Belarus
07.04.14
Urgent Interventions

Confirmation in appeal of the ban of a book written by Mr. Ales Bialiatski

Newinformation

BLR003 / 0913 / OBS 079.1

Obstacle tofreedom of expression /

Harassment

Belarus

April 7, 2014

TheObservatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders, a joint programme ofthe International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH) and the World OrganisationAgainst Torture (OMCT), has received new information and requests your urgentintervention in the following situation in Belarus.

Newinformation:

TheObservatory has been informed by reliable sources about the confirmation inappeal of the ban of a book written by Mr. Ales Bialiatski, President of the Human RightsCentre (HRC) “Viasna” and FIDH Vice-President, who is serving 4,5 years’imprisonment in relation to his human rights activities.

Accordingto the information received, on March 31, 2014, the Hrodna Regional Courtconfirmed in appeal the decision of the Ashmiany District Court to forbid thebook entitled “Asvechanyia Belaruschunai” (“Enlightened by Belarusianness”)written by Mr. Ales Bialiatski.

Thepanel of judges for civil cases reportedly took only three minutes to announceits decision, which proves that it was made in advance. Moreover, JudgeKolesnik, who chaired the case, behaved aggressively, and did not allow theapplicants to speak in full and convey their views to the court.

The March 31 decision was issued following an appeal which had beenlodged by Ms. Tatsiana Reviaka, member of the HRC “Viasna”, against afirst instance ruling issued on February 11, 2014 (see background information).The book is a digest of literary articles and essays on Belarusianliterature, and also features four texts written during detention.

The Observatory expresses its concern about the confirmation of thedecision to confiscate the copies of Mr. Bialiatski’s book on biasedgrounds, and considers it as a means to further sanction his human rightsactivities.

Backgroundinformation:

On July 3, 2013 40 copiesof the book were confiscated from Ms. Tatsiana Reviaka at theBelarusian-Lithuanian border checkpoint “Kamenny Loh”.

On July 5, 2013, a noticewas sent to Ms. Tatsiana Reviaka informing her that an examination would becarried out by the head of the chief department for ideological work, youth andculture of the Hrodna regional executive committee.

On July 15, Ms. Tatsiana Reviaka sent a petition torequest a copy of the examination order, as well as information about thequalifications of the expert, including his or her level of education, degree,professional experience and previous experience of conducting similarexaminations, invoking Article 138 of the Customs Code of the Customs Union,according to which “a customs examination shall be appointed by the customsauthorities and carried out by customs experts as well as experts from otherauthorised organisations”, while the expert may be a person who “possesses thenecessary expertise to give expert opinion”.

From July 24 to 30, two scientists of the Hrodna State University,composing the expert commission, held an examination, the results of whichacknowledged that the book “could damage the image of the Republic of Belarus”.

On August 14, 2013, Ms. Tatsiana Reviakaexpressed concerns to the State Customs Committee that 33 days after theappointment of the examination (i.e. from July 5 to August 7, 2013), the headof the Ashmiany Customs Department was still unaware of the expert’s name,although Part. 2 of Article 139 of the Customs Code provides that the period ofan examination may not exceed 20 working days from the date of submission ofthe expert materials, and that such materials should be passed to the expertduring the same working day.

On September 5, 2013, Ms. Tatsiana Reviakareceived the conclusions of an expert examination ordered by the AshmianyCustoms Department, which alleged that Mr. Ales Bialiatski’s book “coulddamage the image of the Republic of Belarus”.


On September 9, 2013, the State Customs Committee replied that the examinationhad “started on July 24, 2013” and had in reality been “completed on July 30,2013”.

On September 13, 2013, Ms. Tatsiana Reviakafiled a complaint to the Chairman of the State Customs Committee, urging him toconclude on the illegality of both the order for the appointment of theexamination and of its conduct.

OnNovember 13, 2013, Ms. Tatsiana Reviaka received a response to her complaintfrom the State Customs Committee. She appealed against the violations of thecustoms officials of the Ashmiany Customs Office during the appointment of anexpert examination of the book.

OnJanuary 2, 2014, Ms. Tatsiana Reviaka received a message from the Ashmiany Customs Department that the books must bere-exported from Belarus. Later she received another message that the bookswould be destructed if they were not re-exported before January 21.

