As a result of the government's
rigid control over the state media, minimal circulation of the independent
press and a lack of independent broadcast media that dares to carry programs
that criticize the president or government policy, street demonstrations
became an increasingly important forum for the public expression of opposition
sentiment. However, beginning in 1996 the government has sought to prevent
street demonstrations from serving as such a forum by establishing new
state controls restricting public gatherings, which invoke excessive bureaucratic
hurdles, and by intimidating protesters. To this end, it zealously enforces
unduly onerous rules for public gatherings, manipulates their sites and
permitted number of participants, and even controls the flags and banners
that marchers may use. Further, during opposition gatherings, which are
usually led by the BPF, police attack marchers and organizers and arbitrarily
detain them on a range of false or unfounded charges. Demonstrators and
demonstration organizers are jailed and fined for essentially expressing
their rights freely to assembly and express their views. They face other
kinds of sanctions as well: Professionals have been disbarred from practicing
law and de facto barred from teaching for having either participated in
demonstrations or acting on behalf of demonstrators.29
Restricting the Right to
These demonstrations are
characterized by extensive police presence, including helmeted riot police,
and special police officers equipped with video cameras. The purpose of
these police-cameramen is to film demonstrators and use the film as evidence
in court to prosecute a variety of alleged infractions, most notably of
the new Law on Gatherings, Rallies, Street Marches, Demonstrations, and
Picketing in the Republic of Belarus.30 Police
tactics to intimidate and punish demonstrators have shifted. Whereas in
1997 police brutally and routinely beat demonstratorsto disperse them and
arrested them at marches, demonstrations in 1998 have passed off peacefully;
police now follow demonstrators after marches conclude in order to detain
Freedom of assembly is enshrined
in the Belarusian constitution under Article 35, which reads:
The freedom to hold assemblies,
rallies, street marches, demonstrations, and pickets that do not disturb
law and order or violate the rights of other citizens of the Republic of
Belarus, shall be guaranteed by the State. The procedure for conducting
the above events shall be determined by the law.
On March 5, 1997 President
Lukashenka issued Decree No. 5 on Gatherings, Meetings, Street Marches,
Demonstrations and Picketing, which severely curtailed the fundamental
right to assembly, and outlawed non-registered symbols such as the traditional
white-red-white national flag that was replaced in 1995 with the resurrected,
Soviet-era red-green flag.31 Under the decree,
which was codified into law on December 5, 1997, demonstrators may be prosecuted
for participating in an unsanctioned demonstration; obstructing the work
of a police officer; using an unregistered symbol; and chanting slogans
deemed to defame, dishonor or otherwise insult the honor or dignity of
the president. The decree further empowers the authorities to change the
time and location of a demonstration, and even the number of authorized
participants. On occasion, this provision has served in practice to shift
demonstrations from central Minsk to the city outskirts, thus greatly limiting
the demonstration's public exposure and literally marginalizing the issue
the demonstrators wish to highlight. For example, the Belarusian Peoples
Front (BPF) and the Belarusian Social Democratic Party (BSDP) applied to
hold a demonstration on April 2, 1998 - the anniversary of the signing
of the Union Charter with Russia - with the intention of marching to a
central city square, whereupon a rally would be held. The city authorities
denied permission to hold the rally at the requested time and place, citing
government-sponsored festivities in the center that would take precedent;
they ruled that the demonstration be held instead three days later, on
the outskirts of the city.32 In 1997 and 1998
the regional and city authorities in Gomel, 200 kilometers southwest of
Minsk, reportedly engaged in the same tactics by moving United Civic Party
(UCP) - and BPF - organized demonstrations to the city outskirts or banning
them altogether; these moves drew protests by the UCP and BPF.33
Arbitrary Arrests and Police
Brutality at Demonstrations
While any government is
within its rights to take measures guaranteeing public order at demonstrations,
with the zealous enforcement of the law on demonstrations, even innocuous
gatherings are declared an "unsanctioned demonstration" and are broken
up, at times with the violent arrest of participants regardless of their
age or infirmity.
