27 March 2008
President Mr. Alyaksandr Lukashenka
220016, ul. Karla Marxa 38, Minsk
Fax: +375 172 26 06 10 / +375 172 22 38 72
The General Prosecutor’s Office of the Republic of Belarus
Mr Miklashevich P.P.
220050 Internacionalnaja 22, Minsk
Tel. +375 17 2264360
+375 17 2264360
The Ministry for Internal Affairs
Mr Naimov, V.V
220050 ul. Gorodskoi Val. 4, Minsk
The Human Rights House Foundation, the Rafto Foundation, Norwegian PEN, the Norwegian Helsinki Committee and The Norwegian Union of Journalist condemn the arrests and brutal attacks by riot police of peaceful demonstrators in Minsk. Andrej Liankevich, photojournalist of Nasha Niva was brutally beaten and arrested by riot police on 25 March. We especially condemn the arrests of journalists covering the event, and the ongoing harassment of independent media and individual journalists.
On 25 March thousands of Belarusians came to take part in a peaceful demonstration in Minsk dedicated to the 90th anniversary of Belarusian Democratic Republic. The riot police used brutal force against the peaceful participants. More than 100 were detained. Among them were correspondents from Lithuania and citizens from Poland and Ukraine.
The photojournalist Andrej Liankevich´s case was submitted to the judge Alena Lapceva of the Zavadskoj district, Minsk. The trial started March 26, but case was returned to the Police Office (Savecki RUUS) by the judge “for completion the case with documents stating accusations” on March 27. Another journalist of Nasha Niva Sjamen Pechanko was arrested and sentenced to 15 days arrest by the Court of Maskouski City District, Minsk. They were both charged with violating the order of organizing and holding mass events (Art. 23.24 Code of the administrative offences).
The journalists were detained despite the fact that they were covering the rally. We regret that Belarusian state authorities do not recognize the role and the rights of journalists, who report from ongoing events in Belarus. We condemn the practice of the Belarusian judiciary, which do not acquit journalists, when it obvious that there is no legal basis for the cases.
After the demonstration on 25 March, 75 administrative cases were brought to court against the participants. According to the police reports, they were charged with violating the order of organizing and holding mass events, by participating in a demonstration, not authorized by Minsk authorities. As a result of the trials, 26 people were sentenced to short jail terms of 5-15 days, over 50 people were fined. 20 people were traumatized with different types of injuries caused by police violence. Activists Andrei Babitski, Zmister Dashkevich, Artur Finkevich and Mikita Shutsiankou were all severely beaten. Even an under age girl, Alena Makarevich,was severaly beaten in the Partyzanski police department.
We are very concerned to learn that today, 27 March, KGB started a countrywide search in the offices and apartments of independent mass media and their journalists. The searches are taking place in the apartments of the journalists Eduard Mielnikau, Anatol Hatochyts (Homiek), Alena Stsiapanava, (Vitsiebsk), Tamara Shchapiotkina (Biaroza), Hienadz Sudnik (Mahileu) as well as in the editorial office of Radio Racyja in Minsk.
The KGB representatives are presenting search orders, signed by legal investigators from Minsk City Public Prosecutor’s Office. According to the Belarusian Association of Media, it is stated in the orders that the searches are carried out with regards to breaches of article 367 of Belarus’ Criminal Code («Libel in Relation to the President of Belarus»). This action shows that the Belarusian state does not accept the existence of independent media and civil society and we consider this a grave violation of article 19 of the UN Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. We fully support the efforts of the Belarusian Association of Journalists protecting journalists and defending the freedom of expression.
· We urge Belarusian authorities to stop the current harassment of Belarusian media outlets and journalists.
· We ask the Belarusian authorities to immediately release all citizens arrested during the peaceful demonstration.
· We also urge the Belarusian authorities to start an independent investigation of the human rights violations and abuses of the police related to the Independence Day 25 of March 2008.
Human Rights House
Carl Morten Iversen
Norwegian Helsinki Committee
Norwegian Union of Journalists
Copies sent to:
Council of Europe, Strasbourg
OSCE office, Minsk
Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Norway
Steering Committee on Foreign Affairs, Norwegian Parliament