Human Rights Situation in Belarus: December 2018

Source: Viasna Belarus Human Rights Center in English

Summary:
political prisoner Mikhail Zhamchuzhny continued to serve his sentence in prison;
on December 19, the court of Maskoŭski district of Minsk granted the appeal of a citizen of the Russian Federation and United Civil Party press secretary Hanna Krasulina against the decision of the district police department of Minsk to expel her from Belarus. Earlier, the Belarusian human rights organizations issued a joint statement in which they demanded the immediate repeal of all previous decisions to expel Krasulina from the country, describing such actions of the Belarusian authorities as part of a politically motivated prosecution against the activist;
during the month, there were numerous facts of pressure on independent journalists and bloggers, freelancers, arrests of peaceful protesters;
the police department of the Kastryčnicki district of the city of Mahilioŭ confirmed in a written reply to a representative of the Human Rights Center “Viasna” Ales Burakou that the activists was under investigation under Art. 193.1 of the Criminal Code in connection with his activities on behalf of the unregistered Human Rights Center “Viasna”;
on December 19, the House of Representatives of the National Assembly approved in the second reading the draft bill “On amendments to certain Codes of the Republic of Belarus”, which provides for the removal of Article 193.1 from the Criminal Code and the introduction of the new article 23.88 with similar content into the Code of Administrative Offenses, which will provide for a penalty of up to 50 basic units, which, according to human rights activists, is another impermissible restriction on freedom of association;
in December, there were multiple documented violations of the freedom of conscience and religion;
during the month, the HRC “Viasna” received new reports of torture and cruel and inhuman treatment;
thus, the situation with human rights failed to be improved significantly during the month.
Political prisoners and politically motivated persecution
The penal colony in the city of Horki continued to hold political prisoner Mikhail Zhamchuzhny.
On December 6, during a seminar on public control over penal institutions in Minsk, which was organized by the Ministry of Justice and the Council of Europe Information point, Tatsiana Krauchanka, chairperson of the National Public Supervisory Commission and a member of the Parliament’s upper chamber, Council of the Republic, told journalists that earlier reports on the inhumane detention conditions for Mikhail Zhamchuzhny did not correspond to reality. Commenting on statements by human rights activists alleging attempts to place Zhamchuzhny in the lowest caste of the informal prison hierarchy, the official said that the information was not true.
In response to a remark that Zhamchuzhny spent months in a punishment cell, Ms. Krauchanka said that it was his decision not to leave the cell. The official also told reporters that she and other commissioners personally met with the prisoner, while the fact is refuted by human rights activists, including a member of the Mahilioŭ supervisory commission, human rights activist Barys Bukhel. Earlier, Tatsiana Krauchanka wrote that the meeting with Zhamchuzhny did not take place.
On December 19, the court of the Maskoŭski district of Minsk allowed an appeal by Hanna Krasulina, spokesperson for the United Civil Party, against a decision of the district police department to expel her from Belarus.
The Russia-born UCP press-secretary learned about the decision on November 13. The district Department of Internal Affairs told Ms. Krasulina that the reason for the expulsion were three administrative convictions, two cases of administrative responsibility for illegal protesting in 2016 and 2017 and one penalty for ticketless travel in 2018. In response to the two convictions for participating in peaceful assemblies, the activist complained to the UN Human Rights Committee. The complaint was registered and the Committee started its communication with the government of Belarus.
On November 30, the Minsk city executive committee upheld the decision to expel Krasulina, and the politician went to court.
The human rights community of Belarus issued a statement asking to cancel all previously adopted decisions on the expulsion of Hanna Krasulina from the territory of Belarus and to immediately stop the deportation procedure.
The authorities started the execution of the politically motivated verdict against REP leaders. On December 19, Ihar Komlik was briefed on the conditions of serving the restriction of freedom; Komlik is obliged to stay in his apartment every day from 9 pm to 6 am. At any time of the day or night, his home may be visited by the police or any authorized representative of the Ministry of Internal Affairs.
According to praca-by.info, on holidays and weekends Ihar Komlik is expected to stay in continuously, except in cases of emergency. He cannot leave his home even to do shopping or walk the dog.
Harassment of human rights defenders
Ales Burakou, an activist of the Human Rights Center “Viasna” in Mahilioŭ, received a reply to his complaint about the investigation under the Criminal Procedure Code launched to verify legal grounds for a criminal case under Art. 193.1 of the Criminal Code. The investigation is linked to the activist’s work on behalf of the unregistered Human Rights Center “Viasna”.
In his complaint, the human rights activist pointed out that on November 8 he had a meeting with police officer Pavel Kot, during which he learned that he had been under investigation since October 8. The officer said that the probe was authorized based on information about Ales Burakou’s work as an administrator of the mspring.online site, one of the online resources run by Viasna.