One such gathering was dispersed
during the five-day court hearing - from February 18 - 24, 1998 - of the
case of teenagers Alexei Shidlovsky and Vadim Labkovich.34
Two Human Rights Watch researchers monitored all five days of hearings,
and hence much of the documentation below is based on their direct observations.
The hearing itself took place in a room that was far too small to accommodate
the large number of observers from the general public, including Shidlovsky's
and Labkovich's fellow classmates, who wished to attend. Therefore, in
the course of the hearing, those who were unable to gain access had taken
to waiting on the street outside. Nine of them were arrested under Article
166 of the administrative code (disobeying the orders of a police officer)
or under Article 167 of the administrative code (holding an unsanctioned
demonstration). Belarus is obliged under domestic and international law
to uphold freedom of expression (Articles 33 (3) and 34 (1) of the Constitution
of Belarus, Article 8 of the Russia-Belarus Union Charter and Article 19
of the ICCPR on freedom of expression) and freedom of assembly (Article
35 of the Belarusian constitution and Article 21 of the ICCPR on freedom
of assembly). Those arrested for exercising freedom of expression and assembly
· Yury Maroz, a member
of the BPF from the northeastern city of Vitebsk, was arrested by police
on February 18 outside the court building. He was sentenced the same day
to fifteen days of imprisonment under Article 167 of the administrative
code for carrying a placard calling for Shidlovsky and Labkovich to be
freed. Maroz was released on March 5, having served his sentence in full.
· On February 23,
Belarusian Helsinki Committee observer Vital' Alisyonuk and three sixteen-year-old
boys - Maksim Kashinsky, Dmitiri Kasperovich, and Danil Milovanov - were
arrested for "holding an unsanctioned demonstration" for reportedly walking
in a circle with their hands behind their heads outside the court building.
Although Vladimir Yukho, a BPF board member, was also with this group,
he was not on this occasion detained (see below). The three juveniles were
freed later that day with the expectation that their parents would be fined
under Article 162 of the administrative code (holding an unsanctioned demonstration
or hooliganism), which applies to juveniles. Alisyonuk was freed that day
Also, on February 24, the
last day of the trial, police arrested Vital' Alisyonuk. Reports attest
that police stopped Alisyonuk's companions, BPF members Vadim Kanapatsky
and Ales' Sernatsky, as they peaceably attempted to gain access to the
court building, and then arrested Alisyonuk for merely asking why Kanapatsky
and Sernatsky had been detained. Alisyonuk was fined 1,500,000 BR (U.S.$35)35
under Article 166 of the administrative code.36
The people were waiting, they
released Labkovich, he came out of the court room and the police shouted,
"Disperse! This is an unsanctioned gathering" What gathering?! Naturally,
I as a journalist approach people to ask their opinions....That was all,
they grabbed me, and dragged me away....39
That same day, a small crowd
eagerly awaited the appearance of Labkovich, who had been dramatically
released in the court room. A Human Rights Watch researcher viewed the
ensuing situation, including the provocative conduct of law-enforcement
officials. The crowd had been waiting for Labkovich outside the court building.
The Special Task Militia Unit (OMON, or riot police) started to instruct
the crowd to move away towards a small square up the hill that overlooked
the court entrance. About half of the crowd, which numbered close to seventy
persons, had reached the square when Labkovich appeared. Everyone stopped
to look, cheer and applaud, and when Labkovichreached the crowd he was
hoisted up onto someone's shoulders. The riot police were still pushing
the crowd toward the square when one of them announced through a megaphone
that the crowd was holding "an unsanctioned demonstration" and ordered
everybody to disperse or face arrest. Two policemen with video cameras
filmed sections of the crowd at all times. There was, however, no "demonstration,"
and no public order problem.
Riot police arrested Valery
Shchukin, a journalist and member of the disbanded Thirteenth Supreme Soviet,
outside the court building as Labkovich appeared.37
Human Rights Watch researchers witnessed the arrest, and can attest directly
that it was unprovoked and arbitrary: Shchukin was walking with a crowd
away from the court building when four riot police officers dived into
the crowd, forcibly manhandled him into a police jeep and drove him away.
