2009 26/10
Валянцін Стэфановіч

Valiantsin Stefanovich

Famous human rights activist told about the real situation with political repression in Belarus.

The lawyer of the Human Rights Centre “Viasna” , Valiantsin Stefanovich, answered questions on www.charter97.org:

- Valiantsin, recently in an interview to “Radio Svaboda”, the leader of the movement “For Freedom” Aliaksandr Milinkevich made an ambiguous statement, which drew criticism from pro-democracy activists. He stated that “the number of appeals of the repressed people for 4 months this year compared with four months of last year decreased by several times.” How would you, as a human rights activist, comment this?

- Last year in Belarus, 525 people were brought to the administrative responsibility for political reasons, and in 2009, despite the fact that while there is a month of October, 424 (the total number of detainees and who were brought to the administrative responsibility) were detained. At the same time we do not pretend to the end-to-end assessment, figures of the detained for political reasons may be greater. Also we should take into consideration that there were the “parliamentary elections” last year in Belarus, and many people were arrested during campaigning for independent candidates and for the participating in the protests against falsification, and this year no campaign has been conducted, but the figures do not differ greatly.

It is worth noting a trend that appeared at the close of last year, namely, that the arrests for participating in peaceful opposition actions or for the distribution of printed materials are continued; however, authorities start to refrain from the bringing to administrative responsibility. That is, for example, last year we recorded only those cases where a person was detained, an administrative report was drawn up on him, and this protocol was submitted to the court and the court ruled on the case.

This year the situation is more complicated. In fact, the number of detained citizens who took part in protests or distributing publications is not decreasing. Citizens are still detained; another thing is that often no protocols are drawn up on them. This tactic allows the government to assert that there is some kind of “liberalization”: if the number of people brought to the administrative responsibility for political reasons declined. However, repressions have not diminished.

- However, can we say that the Belarusian citizens are free to engage in peaceful assemblies and express their opinions?

- No. I as a citizen of Belarus can not freely come on the square or main street with the poster without being detained, beaten or brought to the administrative responsibility. Events on 9, 16 September and 16 October clearly confirmed this, since the Law “On Mass Events” in essence restricts our right to freedom of assembly.

People are publicly beaten in the streets, and what is especially a concern, they are beaten after being detained in police buses and police stations.
No significant systemic changes have occurred. Belarusian citizen was deprived of the right to freedom of opinion and still deprived of this now. We should raise the question of amending the legislation in this area. Control over society remains pervasive.

- Many citizens during the recent demonstrations have been beaten, they were tortured. How do the Belarusian human rights defenders respond to that?

- We collect information on the facts of recent dispersal of peaceful demonstrators and beating people, as well as help victims. All complaints and questions we have passed through the International Federation of Human Rights in Geneva to the United Nation Committee against Torture and the International Organization against Torture. All these facts were also sent to the human rights organization “Amnesty International”.

Belarusian prosecutor’s offices do not respond to all of these complaints, so if we can not operate inside the country, we appeal to international organizations. The international community should react to the egregious human rights violations in Belarus.

According to spring96.org
Ales Leta

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