impossible targets. Instead, it is planned to preserve the existing economic structure, transfer the modernization rhetoric to the micro-level and center all hopes on foreign direct investments. At the same time, Prime Minister M. Miasnikovich had to admit that “there are too few breakthrough projects” that can provide a serious economic impact. As a result, the political will to secure growth and higher incomes is at odds with the real economic practice.

FDI inflows in Belarus totaled USD 956.6 million in January-August 2012, according to BelStat statistical service. Of the total, increases in foreign equity contributions to already operating foreign companies based in Belarus or joint ventures registered in this country accounted for 90%. Therefore, profits are reinvested in already existing companies instead of being used to create new ones. This suggests that barriers to the entry of foreign investors are really high. Furthermore, Belarusian individuals sold about three times as much property to foreign buyers than the State Property Committee in value terms.

The de-liberalization trend was somewhat confirmed by the mission to “check each enterprise for modernization efforts” assigned to aide to the president Mr. Prakapovich and assignment of specific enterprises to government members. It looks like Belarus is getting back to the situation when economic growth is secured exclusively by internal investments, while construction remains the locomotive of consumption.

In late September, President Lukashenka signed ordinance No.144 to amend ordinance No.660 of December 28, 2009 concerning the establishment of holding companies in Belarus. One may have an impression that holding structures are created not only to avoid structural reforms of domestic producers, but also to complicate the privatization process. Attaching less effective enterprises to their more successful peers reduces their chances of being sold to a worthy investor.

On the positive side, the National Bank managed to preserve its independence when it comes to the determination of its monetary policy parameters.Yet, this remains the minimum inalienable competence of the central bank. At the same time, because of the increasingly unrestrained fiscal policy, the country’s monetary policy appears to be turning too harsh for the enterprises that do not fall under the anticipated modernization programs. We therefore observe a slide to the pre-crisis non-liberal practices.

In early August, the government supported the proposal of business associations to expand the list of criteria for the application of the simplified taxation system. The ceiling amount of annual revenues entitling a business to the simplified taxation system without paying the VAT has been expanded to BYR 8.2 billion from BYR 3.4 billion. The maximum number of staff enabling a business to benefit from simpler taxation procedures has been increased to 20 from 15. Furthermore, starting 2013, the simplified tax rate will be cut to 5% from 7% for the businesses that choose not to pay the VAT and to 3% from 5% for those that pay the VAT.

However, because of the anticipated tightening in the monetary policy, many companies will find themselves in a more difficult situation than they originally expected. It will be hardly possible to ensure the planned economic growth and targeted number of new jobs. In the meantime, if business associations fail to keep their promise to create enough new jobs and raise compensations even though they enjoy simpler taxation rules, the authorities might put off further improvements of the business environment for the private sector for quite a long time.

The economic authorities are caught in a dilemma: either to secure an impressive economic growth at the expense of accumulating imbalances in the currency and money markets or make macroeconomic equilibrium their chief priority and face insufficient economic growth rates and slower increase in personal incomes.To combine the two methods is only possible for a very short period and only if the country phases out market-based exchange rate formation and gets back to the controllable (de facto fixed) ruble rate, while keeping the national currency overpriced.


Good governance and the rule of law

When analyzed, the developments in the segment of good governance and the rule of law section also indicate regress: most of the events and facts attest to further centralization of authority and de-liberalization.One indicative example of “manual” administration is resolution No.841 of the Council of Ministers, which made state officials personally responsible for the performance of some enterprises and success of some investment projects.

For example, Prime Minister Myasnikovich will supervise Baranovichi Cotton Association, as well as the investment projects to organize the production of passenger cars, a fish-breeding project, a woodworking production, a production of personal hygiene products and construction of a trade and logistical complex near Minsk. The resolution is a perfect example of the “manual control” of the economy. The question arises: what will the directors of the selected enterprises and investment project managers be responsible for?

Of all the additional events that confirm the behavior of the trend in the third quarter, Decree No.8 stands out, as it introduces amendments to the state property privatization procedure. The document abolished privatization plans and stripped the State Property Committee of some of its powers, including the voting power to decide on transactions with shares in open joint-stock companies controlled by the Republic of Belarus. From now on, privatization will be carried out “manually” under the personal control of the president and the government. At the same time, a resolution of the government has amended the rules for holding auctions of state property with the declared purpose of making privatization auctions and tenders more transparent, while the real purpose was to prevent attempts to sabotage privatization auctions that were observed last year.

The resolution on the Chinese-Belarusian industrial park has determined the agenda for the joint project: the park is intended to carry out large investment projects with declared investments equivalent to at least USD 5 million. It will obviously be more profitable for the state to work with several large investors instead of facilitating the successful performance of small and medium-sized businesses.

On July 1, 2012, Decree No.3 came into effect to introduce the new procedure for the official publication of regulatory acts. The only source of the official publication of legal acts in Belarus is the national legal Internet portal of the Republic of Belarus ( Publications in the central state newspapers (Sovetskaya Byelorussia, Respublika, etc.) are not official, but merely informative. The advantage of the new procedure is that publications now take less time and are better accessible by all legal entities.

The logic of the Belarusian authorities suggests that during the next quarter the regress tendency will stop and the authorities will have to make steps towards liberalization of the legal environment, provided tensions keep growing in the financial and economic sector at the end of the year.


Geopolitical orientation

Geopolitically, the apparent tilt towards Russia still remains, although the third quarter saw an increase in Belarusian-Russian tensions.It looks like the Russian administration is putting its ally under pressure again in order to coerce it into meeting its earlier obligations, specifically those related to state property privatization. Russia has announced a significant reduction in crude oil deliveries to Belarus starting the fourth quarter of 2012 (to 4 million tons from 5.3 million tons), which must be a result of the notorious export of “solvents and diluents” that Belarus produced from duty-free Russian crude.

Another problematic issue is the privatization of Belarusian state property, something that Moscow has insisted on for years. Belarus as good as promised to create a holding company between MAZ and KAMAZ and contribute assets to Soyuzkali potash giant, which some have called the first step to the privatization of Belaruskali. However, neither promise has been kept, despite the fact that Russia paid Belarus in advance.

While increasing its pressure on Belarus, Russia also makes it clear that it is very profitable for its allies to honor their obligations. On August 23-24, Gazprom CEO A. Miller presided at a meeting in the town of Kobryn that addressed Gazprom’s policy in Belarus. Apart from another pay rise for Beltransgaz employees, Miller announced that there were no plans to change the gas monopoly’s tariff plans for Belarus. A few days prior to this, the bill ratifying the natural gas agreements with Belarus had been sent to the State Duma.

Politically, Belarus enjoys complete support of its eastern ally.An important indication is the August 15 visit of Russian Foreign Minister S. Lavrov to Belarus, where he essentially legitimized the outcomes of the September parliamentary elections in Belarus, condemned the sanctions imposed by the West and the OSCE’s assessment of the election campaign.

In August, the president made some appointments that should be considered crucial for the country’s foreign policy: former head of the Presidential Administration Uladzimir Makey was appointed new foreign minister, whereas Andrei Kabiakou, the former ambassador of Belarus to Russia, became new chief of the Presidential Administration. The new appointment can be interpreted in different ways; however, it is clear that both will facilitate the country’ foreign policy efforts: the Foreign Ministry will keep focusing on the West (A. Lukashenka has admitted that Makey is quite successful in improving the relations with the West), whereas the Presidential Administration will concentrate on the integration into the Common Economic Area.

The relations with the European Union remain consistently poor.During the period under analysis, the two main negative developments in the relations between Belarus and the EU were the diplomatic conflict with Sweden and the Belarusian parliamentary elections, which were recognized as neither free nor fair by international observers. At the same time, only two political prisoners – Siarhei Kavalenka and Pavel Syramolatau – were released. That step was intended to alleviate the EU’s negative impression about the parliamentary elections

On August 1, the Belarusian Foreign Ministry said in a statement that it would not renew the accreditation of Ambassador of the Kingdom of Sweden Stefan Eriksson in Belarus, saying that “his activities were aimed at destroying Belarusian-Swedish relations, rather than strengthening them.”

In response to Minsk’s action, the Swedish side demanded that two staff members of the Belarusian Embassy in Stockholm leave the country within several weeks. The Belarusian Foreign Ministry considered it to be an excessive demand and decided to recall the entire Embassy in Stockholm, while suggesting that Sweden should follow suit by August 30.

The Political and Security Committee (PSC) of the Council of the European Union on August 10 decided to refrain from recalling envoys from Minsk one more time. However, it was agreed that the situation with the Swedish Embassy in Minsk should also be treated in the framework of Belarus’ relationship with the entire EU. Therefore, ambassadors of Belarus were summoned to Foreign Ministries of the EU Member-States to bring home the position of the European Union.

The relations with the European Union will remain “frozen”, although both sides may make efforts to resume direct dialogue from time to time. The current status of Belarusian-Russian relations and level of financial support for Belarus made available by Russia enable Minskto ignore the EU’s opinion and neglect its conditionality. Official Minsk will only get back to the policy of balancing between the east and west if the Kremlin puts more pressure on this country and fails to meet its obligations.