He was released later that day. On March 18, Shchukin stood trial for "organizing
a demonstration" and "disobeying the orders of a police officer." He was
acquitted on both counts the same day.38 Shchukin
told Human Rights Watch:
March 22, 1998 Demonstration
On March 22, 1998, the BPF
organized a march and rally with official permission to commemorate the
eightieth anniversary of the founding of the Belarusian National Republic.
The march and rally passed peacefully. However, once the participants began
to disperse, riot police and men in plainclothes began a concerted effort
to arrest demonstrators in various locations. According to reports, police
arrested people as they approached the headquarters of the BPF, including
journalists Algerd Nevyarovsky (Naviny, formerly called Svaboda),
Egor Mayorchuk (Belarusskaya gazeta), and Ruslan Batenkov. Police
cars and jeeps had reportedly been waiting outside the BPF headquarters.
Men in plainclothes arrested three observers from the Belarusian Helsinki
Committee, Dmitri Marushevsky, Ruslan Guk, and Evgenny Chyrvonny, in the
entrance to their student hostel. In addition, two BNF members, Boris Khamaida
and Yury Karpov were arrested outside the presidential administration building,
where they reportedly had attempted to deliver paper doves.40
In total, the authorities arrested at least thirty-two people, who were
later sentenced to ten days of imprisonment or were fined.41
April 2, 1998 Demonstration
On March 30, 1998, Belapan,
a Minsk-based news agency, reported that the BPF's request to hold a demonstration
on April 2 to protest the anniversary of the signing of the Russia-Belarus
Union Charter had been refused, on the grounds that it would clash with
government-sponsored festivities in the city center to celebrate the anniversary.
On Yakub Kolas square in central Minsk, the authorities set up a small
fair, which included a stage on which dancers and singers performed. The
BPF, in announcing that the government had refused them permission to hold
their demonstration, which was to have culminated in a rally at Yakub Kolas
square at 5:00 p.m., reportedly addedthat members were free to attend the
government-sponsored fair if they so wished.42
This announcement likely led to large numbers of BPF and Youth Front members
attending the fair, including senior BPF member, Vyacheslav Sivchik, and
Youth Front leader, Pavel Syverinets (see below). However, at the fair,
senior BPF member Yury Khodyko, using a police megaphone, reportedly urged
BPF and Youth Front members present to disperse, urging them instead to
participate in the sanctioned demonstration on April 5.43
The fair itself passed peacefully, although BPF and Youth Front members
were reported to have chanted slogans, such as Zhivye Belarus! (Belarusian
for "Long Live Belarus!"), and to have sung pro-independence songs.44
After the meeting had finished,
we were already getting ready to go home when people in plainclothes started
to grab us, they didn't say who they were, nothing....They started to grab
and beat us and drag us by the hair. They dragged me by the hair. When
they had thrown everyone [to the ground], they kicked them. When they grabbed
me, they tore my jacket....46
At approximately 6:30 p.m.,
a number of men in plainclothes,45 with closely
cropped hair and leather jackets, emerged from parked cars and started
to beat and detain the BPF and Youth Front members shortly after they had
begun to disperse. Approximately forty people were detained and beaten
on the street as they left the square, while others were detained near
the BPF headquarters or on public transportation. Dmitri Vaskovich, a fifteen-year-old
boy from Marina-Gorka (a town forty kilometers southwest of Minsk) told
Human Rights Watch what happened to him:
Kulchanka, also from Marina-Gorka, described how he received the black
eye that was plainly visible to Human Rights Watch researchers four days
after the incident:
I don't exactly remember, but
the injury [black eye] occurred in the car, after they had already thrown
me in there. There were two others who had been arrested sitting in the
car, and one of those men who had been grabbing people. Evidently, the
one who punched me had followed us [at the fair] and started to choke me
Police charged Kulchanka
under Article 186 (3) of the criminal code - participation in an unsanctioned
demonstration - which carries a maximum sentence of three years of imprisonment
or two years of corrective labor or a fine.48
Vaskovich was charged under Article 201 (2) - malicious hooliganism - which
carries a maximum sentence of fiveyears of imprisonment. However, on May
27, the Commission for Juveniles under the District Executive Committee
of Marina-Gorka handed down warnings to Vaskovich and Kulchanka for their
alleged actions on April 2.
