23rd of March 2006
Utenriksminister Jonas Gahr Støre
The Human Rights House Foundation, Norwegian PEN and the Norwegian Journalists Association (NJ), condemn the beating and arrests of peaceful demonstrators and journalists that have taken place over the last days in Belarus. Riot police and people in civilian clothes have blocked access to the Oktiabrskaja (October) Square in Minsk, detaining those who bring food and clothes to the protesters.
From 20 and 22nd of March 250 people were arrested on their way to or from the October Square, among them Andrej Dynko, Editor-in-chief of Nasha Niva. Dynko was arrested on 21 March on his way to the main square in Minsk, where opposition supporters continued to gather. Dynko was taken to the Savietski District Court of Minsk 22 March and sentenced 10 days of administrative arrest for “a minor act of hooliganism.” A free-lance correspondent from “Polonia” Radio Station also got 10 days. Human rights defender Aleh Zlutko was also among the detained and was sentenced to 15 days´ imprisonment. The judges of Frunzenski District Court of Minsk sentenced a Ukrainian correspondent also to 15 days´. The student leader Tatsiana Khoma and a lawyer for NGO Assembly Yurij Chavusau received 10 days´ imprisonment. Unidentified civilians beat and robbed a reporter for the Czech daily ´Mlada Fronta Dnes´ as he was covering the rally in Minsk Sunday 19 March, the Associated Press reported.
In addition Siarzhuk Sierabro, a photographer for the independent newspaper the“Vitsiebski Courier” appeared before the Kastrychnitski District Court Wednesday 22 March. Sierabro was arrested together with 15 demonstrators in the center of Vitsiebsk.
According to local and international press reports, the authorities arrested three Belarusian editors without explanation before the elections on 18 March, and barred at least four Russian journalists from covering the vote itself. The detained are Sergei Nerovny, editor of the newspaper Volny Gorod in Krichev, Mogilevsk region, Andrei Shantarovich, editor of the newspaper Mestnaya Gazeta in Volkovysk, Grodnensk region, and Ivan Roman, reporter for the Internet version of the newspaper Solidarnost, in the capital, Minsk.
The Human Rights House Foundation, Norwegian PEN and the Norwegian Union of Journalists consider the Belarusian authorities’ crackdown on national and international press unacceptable and a violation of the freedom of expression declared in Article 19 of the United Nations’ Universal Declaration of Human Rights. The behaviour of the police is also in violation of the Belarusian media legislation. We consider the reported treatment of the peaceful demonstrators unacceptable and a violation of international human rights standards.
According to OSCE the presidential election violated international standards. We urge the Norwegian government to express its concerns, not only to the Belarusian authorities but also to the Council of Europe and OSCE. In addition we urge the Norwegian authorities to raise the issue of unlawful arrests with Russian PM. Jonas Gahr Støre promised in Dagens Næringsliv 20 March that the Norwegian authorities will discuss the election in Belarus with
Mikhail Fradkov when he visits Norway next week. We call on the Norwegian government to appeal to the Belarusian Ministry of Internal Affairs to release all political activists and journalists immediately and unconditionally and to provide full details about those detained.
We also call on the Norwegian government to support the 15 March statement of the UN Special Rapporteur on situation of human rights in Belarus, Adrian Severin, in which he strongly condemns the escalation of human rights violations committed by the Belarusian authorities against the independent press, opposition candidates and their supporters, and human rights defenders, on the eve of the presidential election in Belarus.
HR House Foundation
Norwegian Journalists Association
Carl Morten Iversen