Cultural policy

The trend typical of the third quarter can be characterized as further de-liberalization of culture processes amid the growing polarization of the culture landscape of the country and consistent engagement of cultural projects in political and ideological campaigns.Culture is perceived by the authorities in the context of possible “applications”: as a means to bring up the young, instrument to attract tourists, etc. The extremely inconsistent, contradictory, and even awkward activities of the authorities in the framework of the previously declared “mild Belarusianization” have become even more conspicuous and essentially discredit its favorable image and prospects.

The de-liberalization of Belarus’ culture life was further manifested in bans on performances by some well-known Belarusian artists. Lyapis Trubetskoy, Krambambulia, Neuro Dubel, Palats, IQ48 and others find it impossible to arrange tours in their country and have to hold their performances abroad (in Poland, Russia, Ukraine and Lithuania),organize underground home concerts, perform at semi-legal corporate events, festivals and events arranged in foreign embassies. Ungrounded bans often literally “drive” culture figures into the opposition field, where many of them would not have found themselves were it not for the continuous pressure. Singer-songwriter Zmicier Bartosik and poet Slavamir Adamovich, musicians Zmicier Vajciuškievič and Lavon Volski performed in a concert organized in the BPF Party headquarters in solidarity with political prisoners.

The fear of the official authorities of any manifestation of any degree of independence, initiative or autonomy (even beyond the political sector) was quite obviously manifested in the repression against the initiators of a free concert by Lyapis Trubetskoy in Belarus. The organizers of this event (Raman Pratasevich and others) set themselves a task to collect 100,000 signatures for holding such a concert in social networks, but were detained, interrogated and intimidated.

Another indicative initiative of the authorities was the ousting of the popular television show about modern cinema Vidzmo-nevidzmo from the central state channels. The show, which emerged back in 1992, was aired by BT channel until 2002 and then moved to STV channel, where it ran until 2011. The show took a creative reprieve for 12 months last year. The founder and host of the project S. Filimonau said that he had been repeatedly recommended not to show anything about the West and “alien culture” on Belarusian television; as a result of this pressure, the show had to move to Belsat channel.

The main cultural event that represented the official discourse in the period July through September 2012 was the traditional Slavianski Bazaar In Vitebsk, an international arts festival. The extremely ideologized festival, established back in 1992, has barely changed over the last 20 years, and unfailingly causes nostalgic moods. This year’s festival will only be remembered owing to A. Lukashenka’s speech delivered during the opening ceremony. “The Olympics are way behind our Bazaar… The Games are politicized, they have too many problems. But Slavianski Bazaar is a safe haven of freethinking and independence, and our Slavianski Bazaar can teach them a good lesson. The Olympic Games are not about sports, but about politics, dirty politics,” A. Lukashenka said. Apparently, it was the decision of the British authorities to deny the Belarusian president entry when he was planning to attend the opening ceremony that made the Bazaar speech so emotional.

In July, August and September 2012, Belarus hosted several significant cultural events. Niasviž Castle was reopened to public on July 20 following eight years of reconstruction and renovation. Niasviž Castle became a large multi-cultural complex of Belarus, the principal site for holding cultural events envisaged by the program “Niasviž – the Culture Capital of Belarus of 2012”. The town played host to the forum of professional theaters “Theater of Ursula Radziwill” that brought together 2,700 theater enthusiasts. The open-air museum attracted many tourists from Belarus, the CIS and foreign countries beyond the CIS. In September 2012, the National Art Museum of the Republic of Belarus opened the art-project “Artists of the Paris School from Belarus. From Belgazprombank, Museum and Private Collections”, which for the first time displayed about 100 works by prominent Belarusian artists, who worked in Paris.

Despite the repeated statements by Culture Minister P. Latushka (the only government member who speaks Belarusian in public) about the need for expanding the application of the Belarusian language and support national culture, there have been some very contradictory steps in this direction. The authorities started a massive campaign against the authors of the book Hrodnaznaustva. One of the authors of the book, assistant professor at Hrodna State University A. Cherniakevich, assumes that the authorities were displeased because the third edition of the book ended with Belarus’ becoming an independence state in the early 1990s. One picture in the book features a white-red-white flag. This was enough for the KGB to interrogate the authors; one of the authors was dismissed as a result of far-fetched accusations, and others had their academic hours slashed.

The fourth quarter of 2012 will see growing negative tendencies that will further de-liberalize the Belarusian culture field. One should expect further polarization of culture life and even more conspicuous politicization and ideologization of the official cultural discourse, while independent actors will likely be driven to the fringe of the cultural landscape. Steps may be taken to counteract “mild Belarusianization”, either openly or tacitly.


Part 2: Human Rights violations in Belarus

Freedom of the Media

The elections to the House of Representatives of the National Assembly of the Republic of Belarus that finished on September 23 had decisively influenced the overall situation in Belarus in July - September 2012.

The following can be noted in the aspect of freedom of expression during the analyzed period:

  • Criminal proceedings of journalists for their professional activity;
  • Detentions of journalists and social network activists;
  • Restriction of journalists’ activity during the elections to the House of Representatives of the National Assembly of the Republic of Belarus.

At the moment there are three criminal cases pending against journalists, all the three are related to the journalists’ professional activity. Andrzej Poczobut (Grodno) is accused of slandering the President of the Republic of Belarus, Nikolai Petrushenko (Vitebsk) is accused of insulting an authority in one of his published works on the website “Nash Dom”, Anton Suryapin (Slutsk) is accused of aiding and abetting a group of people to violate the border (the accusation of Anton was based on him uploading photographs of teddy bears with freedom of speech mottos that were dropped in Belarus from a Swedish airplane that had violated the state border).

The most disturbing is the case of Andrzej Poczobut, a Belarusian correspondent of the Polish “Gazeta Wyborcza”. He was sued following examination of over 20 his publications on different web-sites. The case is aggravated by the fact that a year ago Andrzej Poczobut was tried for slandering the President and was sentences to 3 year of prison with a 2-year stay of execution (the observers consider the sentence to be politically-motivated). If he is found guilty under additional charges, he will be put in prison to serve both sentences. The investigation of the Andrzej Poczobut’s case is prolonged till October 21.

The A. Suryapin’s case has drawn a wide public response. The 20-year-old student of the Institute of Journalism of the Belarusian State University was the first who posted on his Belarusian News Photos web-site photos of toy teddy bears that had been dropped by employees of the Swedish Studio Total in the morning on July 4 over Ivyanets and the outskirts of Minsk from a single-engine plane after they had illegally crossed the Belarusian border. The action was intended to support freedom of speech and democratic values in Belarus. On July 13 Suryapin was arrested after a search of his apartment. During the search the journalist’s computer and camera were seized. A. Suryapin was detained for more than a month, while his lawyer was not allowed to inform journalists and relatives not only of the investigative actions with the journalist, but even of the procedural status. Only in mid-August, the Belarusian KGB reported that A. Suryapin was charged with aiding illegal border crossing. On August 17, following demonstrations of Belarusian and international community, international organizations, journalists and human rights organizations for A. Suryapin, he was released on pledge not to leave the jurisdiction pending trial. The investigation of the criminal case against Suryapin (as well as Sergei Basharimov, a realtor, a defendant under the same article, who had let on lease an apartment to the Swedish PR officers), continues.

On August 8, during a street photo shoot in support of A. Suryapin photojournalists Irina Kozlik and Yuliya Doroshkevich were detained. The police reports stated that, in particular, I. Kozlik was holding a sign “No pictures - no troubles?Expression of opinion in Belarus is faced with a threat of imprisonment. Can the president really putteddy bears in prison?”The journalists spent the night in isolation ward and later the court of the Sovetsky district of Minsk fined them for 30 basic units (about 300 Euros) each for "unauthorized picketing by photographing." The trial was in fact behind closed doors. The policemen did not allow the colleagues who came to support the detained journalists into the courthouse.

During the analyzed period, the Belarusian Association of Journalists has documented at least 15 cases of detention of journalists by the police during the performance of their professional duties. Arbitrary detentions were also registered in relation to online communities’ moderators. Thus, on August 30, Andrey Tkachev, Pavel Yevtikhiev and Roman Protasevich that had administered a social networking community called "Liapis Trubetskoy - free concert in Minsk"and "We’re fed up with Lukashenko", were detained in Minsk. Their homes were searched, the computers were seized. Tkachev and Evtikhiev were sentenced to seven and five days of administrative arrest, respectively. The under-aged Protasevich was released after a four-hour interrogation, accompanied by threats and violence. Oleg Shramuk, a moderator of the Internet community, "We’re fed up with Lukashenko"was arrested in Vitebsk on the same day and also released after an interrogation. Sergei Bespalov, who managed to escape arrest, had to leave Belarus.

On September 18, a freelance cameraman Alexander Borozenka and a BelaPAN’s correspondent Pavel Podobed were detained in Minsk during the pre-election rally of the opposition campaign "Tell the Truth", as well as photographers Sergei Grits (Associated Press), Vasily Fedosenko (The Reuters), Tatiana Zenkovich (European Press Photo Agency), the operator of Dmitry Rudakov and producer Alex Akulov (German ZDF TV crew), all being foreign journalists accredited in Belarus. The violent detention was performed by people in plainclothes. S. Grits had his glasses broken, his face cut, and all the frames deleted from his camera. The journalists were taken to the Frunzenski Regional Office of Internal Affairs, where they were forced to stay for about 2 hours. After he was released, S. Grits registered the battery traces and filed a request to initiate a criminal case, which was turned down by the police.