The police said in response that the investigation had been suspended due to “lack of results.”
Earlier, Viasna’s human rights activists issued a statement in support of Ales Burakou, urging the police to immediately close the investigation. The Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders also condemned the harassment of Ales Burakou.
On May 11, the government submitted to the Parliament a draft bill aimed to remove Article 193.1 from the Criminal Code and to replace it with administrative responsibility by introducing Article 23.88 with similar content, which will entail penalties in the amount of 50 basic units (1,225 rubles as of December 2018), which, according to human rights activists, constitutes impermissible restriction on freedom of association. On December 19, the bill was approved by the House of Representatives in the second reading.
Violations of the right to peaceful assembly and freedom of expression
On December 2, a group of young people led by anarchist Viachaslau Kasinerau laid a funeral wreath with the inscription “To the image of the Interior Ministry” at the foot of the sculpture of a policeman near the Interior Ministry’s building in Minsk. Viachaslau Kasinerau and Siarhei Sparysh were both fined 735 rubles.
On the Human Rights International Day, December 10, police arrested Ales Abramovich and Siarhei Padzolka, activists of the Belarusian Social Democratic Party, who appeared in central Minsk carrying posters reading “Authorities violate our rights” and “Failure to respect human rights leads to slavery. Freedom to the media! Freedom to journalists!”.
In December, judge Viktoryia Shabunia fined 367.5 rubles one of the participants in a political performance “Deconstruction of a Policeman”, which was held in November 28 in Minsk. Several theater students came to a shopping mall in special uniforms with rainbow-colored shoulder straps; they stopped people for “disproportionate mood”, asked them about their smiles, danced and handed out free whistles.
On November 18, the administrators of a YouTube channel “Top Pinsk” met with their subscribers in the city’s central Lenin Square. The meeting was attended by several hundred teenagers. The bloggers climbed the pedestal of the Lenin monument, talked to their fans and took selfies with the subscribers. The city court, however, viewed the event as a violation of the order of holding public assemblies and fined the two bloggers 490 rubles each. After the event, city schools teachers were instructed to report on the number of students subscribed to the channel.
On December 18, judge Aksana Sarakhman of the Lahojsk City Court ruled to fine Young Front leader Dzianis Urbanovich 980 rubles for joining the memorial event “Night of Executed Poets.” The activist was accused of “pointedly ringing the bell” during the protest.
On December 22, the court of Centraĺny district of Minsk ordered fines of 490 rubles each for the participants in the protest in support of the captured Ukrainian seamen staged near the Russian Embassy in Minsk. The protesters, including minors, put paper boats at the fence of the embassy.
On December 1, the unpopular changes to the media law entered into legal force, which infringe, inter alia, on freedom of opinion: the owners of Internet resources are now required to identify users who post messages or leave your comments. This significantly limits the freedom of speech, as denying online anonymity under current conditions in Belarus narrows the possibilities to express unpopular opinions, to criticize the current government, or to speak in favor of or on behalf of stigmatized groups or minorities.
Judge Maryia Yarokhina of the Frunzienski District Court of Minsk fined anarchist activist Mikalai Dziadok 980 rubles on charges of using Nazi symbols online. However, the context was the opposite, as the activist’s beliefs oppose any manifestations of Nazism.
Violation of the right to information. Persecution of journalists
The above changes to media laws greatly expanded legal grounds for extra-judicial blocking of websites, as well as charged the owners of online resources with exclusive responsible for the content of information published on their websites, including comments and advertising banners.
On December 14, the Pieršamajski District Court of Minsk convicted five journalists on charges of illegal work with the Poland-based TV channel “Belsat”: Volha Chaichyts, Siarhei Kavaliou, Liubou Luniova, Iryna Arekhouskaya and Siarhei Krauchuk.
Judge Ivan Kastsian fined Dziayana Seradziuk, a journalist of the Novy Chas weekly, 490 rubles on charges of joining a protest near the Russian embassy.
Violation of the right to freedom of conscience and religion
The legislation of Belarus provides for responsibility for communities of believers operating without registration. Meanwhile, the registration procedure is extremely burdensome for religious groups, as they are subject to excessive demands (the issues was earlier considered at the UN Human Rights Committee). For example, the Minsk-based Pentecostal church “Thy Will Be Done” has been unable to register for two years already, as the authorities set excessive, in comparison with the generally accepted international standards, conditions for the group’s activities. Ten communities of Jehovah’s Witnesses are unable to obtain registration; the Barysaŭ community has made 16 attempts in twenty years, the community in Viliejka received six bans in 2017 alone.
Believers can be fined for distributing religious literature and singing religious hymns, reading religious texts outside of worship buildings; for the same actions, communities may face dissolution.
In Liepieĺ, police arrested Baptist believers, Andrei Fokin and his wife Tatsiana, for singing and distributing Christian literature near the local market. The total penalty for the couple was 1,200 rubles.

