US Mission to OSCE sticks up for Belsat journalists

The United States continues to be deeply concerned about serious violations of human rights, fundamental freedoms, and the rule of law in Belarus. Numerous arrests of independent journalists, including Belsat contributors, are regarded as negative trends in the Statement on the Human Rights Situation in Belarus delivered by Ambassador Ian Kelly to the Permanent Council in Vienna on June 7, 2012.

The mission finds the Belarusian Government’s actions to control freedom of movement of its citizens deplorable. Having noted that former political prisoners Andrey Sannikau and Zmitser Bandarenka were recently stopped at the Belarusian border they call on the government to cease harassment of and restore fully the civil and political rights of all former political prisoners and to uphold its OSCE commitments by not restricting the freedom of movement of its citizens.

Iron hand for journalists

US mission representatives remain deeply concerned regarding the continued harsh treatment of independent journalists. On May 31, RFE/RL correspondent Ina Stuzhinskaja was detained for three hours and reportedly assaulted while on assignment in Svetlahorsk to cover a meeting of opposition activists and local residents; three other journalists, Alina Radachynskaya, Aliaksandr Barazenka, Siarhei Balay were also detained, the report runs.

“That same day, journalists Yan Roman, Yuliya Kalyada and Andrey Pochobut were detained in Grodno while trying to cover a picket by members of the Union of Poles, and two TV journalists, Tatiana Belashova and Volha Chaychyts, were detained in Minsk, reportedly for trying to film a celebration of Children’s Day. A total of some 20 participants were arrested during the peaceful protest in Grodno on June 1 over the imposition of the Russian language at a Polish-funded school. Trials of those detained were held yesterday, and judgments of those arrested ranged from several days of administrative detention to the imposition of fines as high as 5 million Belarusian rubles” Jan Kelly mentions in his statement.

Young Front under arrest

The continued interference in the lives of and administrative detention of opposition activists, including Young Front members Mikhail Muski, Zmitser Kremianetski, Raman Vasilyeu, Mikalai Dzemidzenka and Pavel Vinahradau, also came in sight of the USA. Moreover, they cite as an example of this mistreatment campaign the detention of Aleh Volchak, Head of “Legal Aid to the Population,” an organization that provided legal assistance until it was forced to close by the government in 2003. He was arrested by plain-clothed police officers who accused him of supposedly “swearing in public.” The human rights defender was sentenced to nine days of administrative detention.

Tortures in the centre of Europe

The report notes that “Since the [December 2010] elections, the human rights situation has further deteriorated, particularly the rights to freedoms of association, assembly and expression, and the right to a fair trial. Allegations of torture and ill-treatment in custody, impunity of perpetrators, violations of due judicial process and pressure on defense lawyers persist. The lack of an independent judiciary and a national human rights institution aggravate the human rights situation and impede progress.”


See also