More than 350 foreign journalists were accredited for the elections in Belarus, as Andrei Savinykh, the spokesman of the Foreign Ministry informed the Belarusian Association of Journalists. According to Mr. Savinykh, no media representative was denied accreditation. But at least four journalists from Germany and Sweden were denied visas and were not allowed to enter Belarus. Two more Swedish journalists, Erik Von Platen and Gustaff Andresson, who had flown to Minsk in the evening on September 21, had to spend 16 hours at the national airport "Minsk", before they received confirmation of accreditation in Belarus and obtained visas. On September 21, Amos Roberts, an Australian journalist (Broadcasting Corporation SBS), had all his professional equipment and his data storage devices taken away at the airport "Minsk-2", as he was about to leave Belarus. The reasons for seizure of objects and equipment were not called, no seizure protocol was provided. The journalist only managed to leave Belarus the next day. The officers of the Belarusian customs, which dealt with the Australian Embassy to Moscow, said that the procedure of returning the items would take at least a month.

On the positive side, it should be noted that the following nationals were removed from list of those banned from leaving Belarus: Zhanna Litvina, the chairman of the Belarusian Association of Journalists, Michael Yanchuk coordinator of the TV channel "Belsat" and Andrew Dynko, a chief-editor of "Nasha Niva". The Ministry of Internal Affairs explained the fact of inclusion of the abovementioned journalists in the list for more than six months by a technical error. (Ref. "The Administration of Justice").


Freedom of assembly

The period from July to September 2012 cannot be considered rich for significant protest actions and public events. Nevertheless, the following events can be considered noteworthy:

·         Attempts to go on strike within a civil campaign called “Human Rights Activists for Free Elections”;

·         Attempts of civil activists to arrange public events and pickets in support of Ales Byalyatsky and all the political prisoners on August 4;

·         A picket planned for September 13 by the Civil Initiative “Against Lawlessness in Courts and Public Prosecutor’s Office”.


On July 1, Gregory Krik, an activist from Baranovichi, intended to arrange a picket under a slogan "For Elections According to the law and the Constitution" within the civil campaign "Human Rights Activists for Free Elections".In response to his request, on June 24 Gregory received letter No. 47 d/d 22.06.2012, signed by D. Kostyukevich, the Deputy Chairman of the Municipal Executive Committee of Baranovichi. The letter states that according to Law of the Republic of Belarus No. 114-З d/d 30.12.1997 "On Mass Events" (Law of the Republic of Belarus No. 308-З d/d 08.11.2011), the Municipal Executive Committee did not give permission for the picket to be held in the old city park on July 1. The Municipal Executive Committee considered Gregory Krik to have violated Article 6 of the "On Mass Events" Law. This article defines the procedure for considering applications for holding mass events and making a decision about that. The Municipal Executive Committee never specified which particular provisions of this article the applicant had violated. According to the activist, in the application he had indicated, as required by law, the purpose of picketing, the type and place of the event, time and date of the picket, the source of financing (equity), the estimated number of picketers – 3 persons, and entered into written contracts with the city police, and the city special car fleet and a city clinic servicing mass events. This was the fifth time the Baranovichi Municipal Executive Committee had turned down a picket application over one year. Despite the prospect of getting another refusal, Gregory Krik made another attempt and submitted an application for arranging a picket on July 28 against the refusal to register an initiative group of Dmitry Uss that dealt with collecting signatures for changing the electoral law. The activist took the responsibility for ensuring public order and security during the picket, as well as ensuring medical services and cleaning the territory after the event, however this picket was doomed to fail, too.

On August 4, the anniversary of Ales Byalyatsky, head Human Rights Center "Viasna", staying in prison, local human rights activists planned to hold public events and demonstrations in different cities of Belarus. The purpose of these actions was to protest against the detention of Ales Byalyatskyand other political prisoners, as well as to demand their prompt release. Applications for holding mass actions were filed by all the regional offices of the HumanRights Center "Viasna", it was planned to hold similar events at least in 17 cities of Belarus. However, none of the applications submitted was approved by the local authorities.

The story of where and how the right activists were refused to hold mass actions is worth to be considered in details.

For example, Vladimir Telepun, a local activist, applied to arrange a street procession, which was to take a certain route in Mozyr on August 4. During the process of signing contracts with utilities, the police and the medical establishment the activist repeatedly faced with violations of the law "On Citizens’ Applications” determining the time period within which the responsible authorities must respond to an appeal. As a result, the activist’s application for the abovementioned event was turned down. The reasons for the refusal were revealed only after the activist had taken legal actions to appeal the decision of the authorities. According to the testimony of a witness summoned to the court, the Mozyr Regional Department of Internal Affairs cannot enter into contracts with individuals on the basis of guidelines for official use. Later a representative of the Regional Department of Internal Affairs said that the contract could only be concluded after obtaining a permit from the District Executive Committee with the date, time and location of the mass event. "In order to submit an application to the District Executive Committee, we need an agreement of the Regional Department of Internal Affairs. In order to conclude an agreement with the Regional Department of Internal Affairs, it is necessary to provide a permit of the District Executive Committee," the activist ironically says.

Maryna Statkevich and Oleg Mackiewicz, human rights activists, turned to the Borisov District Executive Committee with an application for organizing a picket. At the same time they also went to the Borisov Regional Department of Internal Affairs, the central regional hospital and community services with a request to enter into agreements to ensure order, medical care and clean-up during the picket. All the three bodies provided the same answers: "In connection with your failure of observing the requirements of Art. 5 of the Law of the Republic of Belarus d/d 30 December 1997 "On Mass Events in the Republic of Belarus" as revised on August 7, 2003, we are not able to sign a contract with you." Unfortunately, the responses did not contain the specific set of requirements, which had not been observed by the human rights activists, according to these bodies. The same vague reason for the prohibition of the picket was listed in the response of the Borisov District Executive Committee.

In Smorgon a picket of solidarity with political prisoners was banned for an absurd reason. Mechislav Goy, Smorgon District Executive Committee Chairman, as the rejection reason cited the fact that Ales Dergachev, the picket applicant, said in a statement that he took the responsibility for ensuring public order and security during the picket (armband on the organizer, providing the participants with phone numbers of the Smorgon Regional Department of Internal Affairs in case one needed to make a call). Smorgon District Executive Committee chairman found that the applicant's desire to take action to communicate with the police during the picket did not comply with decision of the Council of Ministers d/d March 5, 2012 No. 207, according to which the function of ensuring public order during mass events rests with the police.

An application of Sergey Latin, a Bobruisk activist, for holding a picket in support of political prisoners was rejected by Alexander Markachev, the deputy chairman of the City Executive Committee. The official response stated that the law "On Mass Events" did not define "a picket" that "does not allowto determine what public event is planned exactly." "The statement does not also specify theplace where you are going to have the mass event,"- wrote the official. The Markachev’s response also contains a warning on the responsibility stipulated for "violation of the order of organization or holding mass events".

The fact that the place where the picket was to be held had not been approved by local authorities for mass gathering became the reason for denial in Mogilev. Alexei Kolchin and Boris Bukhel, local activists, wanted to run a picket in support of Ales Byalyatskyin the city center opposite the town hall on August 4.

Denial of the right to hold pickets were given to activists of Grodno, Baranovichi, Brest, Bereza, Vitebsk, Molodechno, Orsha, Rechitsa and other cities. In Zhodino activists Alex Lapitsky, Svetlana Lapitskaya and Olga Vergel, having ignored the ban, which they intend to dispute in court, arranged a bike ride along the busiest streets wearing T-shirts "Freedom to Ales Byalyatsky". Apart from them, human rights activists from Brest, Mozyr, Smorgon, Mogilev, Bereza, Vitebsk, Orsha, Rechitsa, and Molodechno also intend to challenge the denials.

On September 13, the Civil Initiative “Against Lawlessness in Courts and Public Prosecutor’s Office”planned to hold a picket next to the town hall in the capital's Freedom Square under the slogans "Officials, stop fooling people and tormenting them!","People cheaters to be brought to responsibility", "Administration of the President of the Republic of Belarus is solid protection of lawlessness inthe country"and "We demand that the officialsobserve the Constitution and lawsof the country!”However, according to Tamara Sergey, a lawyer and the leader of the Civil Initiative “Against Lawlessness in Courts and Public Prosecutor’s Office”, the applicants received the refusals signed by Igor Karpenko, Deputy Chairman of Minsk Executive Committee, who considered that the application did not comply with the requirements of Art. 9 of the Law "On Mass Events", which regulates the place and the time of the mass event, and the event would interfere with the flow of pedestrians near the town hall. At the same time the official did not specify what the requirements of Art. 9 of the law were not observed. According to Tamara Sergey, the slogans of the future picket might have become the cause of the refusal. The civil initiative has been defending the rights of citizens for six years, who received runarounds with formal replies instead of proper answers. According to the activists of the Civil Initiative, such actions of the authorities violate Art. 40 of the Constitution of the Republic of Belarus and demonstrate the fact that the officials have unlimited power.

