Belarus Security Forces Detain Protestors, Block Opposition Web Sites - Politics and Civil Society Digest
Today Belarusian courts sentenced two people to 5 and 7 days of arrest for taking part in an unauthorized protest on 21 October. More people were detained on the 21st but only two were prosecuted. A few hours ago another action of solidarity with political prisoners was held in Minsk. So far no detentions were reported.
Both on the 21st and today Belarusian security services blocked several opposition web sites. Other notable events included a swift approval of the new set of amendments aimed at restricting political ad civil society activities in Belarus. It took the upper chamber of the Belarusian parliament just 30 minutes to discuss and adopt the controversial amendments.
Security forces in the way of the media war. Belarusian security forces have launched a web-based resource "Traitors of Belarus" where well-known public and media persons (Alexander Shalaika, Ulad Velichka, Irina Khalip, Yulia Darashkevich, etc.) are represented in black paint. Experts believe that the site was created as a reaction to the resonance web project https://www.posobniki.com, which has an ideologically opposite content.
Valiancin Stefanovich fined. On 19 October, the tax inspector of the Minsk Partyzanski District has fined human rights defender Valiantin Stefanovich Br 727,330 (approx. $545) for alleged understating of his income. Stefanovich is a close associate of Ales Bialiatsky who is currently kept in prison on tax evasion charges. Both are active in the Human Rights Center "Viasna".
Supreme Court turns down lawsuit by Speak the Truth campaign. On 19 October, judge Mikalai Babkou has dismissed a lawsuit lodged by Uladzimir Niakliayeu and Siarhei Vazniak, contesting an earlier decision by the Ministry of Justice to deny registration to the civil campaign. This is the second time Speak the Truth is applying for an official status, after the Ministry of Justice refused to register the NGO.
No criininal case against Mikhalok. General Prosecutor announced that his agency did not file criminal charges against the leader of the group Lyapis Trubetskoy Sergei Mikhalok.
IT as a tool of repression. On 19 October, a roundtable "The embargo on digital technology’s pressure" was held in Minsk. The organizer is the Assembly of Pro-Democratic NGOs. The participants discussed possible ways to prevent the Belarusian authorities from using digital technology as the repression against civil society.
Viasna awarded Danish Freedom Prize. The Human Rights Center “Viasna” has been awarded the 2011 Politiken Freedom Prize, an international human rights award sponsored by the Denmark-based Politiken radical-social, liberal newspaper. Founded in 2007, the Freedom Prize is awarded for taking “an outstanding responsibility in the fight for freedom and fundamental human rights”. The awarding ceremony will be held in Copenhagen on 14 November.
Belarusian NGOs address Parliament on controversial draft laws. On 19 October, an appeal signed by representatives of 25 NGOs and other non-profit organizations was passed to the Council of the Republic, the Upper Chamber of the Belarusian Parliament. The appeal expresses deep concern about the proposed amending of a number of key legal acts, including the Criminal Code and the Public Associations Code, as well as the Mass Events Code.
Swift approval of repressive laws. On 21 October, the Council of the Republic has approved the amendments to the Mass Events Code on its session. Discussion and approval of the bill took thirty minutes. Speaker of the Council Anatoly Rubinov listed 15 human rights NGOs, signed the appeal against the amendments, and expressed his surprise: "How we haven’t democracy if we have so many human rights organizations?"
Local EU Statement on some repressive draft laws. On October 19, the European Union Delegation to Belarus has issued a statement urging the Belarusian authorities not to pass “some repressive draft laws” that “would severely limit the freedoms and rights of Belarusian citizens and represent a step backwards as regards Belarus’ respect for human rights and the rule of law”.
International training program launched. On 11 October and 18 October, presentations of an International training program Business Edge were held in Hrodna and Homel. Head of the Belarusian office of International Finance Corporation (IFC) Max Yacub noted that Business Edge program is part of IFC funded by USAID. The purpose of the Program is to help Belarusian entrepreneurs to improve their activity through education and interaction with experienced practitioners.
Belarus Digest prepared this overview on the basis of materials provided by Pact. This digest attempts to give a richer picture of the recent political and civil society events in Belarus. It often goes beyond the hot stories already available in English-language media.