Belarus human rights community: At least 110 people detained on Freedom Day


Затрыманні на плошчы Якуба Коласа, 25 сакавіка 2018 года. Фота - Ірына Арахоўская

On March 25, police officers detained at least 110 people, the human rights centre Viasna reports.

12 people in Minsk were charged under Art. 23.34 of the Administrative Code (violation of the procedure for organizing and holding mass events). They may face administrative arrest.

“We, representatives of Belarusian human rights organizations, strongly condemn the preemptive detentions of activists throughout the country on the eve of mass events in honor of the centenary of the proclamation of the Belarusian People’s Republic, as well as during and after these peaceful assemblies,” the statement reads.

The human rights defenders are particularly concerned about the harassment of journalists in connection with their professional activities. At least seven cases were documented, including five journalists detained during the coverage of the peaceful assembly in Yakub Kolas Square in Minsk. All of them are Belsat TV contributors. Eight observers (representatives of the HRC Viasna and the Belarusian Helsinki Committee) were also detained in the square

In their statement, the representatives of the Belarusian human rights community call on the authorities to put an end to the practice of pressure, detention and bringing to administrative responsibility of participants in peaceful assemblies; ensure that journalists and human rights defenders are able to carry out their professional activities without hindrance; drop the charges against human rights defenders.

On March 25, the Minsk police were hunting for human rights defenders and journalists who were about to cover and observe the march and concert in Minsk. Belsat TV journalists Katsyaryna Andreyeva, Syarhei Kavaliou, Lyubou Lunyova, Ihar Ilyash and Stas Ivashkevich were arrested. In the morning, the police hampered the work of Volha Czajczyc and Andrus Kozel. They were detained by the traffic police near their homes and released after their IDs were checked. But they were stopped again at the entrance to Minsk, Kozel was sent to a mental hospital.

In late February, Minsk authorities allowed to hold a Freedom Day concert and a rally next to the Opera and Ballet Theatre, but banned the applicants from marching. However, several politicians submitted another application for holding a march on the occasion at Minsk city executive committee, but failed to give any approval.

As reported earlier, the authorities started to preventively detain politicians who were about to hold a march on March 25, Belarus’ unofficial Freedom Day. Uladzimir Nyaklyayeu and Maxim Vinyarski will spend 10 days in prison; Vyachaslau Siuchyk – 5 days. Riot policemen made activist Yauhen Afnahel leave his place after threatening to storm the house. Although politician Mikalai Statkevich had not left his house for several days, the police grabbed him on Sunday morning. On Thursday, activists of the BPF Youth were detained when distributing invitations to the concert authorised by Minsk authorities.

After the concert, the authorities unexpectedly released Statkevich, Afnahel, Siuchyk, Vinyarski and Nyaklyayeu. According to the organisers, about 50,000 people attended the Independence feast.

March 25, 2018 was be the 100th anniversary of the proclamation of the Belarusian People’s Republic (BNR). It came into existence at the end of the First World War, when Bolshevik forces left Minsk and the city was occupied by German troops. On March 25, 1918 the Provisional Government (Rada) proclaimed the independence of the BNR. After the Red Army re-entered Minsk, the Communist government replaced the Rada; its members had to emigrate. For many years, Lukashenka regime has been slamming and even persecuting those who pay the tribute to the BNR.

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