MIL OSI

UN HRC registers complaint of Belarusian death row prisoner

Source: Viasna Belarus Human Rights Center in English

http://spring96.org/en/news/91717 2018 2018-12-29T15:35:26+0300 2018-12-29T15:35:26+0300 2018-12-29T15:35:25+0300 en http://spring96.org/files/images/sources/zhylnikau_sud.jpg The Human Rights Center “Viasna” The Human Rights Center “Viasna” The Human Rights Center “Viasna”
The Human Rights Center “Viasna”

Death convicts Aliaksandr Zhylnikau and Viachaslau Sukharko during an appeal hearing at the Supreme Court. May 29, 2018

On December 24, the United Nations Human Rights Committee has registered the individual communication of death convict Aliaksandr Zhylnikau, according to the prisoner’s lawyer who visited him on December 27.
Aliaksandr Zhylnikau and Viachaslau Sukharko were originally sentenced to life imprisonment in March 2017 after being found guilty of the murder of three people in December 2015. In July 2017, following an appeal by the prosecutor, the Supreme Court sent their case back to the lower court for a retrial, which resulted in them being sentenced to death on 20 January 2018. 
On May 29, the Supreme Court upheld Aliaksandr Zhylnikau and Viachaslau Sukharko’s death sentences.

MIL OSI

Chechnya Through the Eyes of Belarusian Human Rights Activists

Source: Viasna Belarus Human Rights Center in English

Almost five months ago, the Shali distric court in the Russian constituent republic of Chechnya opened the trial in the case of human rights defender Oyub Titiev. When it comes to cases of politically motivated charges against human rights defenders, this constitutes one of the most high-profile trials in recent time in Russia.
Oyub Titiev is the head of Memorial Human Rights Center’s office in Grozny, Chechnya. He was detained in January 2018 and is currently facing up to ten years in prison on fabricated charges of unlawful drug possession. The attack against the prominent human rights defender seems by all means to be yet another step in the ongoing campaign to oust the last critical voices from the region.
In late November, two Belarusian human rights defenders – Ales Bialiatski and Siarhei Sys – traveled to Chechnya on a solidarity mission to visit Oyub Titiev’s trial. To stand trial in a case built on politically motivated charges is a familiar experience for Ales Bialiatski who, in 2011, was arrested and detained, and accused of tax evasion. Ales Bialiatski was convicted of the fabricated crime, and spent nearly three years in prison. This however did not stop him from continuing his fight for human rights. He has, since his release, continued his important work. In 2014, Civil Rights Defenders awarded him the Civil Rights Defender of the Year Award for his courage to stand up for civil and political rights in the country.
To Ales and Siarhei, visiting the trial of a fellow human rights defender was a way of showing moral support. Upon returning home, they shared with us a photo reportage they made while in Chechnya.
Chechnya through the eyes of Belarusian human rights activists
A photo reportage by Ales Bialiatski and Siarhei Sys:
We recently travelled on a solidarity mission to Chechnya. We say solidarity mission as the purpose of our trip was to attend two of the hearings in the criminal case against Russian human rights defender Oyub Titiev, who is the head of Memorial’s office in the Chechen capital Grozny. Oyub is currently being considered in the Shali city court, and the case has been proceeding for about five months. He is accused of illegal possession of a large amount of drugs; charges that are clearly false and trumped-up. Nevertheless, these charges could lead to a 10-year prison sentence for the prominent human rights defender.
Sometimes words alone are not enough. That is why we have decided to make a detailed photo essay from this trip, with the aim of sharing our personal impressions of the city where Oyub Titiev is currently being deprived of his freedom. We will also share our photos and reflections straight from the court room where the highlighted trial of the Chechen human rights defender is held.
Grozny – a rebuilt city

Grozny, Chechnya.
The city of Grozny has been rebuilt almost anew after the destructive Russian-Chechen wars. When we arrived in the Chechen capital on 18 November, we were met with modern large-scale constructions and hundreds of lights shining in the city centre. Right in the middle of the city stands one of Europe’s largest mosques – the “Heart of Chechnya”. The mosque was named after the previous leader of the constituent republic – Akhmat Kadyrov – and a large number of his armed troops.
The modern and expensive features of Grozny tell us that the Russian government is not shy in giving the Chechen leadership enormous sums of money in exchange for showing loyalty to the Kremlin.Our observations are further confirmed when having a look at the Grozny city hall, which is decorated with portraits of not only Akhmat Kadyrov, but also the current Russian president Vladimir Putin.

Ales Bialiatski on a deserted bridge over the Sunzha River.
Prominent city buildings have in many cases become displays for showcasing what is considered to be the importance of the first Chechen president Akhmat Kadyrov. Many of them are decorated with quotations and sayings. One such example can be found on the building of the National Museum.