Summing up the analysis of the current situation in this aspect, we can agree with the view of Vladimir Telepun, a human rights activist from Mozyr, who concludes that the citizens have no right to free assembly in the present-day Belarus. To date, the order of holding mass events in the country is regulated by the law "On Mass Events in the Republic of Belarus" d/d 30.12.1997, which was repeatedly amended, following which real opportunities for citizens to exercise their right to freedom of assembly were essentially limited.



Freedom of association and conditions for non-governmental organizations in Belarus

The most significant events and tendencies concerning freedom of associations and nongovernmental organizations situation in the Republic of Belarus during the specified period are:

  • The introduction to the Parliament of a draft law “On introduction of changes and additions to the laws of the Republic of Belarus on the activities of political parties and other public associations”. Apart from the issues of establishing and liquidation of public associations, the draft law presupposes the change of the notion “public association” and the introduction of the procedure of transforming a public association into a political party;
  • Pressure increase of the authorities during the election campaign of the members to the House of Representatives of the National Assembly on the civil society organizations, which have taken part in this campaign, in particular, on the organizations of domestic election observation and supporters of election boycott by the political opposition;
  • Initiation of the process of judicial liquidation of a human rights institution “Platforma”. A number of other organizations face a deliberate denial of the state registration;
  • Human Rights Centre “Viasna” is under a threat of its premises privation in connection with the property confiscation of the organization leader Ales Byalyatsky, who is now in prison. A non-profit cultural site “Art-Syadziba” is not able to find premises for its activities;
  • A lift of restrictions on leaving the country for a number of civil society representatives after the judicial and administrative appeal. However, tax inspections of a number of civil society activists indicate further pressure in connection with their social activities.


During the monitoring, the additions regulating non-profit organizations activity were introduced into the legislation. The Law of the Republic of Belarus “On introduction of changes and additions to the Civil Code of the Republic of Belarus and recognition of the certain legislative acts of the Republic of Belarus, which have become inoperative, and their separate provisions on rent, deposit, establishment and activity of financial industrial groups” was passed on July 9, 2012. Apart from other changes, this law presents a revised version of Clause 121 of the Civil Code of the Republic of Belarus, which regulates association establishing. Acceptance of a revised version of Clause 121 ceased the conflict in the legislature and arranged the ability of combination of profit and non-profit organizations within one association.

A draft law of the Republic of Belarus “On the introduction of changes and additions to the laws of the Republic of Belarus on the activities of political parties and other public associations”was promulgated at the end of August 2012. The draft law is being developed in accordance with the definition plan of the draft laws of 2012. The draft law was introduced to the House of Representatives of the National Assembly of the Republic of Belarus by the Council of Ministers on July 31, 2012. At the present time, the draft law has been returned to the Council of Ministers of the Republic of Belarus for improvement. The development of the draft law, as well as other draft laws of the Republic of Belarus, was carried on in a non-public way. The draft law was not discussed with interested organizations during its development.

The draft law analysis presupposes the introduction of positive technical standards to the legislation on public associations and political parties, for example, a graphic presentation of organizational structures is excluded from the documents necessary for the state registration of a public association, the draft law also presupposes the reduction of the demands to the number of founders necessary for certain local public associations (regional, district, inter-district).

For establishing a local public association in accordance with the draft law, there should be at least 10 founders of two and more administrative-territorial units, where a public association can operate. The introduction of this norm to the law will significantly facilitate establishing of regional and district public associations. Meanwhile, now the necessity of presence of founders from most administrative-territorial units, when attributing local councils to administrative-territorial units, makes establishing of such associations practically impossible.

At the same time, the draft law includes a new standard that discriminates some public associations in relation to others.According to the draft law, the number of founders for establishment and activity of particular kinds of public associations may be settled by special laws on the correspondent kinds of public associations.

However, according to the draft law, the definition of public association includes a changed objective of public association establishing: it is suggested to change the objective “cooperative realization of civil, social, cultural and other rights” to “achievement of common objectives indicated in the regulations”. It is obvious that this change corresponds to the registration tendency of public associations in the country, when in most cases mainly so called “membership clubs” are registered: sport and dance clubs and other similar associations.

The departments of international public associations, established on the territory of foreign countries, are equated to public associations. The draft law also defines that departments are established in the form of republic associations, while the current legislation presupposes that these departments are established and operate in order, determined for international public associations that have been established in the territory of the Republic of Belarus.

At the same time, despite the number of positive standards in comparison with the current legislation, the draft law is not oriented to the improvement of the situation with the freedom of association in the country, as well as to the introduction of provisions that favor the development of public associations, facilitate their establishing, registration and activity. The centre of law transformation prepared suggestions for its improvement and passed them to the state agencies responsible for law development and adoption[1].

The draft law also introduces a new standard:a public association may be transformed to a political party, a state registration of which is realized in the order determined by the legislative acts of the Republic of Belarus. Basically, the current legislation doesn’t prohibit the transformation of a public association to a political party. It is obvious that this standard particularly stands out in the draft law in connection with the discussion about a possible transformation of “Belaya Rus” to a political party. “Belaya Rus” is one of the most loyal social forces supported by the authorities.

The pressure on civil and political activists continues, especially on the participants of the parliamentary elections, as well as initiatives implementing domestic observation or agitating for an election boycott. In particular, the cases of printed materials confiscations from the initiatives “Legislators for free elections” and “For fair elections” were reported, as well as arrests of observers and agitators for an election boycott.

The activists – administrators of the Internet communities “We are fed up with Lukashenko”, “Lyapis Trubetskoy – a free concert in Minsk” in social networks, Roman Protasevich, Andrey Tkachev, Oleg Shmoruk and others, were arrested on August 30-31. Some of their flats were searched. The flats of four anarchists were searched on September 6 in Brest. The ground for the search was the model of an explosive device found earlier on February 8 this year. The search resulted in the confiscation of system units and memory cards, as well as a summon for interrogation to the KGB.

The circuit court of Glubokoe district on a new criminal case of the leader of “Molodoy front” Dmitry Dashkevich added to the term of the political prisoner one more year of a corrective labor colony according to Clause 411 of the Criminal Code “disobedience to the demands of the correctional institution administration” (this additional year included 4 months of the term which the prisoner was to serve according to the previous sentence).

The leader of the human rights centre “Viasna” Ales Byalyatsky, who is now in prison, received an answer from the Supreme Court of the Republic of Belarus to his supervisory complaint filed against the sentence of the Minsk Pervomaysky district court on November 24, 2011. The answer says that the Supreme Court did not find any violations in the decision of the Pervomaysky district court. Two more penalties have been enforced against A. Byalyatsky on August this year: privation of a regular food delivery (out of two required a year) and privation of a regular, this time short meeting (out of two required a year as well). As for an individual letter filed to the UN Human Rights Committee, the permanent representation of Belarus under the UN and other international organizations in Geneva informed the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights that Belarus “ceases the procedure on this letter and is not considered obliged by the decision that will be made by the Committee on this case”. The answer says, “there aren’t any legal grounds for examining the complaint by Byalyatsky”. The Belarusian government also refers to its position stated in 2010 and 2011 concerning the complaints made in regard to Belarus: “the state does not recognize the rules of the UN Human Rights Committee procedure, therefore all the letters registered according to these procedure rules, will be rejected by the government without any comments; the decisions on these letters made by the Committee will be considered invalid by the government”.

At the same time two political prisoners, Sergey Kovalenko and Pavel Syromolotov, were released during the parliamentary elections on September 27.

The preliminary hearing on the case of the liquidation of the Awareness institution “Platforma”, which concerns with prisoners’ rights,took place in the Minsk economic court on September 3, 2012. The proceedings on the liquidation started after the tax office of the Minsk Sovetsky district filed a claim. The state agencies paid increased attention to the organization during the period from June to September this year. The director of the organization Andrey Bondarenko was summoned to the Minsk prosecutor’s office on June 21, where he got a notice on the discredit of Belarus. The reason for the notice was the appeal of the institution to the International Hockey Federation with a request not to hold the World Hockey Championship in 2014 in Belarus unless all the political prisoners are released and repressions of human rights and civil society activists, as well as journalists, stop. In July, the organization was brought to administrative responsibility for an allegedly undue filing of an income tax bill (according to the legislation, non-profit organizations in absence of a tax entity are not obliged to file an income tax bill). On August the organization was fined for a non-disclosure about the change of the location to the tax office (the organization administration in its turn claims that it did not change its location and is situated at the same address). The tax authorities obliged the organization to pay a fine of 4 million rubles for these violations. Later on, on October 9, the court passed the decision on the liquidation of the Awareness institution “Platforma”.

The tax office started to examine the expert institution “Strategic thought” in Gomel. The founders of the organization fear that this tax inspection may mean preparation for the liquidation of this private institution, as it was with “Platforma”.

The Belarusian communist labor party got the fourth denial of a registration from the Ministry of Justice in summer 2012. Later on, the organization tried to appeal this decision of the registering authority, but on September 2012 the Supreme Court declared the decision of the registration denial justified. The court of Grodno region started proceedings on the complaint of the Main Department of Justice of Grodno region concerning the registration denial to the Grodno region organization of the BPF Party (on October 4 the court passed the decision to dismiss a complaint and upheld the decision of the registration denial). On August 17, the Ministry of Justice made the decision to deny a registration to the International creative public association “KinoMost” in connection with the violations of the conditions of establishing an international public association and the violations of a documents preparation procedure in confirmation of the existence of a legal address of the organization.

