Statement by organisers and participants of “Chernobyl Way 2013”
We, the representatives of the public organisations, initiatives, and political parties – members of the organising committee of the annual “Chernobyl Way” dedicated to the 27th anniversary of the Chernobyl radiation disaster – express our protest against the actions of the Belarusian authorities, before, during and after the officially approved events of the “Chernobyl Way ” on April 26, 2013.
These actions were intended to minimise the number of the demonstration and rally’s participants and to prevent the use of the promotion materials and sound equipment officially sanctioned by Minsk city executive committee. The authorities harassed, detained, beaten and arrested the participants of the “Chernobyl Way”.
Many activists, even those living in remote regions of Belarus far from Minsk, continue to report that on the eve of the rally they received summons to the court or to the police and were interviewed to convince them not to leave the house on April 26, 2013.
Repressive actions against the organisers of the regional activities related to the Chernobyl tragedy are continuing.
The chairwoman of the Board of the Public Association “Ecodom” Iryna Sukhiy, who was responsible for the delivery of promotional materials to the site of the Chernobyl Way, was arrested along with the volunteers of the environmental movement – Volha Kanavalava (Kaskevich), Vasily Sinyukhin, Kanstantsin Kirylenka – twenty minutes prior to the Chernobyl Way by the men in civilian clothes allegedly for identification and was taken to the police station of Pershamaiski district in Minsk. Despite the availability of identity documents, environmentalists were held in the police department until the end of the rally.
One of the official organisers of the rally, Tacciana Novikava, was blocked in her apartment by the police officers in uniform and in civilian clothes twenty minutes before the rally started. The apartment has been cordoned off for the duration of the demonstration and rally.
The staff of law-enforcement authorities were refusing to allow to bring the sound amplifier through to the site of the rally in the Bangalore square for one hour without explanation, thus they were disrupting the rally. After the demonstration unidentified men seized and took to an unknown location two organisers of the «Chernobyl Way”, Aliaksandr Tarnahurski and Dzmitry Charniak, who were responsible for the sound equipment. On April 29 both these activists were sentenced to ten days of administrative arrest.
Traffic police had detained the coordinator of public campaign “Astravets nuclear station is a crime!” Mikalai Ulasevich, who was to speak at the rally, on the way from Astraviets region to the “Chernobyl Way”. He was also forcibly held in the police station until the end of the action.
On the day of action Anatol Lyabedzka, the leader of the United Civil Party, bound for Astraviets to meet with local activists, was detained twice together with the journalists Anastasia Eumen and Aliaksandr Barazenka.
During the demonstration the officers in civilian clothes had beaten and detained the participant of the “Chernobyl Way”, Ihar Trukhanovich, who was later arrested for five days. The same measure was also applied to the other participant the rally, Vyachaslau Dashkevich.
In the same illegal way the correspondents of “Radio Racyja” Henadz Barbarych and Aliaksandr Yarashevich were arrested and later sentenced to three days in jail. Also other protesters and journalists were subjected to groundless detentions and released only after the removal of the footage.
Security officers in civilian clothes prevented the observers from human rights organisations to monitor the rally and did not allow the use of promotion materials and portable sound-enhancing equipment.
We draw attention to the fact that all of the trials over the protesters were held with gross violation of the law. The judges did not take into account the testimonies of the eyewitnesses.Judge Aksana Relyava totally refused to listen to the witnesses from the defence.
On April 29, 2013, Aleh Aksionau, the head of the Belarusian Christian Democracy Party in Mahileu city and one of the organisers of the commemoration events held on April 26 in Mahileu, was summoned to the KGB and where he received the second warning for acting on behalf of an unregistered organisation. The KGB threatened him with possible criminal charges.
Such actions are not only inadmissible, but also illegal; they violate the basic constitutional rights and freedoms of Belarusian citizens. The Belarusian authorities have demonstrated that they do not want to hear criticism, to dialogue with the civil society, as well as unwilling to protect their people from the radiation hazard.
We view the facts of the mass repressions against the participants and organisers of the “Chernobyl Way” as orchestrated actions against the civil society in Belarus, which grossly violate the constitutional rights of Belarusian citizens to freedom of assembly and association, the right to receive and impart information.
Detentions before, during and after the “Chernobyl Way”, obstacles obstructing the process of the event, intimidation of regional activists, the deterioration of the conditions of political prisoners, perfectly illustrate the fact that no political liberalisation takes place in Belarus. On the contrary, the security forces purposefully act to eliminate independent political parties, civil society organisations and the independent media.
We call upon all independent media, democratic parties and organisations, human rights organisations, individuals, to express solidarity with the repressed and express their protest against the actions of the Belarusian authorities.