Featured in the photo is Akhmat Kadyrov along with a quote that translates to “Museums are the most important institutions of education of people’s self-consciousness”.
The museum was restored in 2007. We learned that 90 percent of the museum exhibits were looted and lost during the last Chechen wars. Here, the saying “if you want to conquer a nation, first destroy its culture” is clearly accurate.
After the wars, it was not only the museum that was in need of restoration. Large parts of the city of Grozny had been destroyed in the battles. The below photo shows Ales Bialiatski at one of the restored streets near the office of Nurdi Nukhazhiev, the Chechen ombudsperson who is loyal to the local authorities.

Ales Bialiatski on one of the restored streets of Grozny.
Signs of loyalty to the Chechen authorities can be found all across the city. On many apartment buildings, there are sacred triumvirates of portraits displaying the Russian President Vladimir Putin, the former President of Chechnya Akhmat Kadyrov, and the current head of Chechnya Ramzan Kadyrov, son of the man he succeeded.

Ramzan Kadyrov – here depicted on the large portrait – is the current leader and local dictator of the constituent Republic of Chechnya.
Earlier this year, Ramzan Kadyrov declared that “I am engaged in protecting human rights in Chechnya,”. But after the arrest of Oyub Titiev on 9 January 2018, there are practically no independent human rights defenders left in the region.
Meeting Oyub Titiev behind bars in the city of Shali
Traveling from Grozny it takes a little more than 40 minutes to reach the regional centre of Shali, where the trial of Oyub Titiev has been ongoing since 19 July 2018. At the time when the trial started, he had already spent more than half a year in detention. The city was severely damaged during the first Chechen war, hundreds of people died here, and houses and industrial buildings were destroyed.
Today, one has to look very closely for even a sign of destruction. We see nothing that hints that dozens of private houses were demolished in the centre, or that hundreds of people were forcibly relocated to the outskirts of the city. The Moscow money have contributed to a completely new face of the recently almost deserted city.
 
Currently, the construction of the largest mosque in Chechnya is nearing completion. The mosque is set to be named after Ramzan Kadyrov and is planned to hold up to twenty thousand believers. We learn that the building is decorated with marble from the Greek island of Thassos and that its gold-plated chandeliers are made in Turkey.
The court – in which we are soon to attend the hearings in the case of Oyub – is lodged in rented premises almost right opposite the mosque. The actual courthouse is still under construction. When entering the room, we see Oyub standing in a metal cage surrounded by a convoy. He has been brought to the court from the Grozny detention centre.

Russian human rights defender Oyub Titiev has been detained since 9 January 2018. He stands falsely accused of unlawful drug possession and risks up to ten years in prison.
Several bailiffs stand guard in the room. In addition to a pistol, one of them clasps an automatic weapon by the handle.
Except for the bailiffs, we find familiar faces in the room. Oyub Titiev’s lawyers from outside of Chechnya, Pyotr Zaikin, Marina Dubrovina and Ilya Novikov, are also there. So is the prominent human rights defender Svetlana Gannushkina. Svetlana, who is the chairperson of the Civic Assistance Committee, has travelled to Shali from Moscow. She has twice acted as a guarantor for changing the detention measure for Oyub Titiev. Both of these petitions have however been rejected by the court, as it is dependent on the executive branch.

Svetlana Gannushkina, Chairperson of the Civic Assistance Committee.
We also see Nikolay Rybakov, deputy Chairman of the Yabloko party, and Elena Milashina from the independent newspaper Novaya Gazeta.Elena is one of the few journalists who has continued to cover Oyub’s case. And then there is us, two Belarusian human rights activists on a solidarity mission.
One of the people that is missing in the room is Aslan Tilkhigov, who was Ouyb’s first local lawyer. Aslan was forced to leave Chechnya urgently for security reasons, as he had received threats to his life.
The case of Oyub Titiev
Over the last few years, Oyub Titiev received threats regularly. In fact, he was forced to leave Chechnya several times due to security reasons. This is a situation that has become a norm in the troubled region. In 2009, the previous head of Memorial’s Grozny office – well-known human rights activist and journalist Natalia Estemirova – was kidnapped and murdered as a result of her work. Other human rights organisations have been ousted from the region. For example, in 2014 and 2015, the Grozny office of the human rights organisation Committee Against Torture was destroyed.
It was in this context that Oyub Titiev’s car was stopped on 9 January 2018. A package of marijuana was planted in it when the police checked Oyub’s documents, and he was detained and brought to a detention centre. It is no doubt that his case has been fabricated by the Chechen authorities in order to hinder him from continuing on his important work.