According to the Ministry of Justice[2]in Belarus, in the period from January 1 to September 30, 2012 88 new public associations were registered: 1 international, 7 republican, 80 local associations, 3 unions (associations), 16 funds, among them 1 international and 15 local. As of October 1, 2012, there are 15 political parties, 1,021 party organizations, 37 trade unions (33 republican trade unions, 1 territorial trade union and 3 trade unions in organizations) and 23,016 trade union organizations, 2,460 public associations, among them 230 international, 685 republican and 1,545 local. 37,744 organizational structures of public associations are registered and kept a file on. There are 30 unions (associations), 133 funds (12 international, 5 republican, 116 local).

The Human Rights Centre “Viasna” is still under the threat of the premises privation that are to be confiscated within a criminal case of the leader of the organization Ales Byalyatsky. The imprisoned leader of the Human rights centre “Viasna” Ales Byalyatsky got a denial from the Supreme Court of the Republic of Belarus on his supervisory complaint against the sentence by the Minsk Pervomaysky district court on November 24, 2011 (see Chapter “Administration of justice”).

A non-profit cultural site “Art-Syadziba” has difficulties in finding premises for its activity. In the middle of June, the renter urged the organization to leave the premises in the building of “Horizont” plant. At the end of September, the organization announced that it had signed a new contract of lease. However, on September 27, one day before the opening of a new site, the Emergency Ministry sealed the premises; the renter initiated dissolution of a signed contract of lease.

The situation with entry and departure from Belarus of some representatives of civil society organizationsis still tense. Viktor Korneenko, one of the joint coordinators of the domestic election observation, was banned from leaving abroad on July 12, while going to Vienna to participate in the conference on election legislation (as it was found out later, the grounds for the denial were “an error in a computer database”). During the election campaign the representatives of international organizations, as well as observers of the mission ODIHR OSCE, were said not to get a visa to Belarus. In the period from July to September, some civil society activists, which were banned from leaving Belarus for almost half a year, were allowed to leave the country, like Zhanna Litvina, the leader of the Belarusian journalist association; Oleg Gulak, the leader of the Belarusian Helsinki committee; Valentin Sefanovich, the deputy president of the Human Rights Centre “Viasna”; Sergey Dynko, the editor of the newspaper “Nasha Niva”. As in the case with Viktor Korneenko, during the trial it became clear that the above-mentioned people were mostly listed as restricted to leave the country by mistake, as a result of “errors in a computer database”.

On September, the tax office started to actively inspect tax payments of a number of leaders of human rights non-governmental organizations. The tax office of the Sovetsky district in Gomel demanded a 5 years income tax bill from Leonid Sudalenko, a representative of the organization “Legal initiative”. The human rights activist’s son, who is now in the army, and the wife also have to present an income and property declaration. On September 21, the tax office demanded an income and property statement for the period from 2004 to 2010 from Tatiana Revyako, the council member of the Human Rights Centre “Viasna”. The representatives of the Belarusian Helsinki committee underwent the tax inspection as well.


Administration of justice

In the reporting period there has been no progress in the area of administration of justice. It is observed with regret that courts remain extremely dependent on the executive branch. Politically motivated trials continued to take place. As a consequence, they were accompanied by serious violations of international standards in the area of administration of justiceand national legislation.

The most vivid example of this is the consideration by the Supreme Court of the Republic of Belarus of Alexander Solop’s complaint against the Central Commission’s refusal to register him as a candidate for the House of Representatives of the National Assembly of the Republic of Belarus on moral and ethical grounds. The dependent position of the courts was also reflected in the cases against public activists that were considered in sequence.

The most important trials in the reporting period include the following:

·       Judicial consideration of complaints concerning illegal actions of the Ministry of Internal Affairs of the Republic of Belarus restricting some citizens’ right to exit the country;

·       Consideration of administrative cases against political and public activists;

·       Consideration of a new criminal case against Dmitry Dashkevich charged with non-compliance with the requirements of the penal colony administration (pt. 1 art. 411 of the Criminal Code);

·       Consideration of the cassation appeal by the former political prisoner Vasily Parfenkov concerning 6 months imprisonment to which he was sentenced on new charges;

·       Consideration by the supreme court of the supervisory appeal by Ales Byalyatsky;

·       Consideration of the complaints launched during the elections to the House of Representatives of the National Assembly.

The complains by human rights activists, journalists, opposition figures and public activists concerning their right to exit the Republic of Belarus had been made in April, 2012. However they were considered only in August. Despite the fact that according to the Civil Procedural Code of the Republic of Belarus civil cases based on such complaints should be considered within 1 month from the date of the reception of the complaint by the court, some cases were appointed for consideration after 4 months. However no articulate arguments justifying the delay of the consideration of namely those cases were presented. Thus, according to the Justice Department of Minsk Executive Committee the complaint by Oleg Gulak, Chairman of Belarusian Helsinki Committee, was not appointed for consideration by the judge due to “a large volume of pending cases, control over the work of law enforcement officials, performance of administrative functions, annual holiday”.

The complaints against the actions of the Ministry of Defense and the Ministry of Internal Affairs restricting their right to exit the country made by Valentin Stefanovich, Deputy Chairman of the Human Rights Center “Viasna”, and Andrey Bondarenko, President of the Informational and Educational Institution “Platforma”, were considered on the 20th of July, 2012. During the trial Alexey Begun, the representative of the Ministry of Internal Affairs, Head of the Department of Citizenship and Migration, presented certificates stating that at the time of the trial Stefanovich and Bondarenko were not included in the database of the citizens whose right to exit the country was temporarily restricted. During the trial he said that his department had not made a decision to restrict their right to exit the country and explained that they had been included in the database as a result of “a technical failure”. The representative of the Ministry of Defense also said that his office had not been involved in including Stefanovich and Bondarenko into the database of those banned to exit the country.

The judge Elena Semak rejected all the requests, including the one concerning the computer technical expertise aimed at identification of the technical failure, and dismissed the complaints by Stefanovich and Bondarenko.

The consideration of Oleg Gulak’s complaint started on the 16th of July, 2012, but due to the absence of the representative of the Ministry of Internal Affairs the judge Elena Semak adjourned the case consideration to the 20th of July. During the next hearing the judge withdrew all the questions about the violation of the terms of consideration of Gulak’s application concerning removing him from the database of those banned to exit the country by the Ministry of Justice saying that those issues were not relevant for the case.

It should be mentioned that the trial resembled those of Harry Pogonyailo, Andrey Bondarenko and Valentin Stefanovich who also complained against being included into the database. Alexey Begun, the representative of the Ministry of Internal Affairs, also presented certificates stating that Gulak had been removed from the database, which resulted in the court recognizing the complaint unfounded.

Consequently the consideration of complaints against illegal inclusion of citizens into the database of those banned to exit the country was accompanied by gross violations of the procedure of consideration of the cases arising from administrative legal relations. According to civil procedural law in this type of cases the burden of proving the legitimacy of the action rests with the state body. Nevertheless as a matter of fact the claimants themselves had to prove that they had been illegally included into the database while the representatives of the state bodies did not produce evidence proving the legitimacy of the inclusion of the claimants into the database.

In the reporting period the practice of persecution of political and public activists continued. The courts considering fabricated cases of administrative offenses always found the activists guilty of either petty hooliganism (art. 17.1 of the Code of Administrative Offenses) or non-compliance with the lawful orders of the police officers (art. 23.4 of the Code of Administrative Offenses). During such trials the witnesses were always the police officers while other witnesses were not questioned including when the subjects to administrative liability requested them to be questioned. As a result of the consideration of such cases the activists were either fined (Andrey Molchan – twice: 8 base values and 10 base values, Irina Sukhy – 15 base values, Varvara Krasutskaya – 7 base values, Galina Korzhanevskaya and Inna Loyko –3 base values each, Alexey Teply – 5 base values, Victor Boldin – 3 base values), or arrested (Ivan Amelchenko – 12 days, Roman Vasiliev – 12 days, Vladimir Eromenok – 15 days, Kasya Galitskaya – 10 days, Tatiana Novikova – 5 days, Andrey Azharovsky – 10 days, Mikhail Matskevich – 3 days, Nikolay Demidenko – 7 days, Denis Sadovsky – 10 days)[3].

Moreover in the reporting period independent journalists were brought to administrative responsibility. The cases of administrative offenses of Yuliya Doroshkevich and Irina Kozlik that were considered by the court of the Soviet district of Minsk on the 9th of August (see Freedom of Speech) received wide response. On the 26th of July the court considered the case of administrative offense against a Euroradio journalist Vitaly Rugaina who had been detained the day before for “using obscene language”. The journalist pleaded not guilty. The hearing was accompanied with gross violations of the principle of open trial. Nobody, including the journalists, was allowed to attend the hearing that took place in the judge’s office. The police prevented people from attending it while the judge did not take measures to ensure the openness of the trial. The three police officers who participated in the detention of the journalist were witnesses to the case. Rugaina’s witness was not given a leave to attend the hearing despite the fact that according to the procedural law witnesses to the case should be relieved of their job duties without the loss of earnings. At the same time it should be mentioned that the judge Tatiana Tkacheva sent the administrative offense case for revision, because in the materials filed with the court there were violations that had to be eliminated. Therefore the journalist was released right in the court room. The case was dismissed later.