The same men in plainclothes
also severely beat and detained Vyacheslav Sivchyk, executive secretary
of the BPF. Sivchyk was reportedly beaten and kicked as he lay on the ground.
The following day at the Minsk Central District Court, Judge Anatol Barysyonaka
sentenced Sivchyk to ten days of imprisonment under Article 167 of the
administrative code for holding an unsanctioned demonstration. Following
the trial Sivchyk was taken to the Central district remand center, whereupon
he reportedly lost consciousness.49 An ambulance
was called and Sivchyk was taken to hospital, where he was diagnosed as
suffering from severe skull and cerebral trauma.50
Although not officially released from detention, Sivchyk was discharged
from the hospital and allowed home on April 6, having served one day of
April 25, 1998 Demonstration
April 26 is the anniversary
of the 1986 Chernobyl nuclear catastrophe, which affected Belarus more
than any other country. In recent years, the date has been commemorated
by demonstrations that protested the state's inadequate response to social
and health problems associated with the disaster, and has, more recently,
also served as an occasion to protest the authoritarian rule of the president.
The occasion has traditionally attracted the largest number of participants
of all the demonstrations during the year. The years 1996 and 1997 saw
widespread violence between demonstrators and police and credible allegations
that police provoked certain incidents. The 1998 march, which was held
on April 25, passed off peacefully, along with a rally at which leading
opposition figures spoke. But following the rally, police reportedly arrested
as many as forty demonstrators, some of whom were beaten.51
Police reportedly arrested fourteen-year-old Anton Taras, who had worn
a gas mask during the demonstration, and forced him to put on the gas mask
in custody; police reportedly then turned off the air supply, chillingly
reminiscent of the torture technique now prevalent in Russia known as slonnik
[the elephant].52 Police also arrested a group
of Russian students from the Anti-Fascist Youth Action (AFYA) who had taken
part in the demonstration. At least fifteen members of this group, including
AFYA leader Petr Kaznachev, were held until the evening of April 26, whereupon
following diplomatic intervention, they were deported under armed escort
by train to the Russian town of Smolensk.
State Response to Police
Brutality at Demonstrations
The events that took
place there [in Riga] are even more regrettable if one considers that the
50th anniversary of the Declaration of Human Rights adopted by the United
Nations is being celebrated throughout the world this year. Citizens' rights
to "freedom of peaceful gatherings and associations" as well as "freedom
of beliefs and their expression" laid down in the U.N. declaration were
trampled upon in Riga with the help of police truncheons.53
Pavel Shypuk, Chair
of the Belarusian National Assembly Council of the Republic, March 26,
1998,54 commenting on alleged use of police force
to disperse elderly demonstrators in Riga.
State response to the mass
arrest, beating and hospitalization of demonstrators, regardless of age
or infirmity, on the streets of Minsk has been wholly inadequate. Indeed,
Human Rights Watch is unaware of a single successful action against police
officers for brutality at a demonstration. Despite the omnipresent police
cameras, footage from these cameras remain curiously absent in court as
evidence when demonstrators or bystanders have attempted to bring assault
charges against police officers for the police brutality that marred the
April 2, 1997 and April 2, 1998 demonstrations (among others).