OnJanuary 29, 2014, a preliminary hearing was held at the Ashmiany District Courtregarding the lawsuit lodged by Ms. Tatsiana Reviaka against local customsofficials who prohibited the importation of the book “Enlightened byBelarusianness”. On the day of the preliminary hearing, Ms. Reviaka learned that there-examination was conducted from November 20 to December 9, 2013.

On February 11, 2014, the Judge of Ashmiany District Court, Ms. TatsianaYemelyanovitch, announced the verdict forbidding the distribution on theterritory of Belarus of the book “Enlightened byBelarusianness”. Ms. Reviaka lodged an appeal againstthe verdict.

Actions requested:

Pleasewrite to the Belarusian authorities, urging them to:


i. Put an end to any kind of harassment - including at the judicial andadministrative levels - against Mr. Ales Bialiaski, Ms. Tatsiana Reviaka,as well as against all other human rights defenders in Belarus;

ii.Return the confiscated books written by Mr. Bialiatski to Ms. Reviaka;


iii. Conform with the provisions of the UN Declaration on Human RightsDefenders, adopted by the General Assembly of the United Nations on December 9,1998, especially:

- its Article 1, which states that“everyone has the right, individually and in association with others, topromote and to strive for the protection and realization of human rights andfundamental freedoms at the national and international levels”,

- its Article 6 (b) and (c), whichstates that “Everyone has the right, individually and in association withothers […] as provided for in human rights and other applicable internationalinstruments, freely to publish, impart or disseminate to others views,information and knowledge on all human rights and fundamental freedoms and[...] to study, discuss, form and hold opinions on the observance, both in lawand in practice, of all human rights and fundamental freedoms and, throughthese and other appropriate means, to draw public attention to those matters”.

- and its Article 12.2, which providesthat “the State shall take all necessary measures to ensure the protection bythe competent authorities of everyone, individually and in association withothers, against any violence, threats, retaliation, de facto or de jure adversediscrimination, pressure or any other arbitrary action as a consequence of hisor her legitimate exercise of the rights referred to in the presentDeclaration” ;


iv. Ensure in all circumstances respect for human rights and fundamentalfreedoms in accordance with international human rights standards andinternational instruments ratified by the Belarusian Republic.


Addresses:

· President Aliaksandr Lukashenka, vul. Karla Marksa, 38, 220016 Minsk,Belarus, Fax: + 375 172 26 06 10 or + 375 172 22 38 72, Email:
contact@president.gov.by

·General Prosecutor, Alexander Konyuk, vul. Internatsyjanalnaya. 22, 220050Minsk, Belarus, Fax: + 375 17 226 42 52

·Minister of Justice of Belarus, Mr. Oleg Slizhevsky, vul. Kalektarnaya,10, 220004 Minsk, Belarus, Email: kanc@minjust.by

·President of the Supreme Court of Belarus, Mr. Valiantsin AlehavichSukala, vul. Lenina, 28, 220030 Minsk, Belarus, Email: scjustrb@pmrb.gov.by

·H.E. Mr. Mikhail Khvostov, Permanent Mission of Belarus to the UnitedNations in Geneva, 15 avenue de la paix, 1211 Geneva 20, Switzerland, Fax: +4122 748 24 51. Email: mission.belarus@ties.itu.int
· H.E. Mr. Andreai Yeudachenka, Embassy of Belarus in Brussels, 192avenue Molière, 1050 Ixelles, Belgium, Fax: + 32 2.340.02.87, Email: belgium@mfa.gov.by

***

Paris-Geneva, April7, 2014

Kindly inform us of any action undertaken quoting the code of thisappeal in your reply.

The Observatory, a FIDH and OMCT venture, isdedicated to the protection of human rights defenders and aims to offer themconcrete support in their time of need.

To contact the Observatory, call the emergency line:

· E-mail: Appeals@fidh-omct.org

· Tel and fax FIDH + 33(0) 1 43 55 25 18 / +33 1 43 55 18 80

· Tel and fax OMCT + 41 (0) 22 80949 39 / + 41 22 809 49 29

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