An outside court hearing of a new criminal case concerning willful disobedience to the prison administration (pt.1 art. 411 of the Criminal Code) against the political prisoner Dmitry Dashkevich, who is serving a sentence of imprisonment, took place on the 28th of August in the penal colony No. 13 in Glubokoye. It took place behind closed doors which violated the principle of open trial. According to the available information about 40 witnesses were questioned in the court including prison guards and some of the prisoners. Dashkevich waived the services of the defense attorney because the charges were far-fetched and politically motivated. The court added 1 year to his serving time. It should be mentioned that it is the maximum penalty provided by the Criminal Code for this offense.

Vasily Parfenkov, a former political prisoner who had been sentenced to 4 year imprisonment on the charges of mass disorder following the presidential elections of 2010 and released in August, 2011, due to the Decree of Pardon, lodged a cassation appeal against the sentence of the court of the Pervomaysky district of Minsk that had found him guilty of violation of requirements of preventive supervision (art. 421 of the Criminal Code). The appeal was considered on the 24th of July. The Judicial Board on Criminal Cases of Minsk City Court found no grounds for the appeal and confirmed the verdict. At the same time the board found no grounds to apply to Parfenkov the coercive security and treatment measures that are applied to people suffering from chronic alcoholism, drug addiction or toxicomania (pt.1 art. 107 of the Criminal Code), the measures requested by the public prosecutor.

On the 21st of September of 2012 it became known that the supervisory appeal by Ales Byalyatsky against the sentence was dismissed by the Supreme Court of the Republic of Belarus. It was stated in a letter of the Supreme Court that “the convict’s arguments about the illegality and invalidity of the court’s decisions had not been confirmed during the revision of the case. In compliance with article 18 of the Criminal Procedural Code the court ensured a comprehensive and objective investigation of the circumstances of the case, gave the appropriate legal assessment of the evidence collected and reasonably found them sufficient to find Byalyatsky guilty of committing the crime he had been sentenced for. The punishment imposed on Byalyatsky is fair”. Thus, Byalyatsky has exhausted all domestic legal remedies and has a right to appeal to international organizations with a personal message about the violation of his rights and freedoms by the Republic of Belarus.



Preliminary Report: Elections of members of the Chamber of Representatives of the National Assembly of the Republicof Belarusof the fifth convocation

The “Human Rights Defenders for Free Elections” campaign comes to conclusion that the election process was marked by  serious violations of the principles of democratic and fair elections, as described in the OSCE standards and the Belarusian legislation. The election took place in the atmosphere of political persecution and repression of the opponents of the government; this political environment, as well as the limitations at the stages of creation of election commissions and campaigning had a negative effect on the freedom to make an informed choice. Non-transparency of vote count procedure makes it impossible to state  that the election results reflect the will of the Belarusian people.

The election of 2012 is the first parliamentary election conducted under the amended Electoral Code (EC)[4]. Mainly, the amendments to the EC are of a positive nature. However, the absence of effective mechanisms of enforcing the citizens’ rights and appealing against violations significantly diminish the positive effect of the amendments.  The substantial part of the election process remains nontransparent and non-public. The electoral legislation lacks sufficient mechanisms to resist manipulation in administration of the election.

Lack of criteria for selection of nominated candidates to election commission made it possible for the executive bodies to manipulate the process. Although the Electoral Code guarantees representation of political parties and public associations in election commissions, in practice the representatives of the political parties in opposition made up less than 1 per cent of the commissions. Registration of the initiative groups by District Election Commissions (DECs) was done mainly without any violations. However, observers were not able to observe the process of verification of voters’ signatures in signature forms, which gives the stakeholders the grounds to distrust the results, especially in cases when DECs denied registration to candidates. Altogether, 494 candidates were nominated, 122 (24.6%) were not registered. Political parties nominated 204 candidates (41% of all nominated candidates). 23 per cent of candidates nominated by political parties were not registered, 19.5 per cent of them were nominees of the political parties in opposition.

The campaigning stage was marked by usage of the administrative resource for the benefit of the pro-governmental candidates. Simultaneously the state media published materials covering the activity of the opposition forces in the negative light. Compared with the parliamentary election in 2008, the legal base for campaigning has been improved. However, the executive authorities narrowed down the campaigning possibilities envisaged by the amendments. A great number of opposition party candidates were deprived of an opportunity to reach voters with their opinion. We have observed multiple instances when presentations and programs of opposition candidates were censored or not aired. This has significantly limited the rights of voters to receive complete information about candidates and their programs. According to the estimates of the observers of the “Human Rights Defenders for Free Elections” campaign,  in the initial days of early voting there was little difference between the observers’ data and the PEC information relating to the  number of voters who had voted early. However, by the end of the early voting the difference between the official and the observers’ data grew bigger. Also, the number of polling stations at which the PEC data was different from the observers’ data increased significantly by the end of the early voting period.

Observers received multiple refusals of election commissions to provide information about the number of voters registered at polling stations. Observers also noted facts of violations in the work of PECs, when PEC members failed to seal the ballot boxes in a sound manner, ignoring the remarks made by observers. There were also instances when polling station premises were not sealed during the breaks and at the end of the day.

The voting process was marked by numerous violations during voting at the voter’s location. This primarily concerned arranging voting at the voter’s location for voters who failed to apply for the option, and obstacles in observers’ activities by members of precinct election commissions.

The vote count was not transparent. The observers were not able to monitor the accuracy of the vote count. The campaign’s observers reported discrepancies between their estimates on voter turnout and the data specified in the PECs’ voting results records.

525 complaints and appeals were submitted during this election. The majority of complaints are about ungrounded refusal to include representatives of the opposition parties and public associations in election commissions. Similarly to the previous election, none of the complaints were satisfied. The Central Commission received 57 complaints about non-registration of candidates, 11 of which were satisfied. The Supreme Court satisfied 1 out of 19 complaints submitted against the CEC decisions. Full text of the rport.

Annex 1. The state and development of civil society in Belarus


analytical report based on the monitoring materials

July-September 2012


AndreiYahorau, AndreiShutov,

EuropeanTransformation Center


General-political conditions and circumstances


During this period, as well as the previous six months, the general-political context has been set by the parliamentary electoral campaign. Throughout the whole period and for a short time after the election, representatives of the political opposition have continued their quite empty disputes concerning the tactics of behavior during the campaign (boycott or participation). The majority of civil society organizations have not taken part in this campaign, except for the traditional bloc of human rights defending organizations within the framework of the «Human Rights Defenders for Free Elections» coalition that has carried out their independent supervision campaign. During the election, some members of the political opposition have also tried to look like a certain form of civil supervision campaign (e.g. the civil campaign «For Fair Elections»). The brightest example is the carrying-out of the demonstrational campaign “Boycott-101”in Frunze Election District № 101 in Minsk by the coalition of political organizations (“Movement for Freedom”, campaign «Tell the Truth», Belarusan People’s Front). This campaign has showed, on the one hand, an example of a possibility of cooperative actions of political forces; on the other hand – it has revealed the essential limitedness of their human resources and inability to be present at all polling stations so as to totally supervise them; it has also vividly showed the absence of principled contradictions in the discussed tactics "boycott-participation" because the organizers have adhered to these or those forms of participation in the election. In all other respects, the period of election has been a dead season with the traditional increase of the state repressive measures; the attention of the mass media and international structures has been diverted from the questions and problems of civil society.


Besides the topic of the election, during this period, it is possible to mark a wave of protests of workers of industrial enterprises, the loud PR action “Teddy Bear Airdrop”, the diplomatic scandal with the envoi of the Swedish Ambassador, the appointment of the UN Spokesperson for human rights in Belarus, and the decision that Belarus has infringed the Aarhus Convention.


Establishment and development of the National Platform of the Civil Society Forum of the Eastern Partnership

During this period, the National Platform of civil society has been practically not seen behind the basic events as it has been occupied with the questions of its internal structural development. There have been consultations within the framework of the inter-regional group concerning the tasks and forms of the creation of regional platforms, as well as participation of members of the Platform in the process of the European dialogue on modernization.


On September, 27th, the National Platform made a statement concerning the fact that the Lithuanian authorities forbade several Belarusan antinuclear campaign activists to enter the territory of Lithuania. The coordinator of the public campaign “Astraviec Nuclear Power Plant is a crime!” Nikolai Ulasevich and the coordinator of the Belarusan Antinuclear Campaign, executive secretary of the Public Environmental Impact Audit of the project of the Belarusan NPP, Tatiana Novikova, have been added to the list of persons who are banned to enter the territory of the Lithuanian Republic. On September, 26th, 2012, Nikolai Ulasevich and Tatiana Novikova were going to Vilnius in order to participate in the conference «Lithuania - Belarus, nuclear neighborhood» in the Seimas of the Lithuanian Republic where they had been invited by the organizers so as to present their speeches about the role of public control during making decisions that have to do with atomic energy. The National Platform has expressed its concern in connection with the unreasonable announcement of these Belarusan public activists to be the persons who menace Lithuania’s national safety and urged to revise this decision.


