More Pressure against Human Rights Center 'Viasna' - Politics and Civil Society Digest

Valiantsin Stefanovich

The Belarusian authorities intensify their pressure on Viasna, the most active human rights organization in the country. Based on materials the Belarusian authorities received from Lithuania and Poland, they have kept Viasna's chairman Ales Byaliatski in prison since August. This month they charged Valiantsin Stefanovich with tax evasion - the number two person at Viasna. 

POLITICS 

Tax inspection against Valiantsin Stefanovich.The Partyzansky district court of Minsk is considering a lawsuit against human rights activist Valiantsin Stefanovich. He is accused of failing to pay more than Br37 million (approx. $7,400) in taxes. The amount of unpaid taxes has been calculated based on information about his foreign accounts, details of which were transferred to Belarus from Lithuania and Poland.

Confiscated computers returned to Viasna. The Main Police Bureau of the Minsk City Executive Committee, passed to human rights defenders computers and other items that had been confiscated during the search held at the office on December 20, 2010. However, several laptops that were confiscated during the second search, held on 17 January 2011, are still at the disposal of the KGB.

Additional restrictions imposed against Uladzimir Niaklajeu. On 9 September, a court in Minsk banned the ex-presidential candidate from leaving Minsk, going to shopping malls and restaurants, meetings and rallies. He is also obliged to report to police once a week and stay at home from 8 pm to 6 am. Niaklajeu was severely beaten and jailed on the day of the presidential elections. Subsequently he was given a two years suspended prison sentence. 

Over a dozen of people remain in prison convicted under articles of the Criminal Code for organization or participation in the Ploscha events on December 19, including three ex-presidential candidates: Andrey Sannikov (5 years), Nikolay Statkevich (6 years), Dmitriy Us (5.5 years).

One more public appeal about KGB torture. Recently Siarhei Pauliukevich issued a video address to Internet users in which he described torture and recruitment by KGB agents. Inspired by that recognition, a former presidential candidate Ales Mikhalevich posted his article about his own experience of recruitment by the KGB.

Ivan Shyla spends 22 days in jail. On 7 September, the Horki District Court sentenced Ivan Shyla, a Salihorsk-based activist of the Young Front, to 22 days of imprisonment, for participation in the picket near the penal colony where the Young Front leader Zmitser Dashkevich is serving his two-year term, being subject to cruel and degrading treatment by the colony administration.

CIVIL SOCIETY 

Statement by Viasna on the conditions of dialogue with the Belarusian authorities. On 8 September, Human Rights Center Viasna made a statement which stressed that dialogue is impossible if there are political prisoners. Moreover, without transformation of the political system a major threat of new political hostages remains.

Makey again gathers Public Advisory Council. In late September, the head of the presidential Administration, Uladzimir Makey, will hold a meeting of the Public Advisory Board. According to official reports, the meeting will be devoted to the role of civil society and its functioning in Belarus.

Conference of "People Program". On 11 September, a conference  titled "Independence: Achievements and Prospects" was held in Minsk. The event was organized by the "People Program" campaign (movement “For Freedom”) with the participation of the organizing committee for celebrating the 20th anniversary of Belarusian independence. The conference will bring together about 300 civil leaders, experts and politicians.

Social contracting. Between 23-31 August, in four cities of the Gomel voblast - Zhlobin, Rechitsa, Kalinkovichi and Svetlogorsk - district commissions reviewed applications submitted for the competition of non-profit projects on HIV. It was a part of testing the mechanism of social contracting, initiated by NGO ACT. Among the winners there are only two NGOs - Youth Association "Real World" (Svetlahorsk) and "The Belarusian community of people living with HIV".

Most projects will be implemented by non-profit state institutions (social service centers, schools) or GONGOs like The Red Cross and BRSM. The Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria provides most funding for the projects, contribution from the local district budgets may be called symbolic – up to Br5 million ($1 000) for each city.

Seminar EU in higher education”. On 24-25 September, "Educational center “POST” NGO holds a seminar titled "The European Union in higher education: the forms and methods of work". Teachers of various disciplines related to the EU, as well as employees of the international departments of universities, are invited to participate in the seminar.

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.

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