Irina and Uladzimir Khalip
Irina Khalip is currently
the editor of the weekly Belarusian language newspaper Imya (The
Name). On April 2, 1997 she and her father, Uladzimir, attended a demonstration
to protest the signing of the Russia-Belarus Union Charter. Many demonstrators
were arrested and severely beaten, including a disproportionate number
of journalists.55 Police beat Khalip and beat
her father unconscious. She told Human Rights Watch:
He was hospitalized for a long
time. They beat him so badly that I didn't even know that we were taken
in one and the same [police] car. When they dragged him to the police car,
they beat his face into the ground until he lost consciousness...they threw
someone else on top of him - that is, I didn't know that he was lying there
in the foot-well of the car. There were some metal objects in the foot-well
that lacerated his face. The wounds on his face required stitches: he was
beaten on the kidneys and he suffered severe concussion. They treated him
[in the hospital] then my mother took him to Israel to convalesce, but
in September he suffered a relapse and was hospitalized again, whereupon
they said that [the effects resulting from] his head injury are irreversible.56
Irina told Human Rights Watch
how she herself was dragged from the crowd and beaten:
[They beat me] with batons
on the back, then they pulled me out from the bundle of people by the hair,
and then dragged me by the hair through the lines of the riot police. For
me that was worst of all: through the police lines, that was really awful.
Each riot policeman considered it his duty to hit me and they said, "You've
jostled your way through the demonstrators, now it's our turn." They beat
me with their fists, batons and kicked me.57
Afterwards, Khalip and her
father were taken to the local police station, where they were held, along
with other demonstrators, for several hours. Khalip describes how upon
recognizing her name as the editor of Imya, a senior policeman offered
to release her:
He said "I apologize for
your detention...you are free to go." I said that I wasn't leaving until
they called an ambulance for my father. We waited for a long time for the
ambulance. My father had lost a lot of blood: blood was spurting from him
like tears from a clown at the circus....58
Khalip lodged an official
complaint with the Minsk city procurator (prosecutor) on behalf of herself
and her father following the demonstration, asking that a criminal investigation
be launched. She received notification from the Minsk city procurator that
her complaint, and those of other citizens, had been registered and that
a criminal investigation had been initiated on police exceeding their authority.
Senior investigator Valentin Mogovil of the Central district procuracy
was tasked with the investigation.
I was expecting something different
and asked, "Is that all?" He said "Yes, you mean you want something else
as well?" I said that I want the investigation to be resumed, carried to
a logical conclusion in order that specific people are identified and punished.
The investigator said to me "You know, Irina Vladimirovna, leave me in
peace, I have nothing further to say to you, you can turn to some other
authority but it is better to acknowledge that you've lost."59
Both Irina and her father,
once he had been discharged from hospital, actively tried to assist the
investigation by gathering medical documents that attested to Uladzimir
Khalip's injuries and video and photographic evidence of the beatings.
However, Khalip told Human Rights Watch that Mogovil declined to review
this evidence, stating that it "wasn't necessary." The procuracy dropped
the investigation in June 1997; Khalip, however, was not informed of this
until October. Widely published photographs of Khalip and her father and
others being beaten clearly show the identity of some of the police officers;
one photograph depicts Irina lying on the ground with her father, and a
police officer, baton in hand, whose face is clearly visible, attempting
to drag him away.
Khalip pursued the matter
further and attempted to get a copy of the notification of the investigation's
closure. On November 17, she went to see investigator Mogovil, who gave
Khalip a document stating that police actions involved "no criminal activity"
at the April 2 demonstration. Khalip told Human Rights Watch:
Because a large number of
journalists were beaten during the April 2, 1997 demonstration, the Belarusian
Association of Journalists (BAJ) also lodged an official complaint demanding
a criminal investigation. On October 7, 1997, city procurator Kupriyanov
wrote to Zhanna Litvina, the president of BAJ, in response to their complaint:
During the clash, actions by
police officers caused slight bodily harm to some journalists....During
the investigation, it proved impossible to gain a perfect understanding
of each instance of bodily injuries, as specific persons who caused them
were not identified. However, the use of strong-arm methods by police officers
should not be regarded as obviously exceeding the limits of their authority,
as the use of special means by them in that situation was generally in
compliance with the demands of the Law on the Police...the investigation
into the case has been dropped.60
As of this writing, the investigation
into police brutality at the April 2, 1997 demonstration remains closed.