Oyub Titiev’s Moscow lawyers Petr Zaikin, Marina Dubrovina and Ilya Novikov, and long-term Russian human rights defender Svetlana Gannushkina.
The dictatorial regime in Chechnya, supported by those in power in Moscow, is fighting human rights defenders with dirty methods. As many local human rights defenders before us have noted, it seems that this case is one in a chain of events aimed at ousting all human rights activists from the region. But whether the fierce dictatorship will succeed in completely destroying ordinary people’s natural desire for truth and justice still remains a very big question.
Civil Rights Defenders.

MIL OSI

Amnesty International: Two known prisoners on death row in Belarus at risk of imminent execution

Source: Viasna Belarus Human Rights Center in English

http://spring96.org/en/news/91677 2018 2018-12-20T11:54:55+0300 2018-12-20T11:54:55+0300 2018-12-20T11:54:54+0300 en http://spring96.org/files/images/sources/amnesty-international.jpg The Human Rights Center “Viasna” The Human Rights Center “Viasna” The Human Rights Center “Viasna”
The Human Rights Center “Viasna”

“There is grave concern that the only two known prisoners on death row in Belarus, Aliaksandr Zhylnikau and Viachaslau Sukharko, are at risk of imminent execution,” Amnesty International said.
Aliaksandr Zhylnikau and Viachaslau Sukharko were the first two men to be sentenced to death in Belarus in 2018. They are now believed to be the only known men remaining on death row, following the recent executions of Siamion Berazhnoy and Ihar Hershankou. It was, in fact, Aliaksandr Zhylnikau’s family who alerted Belarusian civil society to the probable date of the recent executions. Aliaksandr Zhylnikau told his family that until the night of 19–20 November, he had been sharing a cell with Siamion Berazhnoy who was taken away and didn’t return.
Aliaksandr Zhylnikau and Viachaslau Sukharko were originally sentenced to life imprisonment in March 2017 after being found guilty of the murder of three people in December 2015. In July 2017, following an appeal by the prosecutor, the Supreme Court sent their case back to the lower court for a retrial, which resulted in them being sentenced to death on 20 January 2018. On appeal, Aliaksandr Zhynikau’s lawyer asked for a new forensic examination to be ordered which could prove his innocence in two out of the three murders. The lawyer also asked for a less harsh sentence. Both requests were denied and on 30 May 2018, the Supreme Court upheld Aliaksandr Zhylnikau and Viachaslau Sukharko’s death sentences.
Amnesty International urges people from around the world to write to the Belarusian authorities urging them to:
Halt the executions of Aliaksandr Zhylnikau and Viachaslau Sukharko;
Immediately establish an official moratorium on executions with a view to abolishing the death penalty;
commute all death sentences to terms of imprisonment.

MIL OSI

Court quashes order to expel UCP spokesperson

Source: Viasna Belarus Human Rights Center in English

http://spring96.org/en/news/91667 2018 2018-12-19T16:09:57+0300 2018-12-19T16:09:57+0300 2018-12-19T16:10:41+0300 en http://spring96.org/files/images/sources/anna_krasulina_20181218_shuk_tutby_phsl_7863.jpg The Human Rights Center “Viasna” The Human Rights Center “Viasna” The Human Rights Center “Viasna”
The Human Rights Center “Viasna”

Hanna Krasulina in court. Photo: Volha Shukaila, tut.by

The Court of the Maskoŭski District of Minsk ruled to meet an appeal by Hanna Krasulina, a Russian-born head of the United Civil Party’s press-service, who challenged an order by the city police to deport her on dubious charges.
The decision to expel Krasulina was made public on November 13, after the Department of Citizenship and Migration of the Maskoŭski district of Minsk said the UCP spokesperson had several administrative convictions, including fare evasion. On November 30, the District Department of Internal Affairs upheld the decision.
A few days ago, the human rights community of Belarus issued a statement demanding to reverse the decision and to immediately stop the expulsion procedure.
The decision was also criticized by a number of EU political structures, including European People’s Party and Lithuanian MPs.

MIL OSI

OSCE ODIHR event: Belarus is surprisingly tenacious in restricting freedom of assembly

Source: Viasna Belarus Human Rights Center in English

On December 17-18, Vienna hosted the third round table organized by the OSCE ODIHR to discuss the methodology of monitoring peaceful assemblies. It was attended by over 30 representatives from different countries of the OSCE region, including Georgia, Ukraine, Russia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Turkey, Albania, Great Britain, Germany, Moldova, Hungary and Belarus.
The event was supported by experts Anita Danka and Neil Jarman.

A sketch by Benjamin Felis
Representatives of Belarus, Natallia Satsunkevich of the Human Rights Center “Viasna” and Dzmitry Charnykh of the Belarusian Helsinki Committee, stress that the country can hardly be a positive example of respect for freedom of peaceful assembly. Both national law and practice violate international standards of human rights. The recently adopted amendments to the law on mass events failed to fundamentally change the situation.

