Date: Thu, 9 Apr 98 13:25:37 CDT
From: Ray Mitchell <RMITCHEL%AI-UK@amnesty.org.uk>
Subject: AI: Belarus bulletin
|BELARUS||Vyacheslav SIVCHYK, aged 36|
|Pavel SEVERINETS, aged 21|
|Dmitriy VASKOVICH, aged 15|
|Leonid VASYUCHENKO, aged 28|
|Stepan KULCHENKO, aged 17 (released)|
|Timophey DRANCHUK, aged 16 (released)|
The above-named prisoners of conscience, arrested at a large anti-government demonstration in Minsk on 2 April 1998, could be at serious risk of torture and ill-treatment.
The protest demonstration took place on the first anniversary of the union treaty between Russia and Belarus. President Alyaksandr Lukashenka, who has declared it a national holiday, is attempting to forge closer ties with Russia against a background of popular discontent.
Vyacheslav Sivchyk, secretary of the Belorussian Popular Front (BNF), was allegedly severely beaten by police during his arrest and subsequently hospitalized suffering from concussion. He stood trial on 3 April and was sentenced to 10-days imprisonment under the Administrative Code of Belarus.
Pavel Severinets, an opposition activist and leader of the BNF's Youth Front, faces up to five years imprisonment on charges of “instigating mass disorder”, “organization or participation in group actions violating the public order” (under Article 186 of the Criminal Code) and “hooliganism” (under article 201 of the Criminal Code) for allegedly having organized the unauthorized protest march.
Dmitriy Vaskovich, Alyaksandr Kashenya, Ivan Abadovsky, Leonid Vasyuchenko, Stepan Kulchenko and Timophey Dranchuk have also been charged with similar offences. Alyaksandr Kashenya and Ivan Abadovsky reportedly received 10 and 15 days' imprisonment respectively. Leonid Vasyuchenko and Dmitriy Vaskovich are reportedly in detention charged under the above articles. Stepan Kulchenko and Timophey Dranchuk were reportedly released, though the criminal charges against them remain.
In addition, information has been received concerning the ill-treatment in police custody of Dmitriy Vaskovich, allegedly to force him to confess against Pavel Severinets and the other detainees.
Reports indicate that law enforcement officials severely beat demonstrators at the march. In addition more than 50 people, about one third of them reportedly minors, were detained for several hours and in some cases overnight. Some of these stood trial on 3 April on charges relating to their participation in an unauthorized demonstration and received administrative penalties. They were released after the court ruled either to fine them or to issue them with a warning.
Political unrest, in the form of protests and demonstrations, is on the increase in Belarus. Police have responded with the systematic and widespread use of force against peaceful opposition demonstrators. Between 20 and 50 people were arrested and beaten by police following a peaceful demonstration in the Belorussian capital Minsk on 22 March 1998 (see UA 92/98, EUR 49/03/98, 23 March 1998). The demonstration was held to mark the 80th anniversary of the declaration of an independent state of Belorussia (as it was formerly known). Those detained included journalists and members of the opposition BNF. Women and minors, including a 15 year old boy, Pavel Rakhmanov, were also arrested.
The organization is not aware of any steps taken by the government or the President of Belarus to stop the pattern of ill-treatment and imprisonment, by law enforcement officials, of members of the opposition during peaceful strikes and demonstrations.