Development of dialogue with the national and local authorities


During the considered period of time, the topic of dialogue between civil society and the state at the national level has been in the frozen condition and has not been actualized practically by any of the specified subjects.


On the one hand, the attention of leaders of civil society and experts’ community has been concentrated on the EU initiative «European dialogue on modernization with Belarus» where they were proposed to designate the basic spheres of life of the country, which modernization could be assisted by the European Union. Within the framework of this work, the opinion about the necessity to involve representatives of the state in this modernization dialogue has been expressed by analysts of the Belarusan Institute of Strategic Studies (BISS) and the public association «Liberal Club», but it has been addressed first of all to the European partners.


On the other hand, the Belarusan authorities continue to exclude any possibility of their participation in this modernization dialogue on the conditions suggested by the European Union when civil society together with the political opposition is put in unequal position with the state. Thus, the Belarusan regime avoids in every possible way the situation created with the support of the EU when it will have to dialogue with its opponents inside the country as equals.


Also, the European dialogue is reducing its intensity, facing internal problems such as:


1.       Absence of full-fledged communication with public-political groups (stakeholders) interested in modernization reforms,

a.       Weak communication of experts with stakeholders;

b.       Weak advancement of the European dialogue on modernization in the activity of interested public-political groups;

c.       Not sufficient coordination of activity at the EU level and inside Belarus.

2.       Non-equilibrium of experts’ groups who look like consultative, but not like working groups;

3.       Low level of work of groups that study the spheres which must be reformed.


Representatives of civil society’s politically focused part have preferred again to be satisfied with some attributes of the public-political dialogue simulated by the authorities while they carry out electoral campaigns; in this case- during the campaign of electing the new structure of the House of Representatives of the National Assembly. However, neither inclusion of several representatives of oppositional structures in structures of district and local commissions, nor inclusion of three representatives of opposition parties with a deliberative vote right in the structure of the Central Electoral Commission, nor registration of candidates from the opposition, nor independent observers who were allowed to be in polling stations during voting, nor oppositional candidates hitting the campaign trail, including their participation in TV debates, nor in general the oppositional structures’ strategy of participation in the election to the end or removal of their candidates - all these have failed to render any influence either on the very way the authorities have carried out this election campaign, or on its results.


The way the interaction between the state and civil society has been happening at the local level has once again confirmed that in the cases of direct collisions of the interests of the state with the interests of citizens or civil society organizations, the possibility that any full-blown dialogue can take place equals zero. Thus, the inhabitants of the Smalavičy Rajon (District), who are protesting against the building of the Belarusan-Chinese techno-park, have been refused to carry out a local referendum; at the public hearings, which have taken place in ŚvietĨahorsk and concerned the influence on the environment of the new plant that produces bleaching sulfate cellulose, none of opponents of the building of this enterprise has been given a chance to express his/her position.


Expansion of the "structure" of civil society and cooperation with various types of subjects


In July-September 2012, in the independent mass media, there were lots of messages about collective protests of workers of first of all industrial enterprises. Everywhere, as a principal cause that spurred these protests, they mentioned low salaries. Protesters resorted to different forms of expressing their discontent and rendering pressure upon employers: exit from official trade unions, threat of announcing strikes, work suspension, etc. Most often, protests arose spontaneously and were quickly settled by administrations of enterprises. Still, the protests appeared in the field of vision of independent trade unions and in certain cases - in the focus of their management.


*        On July, 9th at the Babruïsk-based factory of tractor details and units, workers of two brigades, after they received their letters with the information about their salaries for June, declared about their refusal to continue work until they were paid their cut down bonus. The next day, these two brigades started to work, but in the "working-to-rule strike" mode. Then, there was a message that all the workers who had participated in this protest became members of the factory branch of the Belarusan Free Trade Union.

*        On July, 13th, workers of several shops of "Hrodna ZhilStroy" refused to start working and demanded to increase their salaries. They returned to their workplaces only after a meeting with the director of the enterprise who promised to fulfill the requirement of the protesters.

*        On July, 17th, workers of one of the enterprises of the “PinskDrev” holding carried out a spontaneous meeting protesting against the reduction of the sizes of their salaries and started to write letters notifying that they leave the official trade union. A distinctive feature of the situation with the protests of workers of "PinskDrev" is that among protesters there appeared a leader whose actions were guided by the fresh strike experience of workers of the enterprise "Granit" (the town of Mikaševičy, the Brest VobĨaść [Region]); he also became the initiator of the creation of the Workers’ Council so as to have negotiations with the administration on behalf of all protesters.

*        On August, 10th, about 60 workers of the Baranavičy-based road and transport organization "DEU-3" declared about their refusal to come to work. They started to work only after a meeting with the head of the organization who promised to organize a meeting of the protesters with representatives of the administration of the national unitary enterprise "BelAvtoDor" which structural sub-division is «DEU-3».

*        In the beginning of September, there were messages about a pre-strike situation in the 2ndcity hospital of Minsk. Physicians demanded from the administration of this medical institution to double the size of salaries and in case it would not be done, they promised to organize a protest meeting. Members of the independent trade union of the Mikaševičy-based "Granit" expressed their solidarity with the requirements of the Minsk doctors and sent an open letter addressed to the Minister of Health.

*        Many workers of the Polatsk-based winery began to leave the official trade union and join the Free Trade Union in the beginning of September, protesting against their low salaries, and on September, 14th, they suspended their work and arranged a spontaneous meeting near the entrance of the enterprise.


International cooperation and interaction


Despite the summer period, the situation with human rights and freedom of speech, the problem of political prisoners and new political prosecutions, as well as the course of the parliamentary election, have been under steadfast control from the outside – by international civil society organizations and international political structures, as well as their separate representatives. The attitude to what is going on in Belarus has been expressed in already traditional forms:


*        Acceptance of resolutions, statements, and appeals: the condemnation of infringements of human rights in Belarus, the requirement to free all political prisoners and rehabilitate them, as well as an intention to support Belarusancivil society, are present in the resolutions accepted almost simultaneously by the UN Council for human rights (July, 5th), the European Parliament (July, 5th), and the OSCE PA (July, 7th); the requirement to stop the criminal prosecution of journalist A.Poczobut is in the statement of the International Federation of Human Rights (July, 4th); the Amnesty International addressed to all partner organizations concerning an emergency reaction in connection with the information on the deterioration of the conditions of N.Statkevich's imprisonment (July, 14th), it also supported D. Dashkevich against whom a new criminal case was initiated (July, 18th), and already on July, 20th,the UN spokesperson for tortures was sent a complaint with the requirement to investigate the information on the facts of tortures of these two political prisoners; Lithuanian environmental organizations acted with a joint statement, protesting against the arrest in Minsk of environmentalists T.Novikova and A.Ozharovsky, who tried to bring to the Embassy of Russia a letter against the signing of the general contract to build the Belarusan Nuclear Power Plant (July, 19th); the demand to free the student of the Department of Journalism at the BSU A.Suryapin who was arrested in connection with the “Teddy Bear Airdrop” case is in the statements of the Journalists Protection Committee (July, 19th) and the Amnesty International (July, 24th), and the Belarusan Association of Journalists addressed to the UN spokesperson for protection of the right for freedom of opinions with a request to react to the arrest of this young journalist (August, 2nd); 15 members of parliament from the EU countries, who participate in the program of patronage upon Belarusan political prisoners, acted with a joint statement on the general situation in Belarus (July, 26th); the “Reporters without Borders” reacted to the detention of the journalist of "Euroradio" V.Rugainwith their statement-protest(July, 30th); the EU High Representative C. Ashton made a statement concerning the envoi of the Swedish Ambassador in Belarus S.Eriksson (August, 3rd); a joint statement concerning the closed Swedish Embassy in Minsk came from the Freedom House and the Center of European Policy Analysis (CEPA) (August, 9th); the OSCE representative for freedom of the media D. Mijatovićsupported the administrators of groups in social networks who were prosecuted (September, 4th); the UN High Commissioner for Human RightsN. Pillay criticized the general situation in Belarus (September, 15th); the requirement to investigate the case of the police officers’ attack and beating of journalists in Minsk during the actions of the youth organization "Zmena" is in the statement of the Journalists Protection Committee (September, 19th); on the eve of the parliamentary election, the Amnesty International made a statement on the general situation in Belarus, in which it marked the strengthening of repressions against the opposition and independent journalists; after the announcement of the results of the parliamentary election, there were critical statements not only from the OSCE mission which had supervised the course of this election, but also from the European Parliament and the European Commission, as well as from governments of some EU countries (end of September); the release of political prisoners S.Kovalenko and P.Syromolotov has also been noticed by a number of statements of the European political bodies welcoming this step of the authorities of Belarus (end of September).


*        Carrying-out of pickets and protest actions: participants of the female organization FEMEN protested against A. Lukashenko's presence at the final of the Football World Championship in Kyiv (July, 1st) and representatives of Ukrainian democratic organizations picketed near the Belarusan Embassy (July, 2nd); there were pickets against L. Yermoshina’s presence at the OSCE conference in Vienna; besides, during the speech of the head of the Belarusan Central Electoral Committee, representatives of the USA and EU countries left the hall in an emphatic manner (July, 12-13th); in many European capitals, there were actions in protection of Belarusan political prisoners: D.Dashkevich (July, 20th), N.Statkevich (August, 12th), and AleśBialacki[Alexander Bialiatski] (September, 25th), the day when A. Bialackiwas arrested - August, 4th - was marked as the Day of Solidarity with Belarus; the young members of the British Party of Liberal Democrats carried out an event to support the Belarusan journalists who were arrested for photographing with teddy bears (middle of August); in Eindhoven, there was an annual event to the memory of the missing Belarusan politicians and journalists, attended by the relatives of the disappeared and European human rights defenders and politicians (September, 16th).