“Belarus is surprisingly tenacious in restricting freedom of assembly, while completely devaluing the essence of human rights itself, its values ​​and principles. I would like to emphasize that Belarus, as an OSCE member state, has certain obligations to be implemented.
My goal is helping the authorities to respect human rights, suggesting how to simplify rather than complicate procedures. The human rights community is open to cooperation in good faith with all stakeholders. But at the moment the situation is not optimistic.
According to the results of monitoring conducted from January 1 to date, violations in the sphere of peaceful assembly amounted to 169 prosecutions under Article 23.34 of the Administrative Code, including administrative fines totaling more than 35,000 euros and 124 days in jail!
During the year, independent observers were twice detained by law enforcement officials as they were monitoring peaceful assemblies. These egregious practices of the authorities should be stopped immediately,” said Natallia Satsunkevich.

Dzmitry Charnykh particularly focused on the issue of arrests of non-partisan observers. He called on the OSCE ODIHR and international counterparts not to leave this issue without attention and to actively urge the Belarusian authorities to stop repressions against independent monitors.
The human rights activist also noted discriminatory approaches in allowing peaceful assemblies in Belarus, resulting in bias against pro-democratic NGOs when applying for public events.
The right of every person to assemble peacefully is at the heart of a democratic society enshrined in law and in the Constitution of Belarus and the international treaties of human rights. ODIHR has traditionally paid great attention to the monitoring of peaceful assemblies as a source of independent information.

MIL OSI

Reporters Without Borders: Harassment of journalists breaks records in Belarus

Source: Viasna Belarus Human Rights Center in English

Reporters Without Borders (RSF) calls on the Belarusian government’s international partners to react to the surge in its persecution of journalists, with nearly 100 fines imposed already this year on reporters working for exile media – an all-time record.
No fewer than 99 fines have been slapped on Belarusian journalists “working with foreign media without accreditation” so far in 2018 – 91 of them on reporters working for just one media outlet, Belsat TV, a Belarusian exile TV channel based in neighbouring Poland.
“This unprecedented spate of fines is designed solely to gag independent journalists,” said Johann Bihr, the head of RSF’s Eastern Europe and Central Asia desk. “It is part of an all-out harassmentcampaign against the country’s last critical media voices. Belarus’ international partners must, as a matter of urgency, press the authorities to stop this.”
The methods used are classic. The authorities force independent media to base themselves outside the country and then refuse to give press accreditation to their correspondents, which means they have to work illegally. The rate at which fines are being issued is rising exponentially: 10 in 2016, 69 in 2017 and now 99 so far this year.
Some journalists get special attention. After 10 fines last year, Belsat TV journalist Kastus Zhukouski has already received 12 this year, totalling 4,700 euros. Volha Chaychyts, who also works for Belsat TV, got seven fines last year and has already received nine this year, totalling 3,880 euros. The average monthly salary in Belarus is about 400 euros.
Along with the Belarusian Association of Journalists (BAJ) and many other international NGOs, RSF has been calling for an overhaul of the foreign media accreditation law ever since its adoption in 2008. But the authorities have kept on toughening media legislation instead of relaxing it.
Amendments adopted in June extended the accreditation system to online media. And a recent cabinet decree conditioned all broadcast permits for foreign media on examination of the media’s content by a commission that reports to the information ministry.
Belarus is ranked 155th out of 180 countries in RSF’s 2018 World Press Freedom Index.

MIL OSI

Stop deportation of United Civil Party press secretary!

