Human Rights Monitoring. October-December

After the release in August 2008 of political prisoners (Kazulin A, Parsukevich S, Kim A,) there were no any significant changes in situation with human rights in Belarus.
● Political repressions against civic activists are continuing.
After the participation in peaceful action of protest of entrepreneurs in January 2008 14 young activists were accused in organizing and participation in action which violates public order (article 342.1 of the Criminal Code (CC) of the Republic of Belarus). 10 participants of the process were sentenced to 2 years (Pashkevich M., Krivau M., Tsishkevich T., Chernushou A., Bondar A., Dubskiy A., Subach M., Vinagradau P., Straltsou A.) and to 1,5 years (Dashuk M., underaged) of the restriction of freedom.
In the beginning of October, allegedly for 3 minimum violations of the regime, criminal case was brought against A. Dubskiy under the article 415 of the CC of the Republic of Belarus (evasion of serving the sentence). And soon after that he asked for political asylum in the Ukraine.
The last participant of the “Process of 14” Aliaxander Barazenko who during the trial was studying at the University of Wroclav (Poland) voluntarily came to the investigator on the 27th of October. At the same day he was arrested and stayed in pre-trial prison till the trial. On the 9th of December he was sentenced to 1 year of the restriction of freedom.

We are very concerned about the incident with the leader of movement “Young Belarus” Artur Finkevich, who was kidnapped near his house by people in civilian clothes. They threw him into the minivan, beat, took his documents and money and left him in the forest couple of dozens kilometers away from Minsk.

We positively assess the situation with the closing of the criminal case against Michail Sheremet and Juriy Karetnikov who were arrested for bombing which took place on the 3rd of July in Minsk. But there are still some other civic activists whose criminal cases haven’t been closed yet.

The number of administrative arrests of democratic activists has decreased. In 2007 during the same period of time 44 civic activists were sentenced to administrative arrest. During the preceding to monitoring 3 months 10 activists were sentenced to administrative arrest. During the reporting period 6 civic activists were sentenced to administrative arrest. The amount of activists who were fined for their political activity is approximately equal: 16 (October-December 2007), 11 (July-September 2008) 12 (October-December 2008).

● The pressure at students who are involved in political activity is continuing. One was expelled and two were reprimanded. The threat of firing from job on political grounds especially by the way of not prolonging contracts still exists and is being used. During the reporting period three activists were fired.

● The practice of conducting mass events is still negative. Authorities are very formal while giving permissions for such events. Cases of beatings and detentions for several hours during mass actions are very wide spread.

The authorities refused to more than a dozen of people in their request to hold meetings devoted to the 60th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. On the 7th of November official celebration of the anniversary of October Revolution took place, but at the same time pickets of “Young Front” against communist ideology were banned. 5 representatives of “Young Front” were sentenced to 3 days of administrative arrest for unauthorized picket (art. 23.34 part 1 of Administrative Code of Republic of Belarus).

We positively assess the permission of the authorities to hold procession “Dziadu”, devoted to celebration the honor of ancestors, including the victims of political repressions during Soviet rule; to hold meeting of entrepreneurs who were protesting against the changes in legislation, which restrict the possibilities to work.

- Stop using administrative powers for pressuring at civic activists;
- Amendments to the Law of Mass Events (Presumption in favor of holding assemblies)