*        Nominations and awards: the Heinrich BöllFoundation awarded its Petra Kelly Prizeto A. Bialacki (beginning of July); the German PEN center awarded its Hermann KestenPrize to Irina Khalip (August, 8th); A. Bialackiwas also nominated as a candidate to receive the Andrei Sakharov Prize of the European Parliament «For Freedom of Thought» (August, 27th).


However, there have also been events which stand out against the already habitual ones. On July, 4th, there was a daring action which consequences were ambiguous; it was sponsored by and implemented on behalf of the Swedish advertising firm «Studio Total» and received the name “Teddy Bear Airdrop”, or the «Plush Landing» in Russian. Two citizens of Sweden on their single-engine aeroplane imperceptibly crossed the Lithuanian-Belarusan border and scattered over Ivianiecand Minsk about one thousand toys, i.e. teddy bears, with the words supporting democracy and freedom in Belarus, and then also imperceptibly returned back to Sweden. Here, it is also possible to mention the act of the winner of the 2012 international television song contest "Eurovision" - the Swedish singer Loreen. Being invited to Belarus to perform at the musical festival «Slavic Bazaar in Viciebsk», on July, 13th,she met with the wife of AleśBialackiand in the presence of independent journalists expressed her support to all Belarusan political prisoners and signed a petition to abolish capital punishment in Belarus.


If to speak about successes of Belarusan civil society’s promotion of its interests at the international level, then it is necessary to mention that the UN Council introduced again the post of its spokesperson for human rights in Belarus. It has been done thanks to the joint efforts of a big pool of international and Belarusan human rights defending organizations, among which there are the Human Rights Watch, International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH), Amnesty International, Belarusan House for Human Rights, Human Rights Defending Center "Viasna" [Spring], etc. On September, 28th, appointed to this post MiklósHaraszti started to work. Within the framework of his mandate, the spokesperson for human rights will have to dialogue with the Belarusan party concerning the questions of human rights in the country, to present a competent analysis of the existing problems, being based on which he will be able to offer ways of improving the implementation and protection of human rights in Belarus according to the international standards. However, the Belarusan authorities have refused to recognize the validity of this mandate and declared about their refusal to cooperate with the appointed spokesperson.


Organizational potential and abilities to the advocacy activity, advancement and protection of interests


During the analyzed period, there have been the following types of civil initiatives and campaigns:


1.       Initiatives-appeals (performances with statements, acceptance of petitions and resolutions, drives for signatures). This kind of initiatives, as a rule, has an exclusively reactive character and is used for the fastest presentation of one’s attitude to appearing situations. In the majority of cases, these appeals remain without any reaction. In particular, in July-September 2012,Belarusan civil society organizations with the help of statements, appeals, and petitions were reacting to illegal arrests and detentions, as well as the situation with political prisoners (appeals against the detention of the antinuclear activists (July), protest against the arrests of A.Suryapin and S. Bashirimov in connection with the Teddy Bear Airdrop (July-August), appeals with a demand to free political prisoners (the whole period), the statement of the musical group Lyapis Trubetskoi to support the detained moderators of protest groups in social networks (August), statements concerning the interdiction to enter Lithuania for the antinuclear activists (September), etc.).


2.       Fund raising activities. This type of actions, as a rule, has a character of symbolical solidarity and is rather effective due to the concreteness of objects in view. During the specified period, such actions have included: fund raising to perform operations for Inessa Krutaya who suffered during the act of terrorism in the Minsk metro station in April (July);the proceeding fund raising (July-September) to pay for the book of KazimirSiemianovič «ArtisMagnaeArtilleriae» [1650](which is similar to the previous voluntary fund raising so as to return the Statute of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania [the old Belarusan state]), fund raising to cure civil activist Kristina Shatikova (July-September), fund raising for the lawyer for A. Suryapin (July-August), fund raising organized by environmentalists to pay at an auction for an elk exposed for hunting (September).


3.       Initiatives of local residents against the building of ecologically dangerous objects or objects worsening living conditions. Except for individual initiatives, citizens’ resistance has brought no results: in Salihorsk, the authorities declared about public hearings concerning the construction of some objects, including those connected with the cutting-down of a part of the city park (July, 2012). Activists of the Salihorsk campaign «Protect Woods» are going to use this moment for resistance, but they do not hope for success.


On August, 17th, in ŚvietĨahorsk, the authorities also carried out formal public hearings concerning the chemical plant building; public activists estimate extremely negatively their results, considering that they [public hearings]did not really take place.


The protest of residents of summer houses in Smalavičy against the building of the Belarusan-Chinese techno-park is continuing; on July, 12th, an initiative group of citizens was refused to carry out a local referendum concerning this question.


In Minsk’s micro-district Uručča, citizens are also losing in their struggle against the construction of new houses; the building is going on; meanwhile, the citizens made an attempt to get politicized and to use the situation of elections (promotion of their candidate, July-September).


Inhabitants of cottage houses in the settlement of KaĨodziščy near Minsk collected one and a half thousand signatures and demand from the authorities to change the project of building of the microdistrict Zialony Bor (September).


One of successful initiatives is the protest of Brest inhabitants against the building of a chemist’s shop; the citizens of nearby houses managed to block this building and the authorities cancelled their decision; probably, it was done because of the election and the authorities did not want to radicalize the situation (July).


4.       Initiatives to promote the Belarusan language. The traditional type of initiatives that sometimes brings some successes. In Hrodna, parents assisted by the Belarusan Language Association managed to receive a permission to create a Belarusan-language group in a kindergarten (July).


5.       Social initiatives. Initiatives to create cycle tracks for bicyclists (in Homiel (July), in Brest («For Bicycle-Brest», July-September) have been quite active. In Minsk, there is a volunteer initiative «House of dogs’ hope» aimed at rescuing homeless animals (July-September). There have been again events of the NGO "Avant-guard" that regularly organizes harmless flash-mobs, frequently under the permission of the authorities (this time they organized an event to blow soap bubbles, July).


6.       Political initiatives during this period have concerned basically the electoral subjects. The brightest of them concerned the organization of the technological campaign Boycott-101 in Frunze election district № 101 in Minsk.


7.       Human rights defending initiatives have been mostly connected with the actual topic of political prisoners, the brightest of which was the signing of an appeal to free political prisoners by 114 candidates (September).


Change of conditions of activity of structures of civil society


The general conditions of civil society’s activity have been complicated by the authorities’ traditional reprisals and restrictions during the election campaign: arrests, searches, interdictions to carry out events, etc. The project of the law «About modifications and additions to some laws of the Republic of Belarus on the activity of political parties and other public associations», despite a number of positive changes, according to experts, will not essentially improve the conditions of activity of civil society. The pressure upon human rights defending organizations has become more active; in particular, there is a process of liquidation of the Human Rights Defending Establishment "Platform"; the Human Rights Defending Center "Viasna" can lose its premises because of confiscation of AleśBialacki’s property. For a long time, the problems with the physical space for the organization of even non-political events have been faced by the majority of civil society organizations in Belarus, e.g. the noncommercial cultural initiative "Art Siadziba" which is refused a possibility to rent premises for its cultural events.


On July, 4th, Lukashenko signed his decree № 295 "About simplification of the order of departure from the Republic of Belarus ". According to this decree, the KGB has a right to include a person in the «list of those who cannot leave abroad» if this person «is included in the preventive list of the KGB» - it has actually legalized the practice of “black lists”. Some representatives of civil society have been removed from these lists and now can travel abroad, e.g. Zhanna Litvina, head of the BAJ; human rights defender Oleg Volchek; Andrei Bondarenko, Garry Pogonyailo, politician Viktor Korneyenko, and some other civil and political activists. Nevertheless, the decree is working and the practice of the «lists who cannot travel abroad» remains in force: thus, on September 17th, human rights defender Igor Lednik was not allowed to leave for Poland.


On September, 27th, two political prisoners – Sergei Kovalenko and Pavel Syromolotov -were released; however, this time as well, it was only a demonstrative step of the Belarusan authorities, aimed at softening the reaction of the international community to the non-democratic character of the latest election. More than 10 democratic activists are still in prison, which vividly characterizes the deplorable state of conditions of activity of civil society.



Suggestions on the draft law that introduces changes and additions to the Law of the Republic of Belarus “On public associations”


[3]According to the data of the Human Rights Center “Viasna”:

[4]The Electoral Code of the Republic of Belarus, 370-L of February 11, 2000. Amendments: the Law of the Republic of Belarus 406-L of July 4, 2000; the Law of the Republic of Belarus 183-L of January 4, 2003; the Law of the Republic of Belarus 166-L of October 6, 2006; the Law of the Republic of Belarus 99-L of January 4, 2010; the Law of the Republic of Belarus 309-L of November 8, 2011