Source: Viasna Belarus Human Rights Center in English

Hanna Krasulina. Photo: nn.by

Minsk – December 13, 2018
On November 13, 2018, the internal affairs department of the Maskoŭski district administration of Minsk ordered the deportation of Hanna Krasulina, a citizen of the Russian Federation and a spokesperson for the United Civil Party of Belarus, with a view to preserve public order through voluntary departure for the period of one year.
As the official Interior Ministry documents and comments by head of the Department of Citizenship and Migration of the Ministry of the Interior Aliaksei Biahun suggest, the decision to expel Ms. Krasulina was taken due to the fact that she was twice, in 2016 and 2017, brought to administrative responsibility under article 23.34 of the Administrative Code for participating in unauthorized peaceful assemblies. It is these actions by Ms. Krasulina that, according to representatives of the Ministry of the Interior, posed danger to the public. According to the decision, Ms. Krasulina was ordered to leave the country before November 30.
On November 28, Ms. Krasulina appealed the order to the city department of internal affairs of the Minsk city executive committee, but as early as on November 30 she was notified that the appealed was dismissed and the expulsion decision was upheld. The latter decision has been appealed to the court of the Maskoŭski district of Minsk.
Recognizing the sovereign right of the Republic of Belarus to limit the entry and stay in its territory of foreign citizens in the interest of the national security of the Republic of Belarus, public order, protection of morality, health, rights and freedoms of citizens of Belarus, we, representatives of human rights organizations in Belarus, note the following:
The expulsion of the citizen of the Russian Federation Hanna Krasulina for her administrative convictions of participating in unauthorized assemblies is manifestly disproportionate and constitutes an excessive measure related to the exercise of freedom of peaceful assembly and expression. The exercise of these freedoms is fully guaranteed by international laws to foreign citizens residing and temporarily staying in the country. It should also be noted that freedom of peaceful assembly should not be subject to any restrictions other than prescribed by law and necessary in a democratic society, for the sake of national security, public order, morality, health and rights of other citizens.
We believe that the administrative prosecution of Ms. Krasulina for participating in a peaceful assembly is a disproportionate measure infringing her rights, as this expression of opinion is in no way subject to permissible restrictions on freedom of peaceful assembly set out in art. 21 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.
Thus, references by representatives of the Ministry of the Interior to objectives of protecting public security as grounds for the expulsion of Ms. Krasulina are unfounded, since the exercise of freedom of peaceful assembly and expression cannot a priori pose a danger to the public and disrupt public order.
As noted in para. 22 of the Siracusa Principles on the Limitation and Derogation Provisions in the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, “the expression “public order (ordre public)” as used in the Covenant may be defined as the sum of rules which ensure the functioning of society or the set of fundamental principles on which society is founded. Respect for human rights is part of public order (ordre public).”
In addition, when making a decision to expel Ms. Krasulina, the Ministry of the Interior should have taken into account the fact that she has resided in Belarus since 2002, has permanent family and social ties, as well as elderly parents in the country of residence. She also possesses means to meet her living expenditures and owns certain property.
Considering all these circumstances, we have reasons to believe that the government’s actions to expel Ms. Krasulina are politically motivated and aimed at impeding the implementation of her civil and political activities, and constitute one of the forms of harassment in connection with such activities.
In this regard, we urge the Belarusian authorities to reverse all the earlier decisions ordering the expulsion of Hanna Krasulina from the territory of Belarus and immediately stop the deportation procedure.
Belarusian Documentation Center
Assembly of NGOs
Belarusian Helsinki Committee
Legal Initiative
Office on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities
Belarusian Association of Journalists
Civil initiative against lawlessness in the courts and prosecutor’s offices
Human Rights Center “Viasna”
Committee of the Repressed “Solidarity”
FORB Initiative

MIL OSI

UN human rights experts condemn Belarus executions

Source: Viasna Belarus Human Rights Center in English

GENEVA (12 December 2018) — UN human rights experts condemned Belarus for its continued use of the death penalty, following local news reports that the country, in defiance of the Human Rights Committee’s requests for a stay, had executed three people: Aleksei Mikhalenya, Semyon Berezhnoi and Igor Gershankov.
The UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Belarus and the UN Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions, together with the Human Rights Committee, deplored Belarus’ continued use of the death penalty amid reports that the men had been executed while their complaints were still pending before the UN Human Rights Committee.

“The repetitive failure of Belarus to respect the Committee’s procedures and the interim measures it has issued is simply unacceptable. The fact that such failures occur in the context of capital cases which implicate the right to life, and which the Committee considers to be the ’supreme right’, is particularly unconscionable,” said Yuval Shany, Chair of the Human Rights Committee.

Non-compliance with the Committee’s request for interim measures, which is the formal name of the Committee’s procedure aimed at preventing irreparable harm, constitutes a violation by Belarus of its obligations under article 1 of the Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, to which Belarus acceded in 1992. States which have adhered to the Optional Protocol are obligated under international law to cooperate with the Committee in good faith. The Committee’s requests to Belarus to halt the executions of the individuals are binding under international law.
Reports indicate that Mr. Mikhalenya, who was found guilty of murder and sentenced to death in March 2017, was executed on or around 15 May this year. Mr. Berezhnoi and Mr. Gershankov were both found guilty of murder in July 2017, and were reported to have been executed on or around 19 November 2018.

“Notwithstanding the gravity of the crimes they committed, as human beings these individuals enjoyed an imprescriptible right to life. Keeping their relatives ignorant of the time and circumstances of their death and failing to return their bodies is an additional, useless pain unfairly inflicted to their families,” said Anaïs Marin, Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Belarus.

