Annual Report: Belarus 2013

May 23, 2013

Annual Report: Belarus 2013

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  • On 26 June, shortly after the NGO Platforma – which monitors prison conditions – called for a boycott of the 2014 hockey championships in Minsk, its chair Andrei Bondarenko was officially warned by the Minsk City Prosecutor that he could be prosecuted for “discrediting the Republic of Belarus and its state institutions”. On 19 July, he was informed that he was on a list of people forbidden to leave the country because he was being investigated for tax evasion. The investigation against him was stopped and his name was removed from the list after he complained to the Ministry of Internal Affairs.
  • On 26 November, the staff of Human Rights Centre Viasna were evicted from their office when it was confiscated as part of the sentence against the chair of the organization, Ales Bialiatsky.

During 2012, at least 15 human rights activists, journalists and opposition activists were prosecuted under the administrative code for swearing in public.

Freedom of association

The Law on Public Associations continued to set out restrictive rules for the registration and functioning of organizations. All NGOs still required authorization from the state in order to function and it remained a criminal offence under Article 193 (1) of the Criminal Code to act in the name of an unregistered organization.

  • In January, the LGBTI organization Human Rights Project Gay Belarus was informed that its application for registration had been refused on the grounds that the names of two of the 61 founders were misspelled and that their dates of birth were incorrect.
  • On 9 October, Minsk Economic Court ruled that the prison-monitoring NGO Platforma should be liquidated. The organization was accused by Sovetskiy district tax authorities in Minsk of failing to present a declaration of income on time, or to inform the tax authorities of a change of address. Its chair, Andrei Bondarenko, insisted that he had presented the income declaration on time and the organization had not changed its legal address.

Freedom of assembly

The Law on Mass Events continued to impose unreasonable limits on assemblies. It required organizers of any pre-planned public gathering to report “financial sources” used and they were only allowed to publicize events after official permission was granted, which might not be until five days beforehand. Applications to hold public events were routinely denied for technical reasons.

  • Alexander Denisenko, a member of the independent trade union REP, was refused permission by the local authorities in Brest to hold a public event on 17 March to protest against the cost of housing. Refusal was made on the grounds that he did not have contracts with the police, the ambulance service and the local authorities regarding cleaning and hygiene facilities. Alexander Denisenko appealed against the decision of the local authorities to the court of first instance, the appeal court, the district court and the Supreme Court, all of which supported the decision of the local authorities.

Death penalty

Belarus continued to carry out executions in conditions of utmost secrecy. Neither the prisoners condemned to death, nor their relatives, are informed of the execution before it is carried out. The body is not returned to relatives and they are not informed of the burial site. They can be left waiting weeks or even months before they receive the official death notice.