BPF member, Vladimir Yukho, was arrested during the court hearing of Shidlovsky
and Labkovich. On February 24, 1998, riot police outside the court building
arrested Yukho, who had been denied entrance to the hearing. He was choked
and manhandled after arrest. Tatiana Vanina, a correspondent for Belarusskaya
Molodezhnaya (Belarusian Youth) newspaper, witnessed the arrest:
We were standing on the front
steps [of the court building] and the OMON would not let us in. [The OMON]
started to push journalists and all those present off the steps. Two riot
police officers started to push a woman off the steps and Yukho held off
the arm of the riot policeman from the woman and said, "Don't touch her."
The OMON then grabbed him and dragged him to the RAF [police minibus with
sliding doors], which was parked nearby. When they were putting him in
the RAF, his hand fell between the doors, they pulled back the door, win
order to open it - his hand was jammed there - they mutilated his hand,
and forcibly shoved him [in]...He really screamed!61
On the way to the police
station in the police car, a man Yukho later identified as senior police
officer Gennady Miklush, a major and deputy head of the Minsk Leninsky
District Police Department, choked Yukho so severely that he bruised the
man's neck. A Human Rights Watch researcher observed Yukho's bruises in
the hospital shortly afterwards, and noted that he was in a state of shock.
The injury to Yukho's hand was severe enough to warrant the use of a plaster
cast. Yukho was charged with breaching Articles 166 and 167 of the administrative
code. On February 24, Yukho filed an official complaint with the regional
prosecutor against Miklush for illegal detention and causing bodily harm.
On April 9, Judge Yelena
Tereshkova of the Minsk Leninsky District Court fined Yukho five million
rubles (approximately U.S.$116) for participating in an unauthorized demonstration
on February 23 along with Vital' Alisyonuk, Maksim Kashinsky, Dmitiri Kasperovich
and Danil Milovanov, and for resisting arrest. Judge Tereshkova refused
to take into account witness testimony that confirmed Miklush's assault
on Yukho, reportedly stating that the court was examining the defendant's
actions alone.62 As of this writing, Yukho's
complaint against Miklush was still pending. Human Rights Watch is unaware
of any disciplinary action taken against Miklush since the incident, and
he has since been observed on duty at a March 22 demonstration.63
legislation, adopted December 5, 1997, codified into law unchanged Presidential
Decree No. 5 on Gatherings, Meetings, Street Marches, Demonstrations and
a more detailed analysis of Decree No. 5, please see Human Rights Watch,
"Crushing Civil Society," A Human Rights Watch Short Report, vol.
9 no. 8 (D) August 1997, pp. 32-36. The white-red-white former national
flag is effectively banned in Belarus: however, with the prior agreement
of the authorities it may be used at demonstrations. For example on March
20, Belapan reported that in reaching agreement with the Minsk city authorities
on the route of a March 22 demonstration to mark the eightieth anniversary
of the Belarusian National Republic, the two sides agreed on the symbols
to be used during the demonstration, including the white-red-white flag.
In general, this provision is zealously enforced. For example in February
1997, a demonstrator was sentenced to four days of imprisonment for waving
the blue flag with gold stars of the European Union at a demonstration.
news agency (Minsk), March 30, 1998. See also below, p.
March 20, 1998.
late February 1998, the exchange rate was approximately 43,000 Belarusian
rubles to one U.S. dollar.
was acquitted on February 24. Kanapatsky was fined 5,000,000 rubles (U.S.$116)
under Article 167.
Valery Shchukin has been most vocal and visible in his opposition to President
Lukashenka. He is ever present at opposition demonstrations, usually leading
from the front, and has been subject to multiple arrests and beatings,
at demonstrations and at home together with a reported twelve court appearances,
fines totaling eighty million Belarusian rubles (US$2000). Belapan news
agency, Minsk, March 18, 1998. The U.S. dollar equivalent of the fines
is an approximate figure based on exchange rates given at the time. The
average wage in Belarus continues to be approximately U.S.$100 per month.