Since 2010, Belarus has executed 13 people whose cases were under examination by the Human Rights Committee. Belarus remains the last country in Europe and Central Asia that applies the death penalty. In its last report on Belarus published in November 2018 (available in English and in Russian), the Human Rights Committee emphasized that Belarus “should consider establishing a moratorium on executions as an initial step towards legal abolition of the death penalty and ratification of the Second Optional Protocol to the Covenant, commute all pending death sentences to imprisonment and increase efforts to change public perception about the necessity of maintaining the death penalty”.
Irrespective of their executions, the Human Rights Committee will consider the cases of Aleksei Mikhalenya, Semyon Berezhnoi and Igor Gershankov. All three cases contain allegations of torture in detention, forced confessions, denial of access to legal assistance and unfair trial.
Background
The Human Rights Committee monitors States parties’ adherence to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which to date has been ratified by 172 States parties. The Committee is made up of 18 members who are independent human rights experts drawn from around the world, who serve in their personal capacity and not as representatives of States parties.
Its Optional Protocol, ratified to date by 116 States parties, establishes the right of individuals to complain to the Committee against States which violated their human rights. The Optional Protocol imposes an international legal obligation on State parties to comply in good faith with the Committee’s Views. Further information on the individual complaints procedures before the Committees.
Learn more with our videos on the Treaty Body system and on the Human Rights Committee.
For media requests, please contact Julia Grønnevet in Geneva at +41 22 917 9310/jgronnevet@ohchr.org.
Ms. Anaïs Marin (France) was designated as Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Belarus by the UN Human Rights Council in November 2018.She is a researcher with the University of Warsaw, Poland. A political scientist specialized in international relations and Russian studies, she holds a PhD from Sciences Po, where she studied international public law and comparative politics with a focus on post-communist transformations in Central and Eastern Europe. As a Belarus expert, she cooperated with several European think tanks and contributed analytical reports and policy recommendations for various governments as well as structures, such as the European Parliament and the Eastern Partnership Civil Society Forum. She took part in OSCE/ODIHR election observation missions, including in Belarus. She has published extensively on Belarusian domestic policies.
For more information and media requests please contact:  Mr. Alexandre Girard (+41 22 917 9180 / agirard@ohchr.org) or write to sr-belarus@ohchr.org. 
Ms. Agnes Callamard (France), Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions, has a distinguished career in human rights and humanitarian work globally. Ms. Callamard is the Director of Columbia Global Freedom of Expression at Columbia University and has previously worked with Article 19 and Amnesty International. She has advised multilateral organizations and governments around the world, has led human rights investigations in more than 30 countries, and has published extensively on human rights and related fields.For more information and media requests, please email eje@ohchr.org
The Special Rapporteurs are part of what is known as the Special Procedures of the Human Rights Council. Special Procedures, the largest body of independent experts in the UN Human Rights system, is the general name of the Council’s independent fact-finding and monitoring mechanisms that address either specific country situations or thematic issues in all parts of the world. Special Procedures’ experts work on a voluntary basis; they are not UN staff and do not receive a salary for their work. They are independent from any government or organization and serve in their individual capacity. 

MIL OSI

Campaigners against the death penalty win national human rights prize

Source: Viasna Belarus Human Rights Center in English

http://spring96.org/en/news/91590 2018 2018-12-11T11:43:58+0300 2018-12-11T11:43:58+0300 2018-12-11T11:43:57+0300 en http://spring96.org/files/images/sources/prem1.jpg The Human Rights Center “Viasna” The Human Rights Center “Viasna” The Human Rights Center “Viasna”
The Human Rights Center “Viasna”

10th National Human Rights Award. Winners and shortlisted candidates. Left to right: Ihar Komlik and Henadz Fiadynich (both Trade Union REP), Palina Stsepanenka and Andrei Paluda (both “Human Rights Defenders against the Death Penalty in Belarus”), Iryna Leushyna and Tatsiana Karaviankova (both BelaPAN news agency). December 10, 2018

Belarusian human rights defenders marked the International Human Rights Day by awarding the 10th annual National Human Rights Prize. The ceremony was hosted by the newly opened education space “Territory of Rights.”
The award in the category “Human Rights Defender of the Year” was shared by Volha Smalianka, Legal Transformation Center, and the leaders of the independent trade union REP Henadz Fiadynich and Ihar Komlik.
The nomination “Journalist of the Year” was won by Iryna Leushyna, director of the BelaPAN news agency.
In the nomination “Campaign/Initiative of the Year”, the prize was awarded to “Human Rights Defenders against the Death Penalty in Belarus.”
The National Human Rights Award was established in 2008. The prize is awarded in three nominations: “Human Rights Defender of the Year”, “Journalist of the Year”, and “Campaign/Initiative of the Year”.
The award is co-run by the Belarusian Association of Journalists, Belarusian Documentation Center, Belarusian Helsinki Committee, Human Rights Center “Viasna”, Barys Zvozskau Belarusian Human Rights House, Committee “Solidarity”, Center for Legal Transformation, Human Rights Alliance, Legal Initiative, and the Public initiative against lawlessness in the courts and prosecutor’s offices.

MIL OSI