News agency, Minsk, March 18, 1998.
Rights Watch interview with Valery Shchukin, April 6, 1998.
Helsinki Committee press release, Minsk, March 23, 1998.
a full listing of those arrested and punishment received, see appendix
news agency, Minsk, March 30, 1998.
Rights Watch interview with Valery Shchukin, Minsk, April 6, 1998.
news agency, Minsk, April 6, 1998.
identity of these men remains unknown. That they detained and later interrogated
and intimidated detainees demonstrates that they were working in an official
capacity, but it is unclear whether they were plainclothes police, KGB
or from a different law-enforcement agency or security service. None of
the Human Rights Watch interviewees detained or beaten by these men were
informed as to their identity. This lack of identification highlights the
impunity and lack of accountability with which these men operate.
Rights Watch interview with Dmitri Vaskovich, Minsk, April 6, 1998.
Rights Watch interview with Stepan Kulchanka, Minsk, April 6, 1998.
167 of the administrative code, which covers the same offense, carries
a much lighter punishment - part 1 provides for from three to fifteen days
of imprisonment and/or a fine of from twenty to 150 times the minimum monthly
wage, while part 2, applicable to repeat offenders or the organizers of
a demonstration, provides for from ten to fifteen days of imprisonment
and/or a fine of from 150-300 times the minimum wage.
news agency, Minsk, cited in WNC, April 4, 1998.
Rights Watch interview with Vyacheslav Sivchyk, Third Minsk City Hospital,
April 6, 1998.
Helsinki Committee press release, Minsk, April 27, 1998.
Also reported by Belapan news agency, Minsk, April 26, 1998. For a detailed
analysis of this method of torture by law-enforcement agencies in Russia
please see Amnesty International, "Torture, This Man-Made Hell," London,
hazeta (The People's Newspaper) (Minsk), cited in World News Connection
(WNC), March 26, 1998.
March 3, 1998, Latvian police allegedly used force in the capital, Riga,
to disperse approximately 1,000 Russian-speaking pensioners protesting
low living standards. Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty Newsline, an electronically
distributed news service, vol. 2, no. 43, Part II, March 4, 1998. The incident
also provoked condemnation from the Russian government, which threatened
to reroute oil exports, currently running through Latvia, while Moscow
Mayor Yury Luzhkov announced a partial boycott of Latvian goods in Moscow
stores. The dispute centers on some 700,000 ethnic Russians in Latvia who,
due to the impending expiry of their Soviet-era passports, their reluctance
or inability to pass Latvian language exams necessary in order to gain
Latvian citizenship, are faced with the prospect of becoming stateless.
Some 100,000 ethnic Belarusians are reported to be similarly affected.
Human Rights Watch, "Crushing Civil Society," pp. 18-21.
Rights Watch interview, Minsk, February 20, 1998.
Rights Watch interview, Minsk, February 20, 1998. Khalip told Human Rights
Watch that at that moment she realized that further appeals would be fruitless,
and, sensing her helplessness and angry at the fact that her father had
just been hospitalized for the second time as a direct consequence from
the injuries he sustained on April 2, she slapped Mogovil in the face.
Khalip was initially charged under Article 189 (2) of the criminal code
- violence against an official in the course of his duties - which carries
a maximum sentence of three years of imprisonment. However, the charge
was later changed to Article 156 (1) - premeditated infliction of bodily
injury - which carries a maximum sentence of fifteen days of imprisonment
and/or a fine. On February 11, Khalip was found guilty and fined 200,000
Belarusian rubles (approximately U.S. $5).
reprinted in the BAJ journal Chatsverta Vlada (The Fourth Power),
no. 9, Minsk, November 1997.
Rights Watch interview with Tatiana Vanina, Minsk, February 25, 1998.
news agency, Minsk, April 10, 1998.
interview with Vladimir Yukho, March 27, 1998.
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