Chronicles January-June 2018: Part 5
This is the fourth part of the report on repressions against socially and politically active women in Belarus during the first half of 2018 (See Reports for the first four parts). In this report we will talk about ‘soft repressions’ that are less visible or even considered unimportant but that came hard on activists’ psychological well-being and feeling of safety. These are instances of refusal of access to justice and the right to fair trail, disruption of freedom of movement, impediment to enjoy the right to education and the right to engage in work and to pursue a chosen occupation, threats to involuntary terminate parental rights.
On the 3th of January, 2018 Larisa Shchiryakova, a freelance journalist of the independent Belsat TV channel and a single parent, had to limit her cooperation with Belsat, and suspend it for two months completely, due to pressure that the state put on her, including multiple fines for her journalism work, threats to terminate her parental rights, hacking of her account on social media, and launching black PR against her to discredit her. Larisa was forced to look for and take up multiple other jobs to sustain her family. This increased her workload, as well as economic and psychological pressure. This also limited her right to engage and pursue a chosen occupation.
We reported on Galina Logatskaya’s case of political abuse of psychiatry against her in the previous reports. In this document we also want to report on restriction of Galina’s right to demand justice.
To give a background: in March 2017 Galina was physically assaulted by policemen during a conversation with them in a police office and suffered an injury. Galina came to the police to challenge the administrative protocol for participation in the rally against the unemployment tax in February 2017. During the conversation she was humiliated, dragged around by her hair, being shouted at and verbally assaulted, and left with bruises on her body.
She filed a complaint but investigation did not prove the offence took place. Galina appealed the decision and the second investigation was launched. A different team of investigators carefully studied all the evidences, including the provided by Galina audio recording of the incident, security footage of the police office, and forensic expertise reports.
On the 9th of January, 2018, the investigation came to a conclusion that Galina indeed was assaulted by the two law-enforcers in question. Their behaviour was recognised as improper and some disciplinary measures were applied to him. However, while the the fact of the use of physical force is not denied it was considered by the investigators as “legitimate and justifiable”, all the Galina’s demands to press criminal charges against the abusers were declined.
On the 2nd of February 2018 Anna Pakholko, a journalism student and a leader of the Youth of the Belarusian Popular Front, was expelled from the Belarusian State University. Her predecessor met the same fate. It is believed that it was a politically motivated decision and was a result of her political activism.
On the 2nd of February, 2018 Alla Fedynich and another women, whose name we do not know and will call for the purposes of this report N.N., were stopped at a Belarusian border checkpoint that they were crossing by train. Both women were traveling with Gennady Fedynich, a leader of the only independent trade union in Belarus – the Radio and Electronic Industry Trade Union (REID). All three persons (Alla, her husband Gennady Fedynich, and N.N.) were taken off the train, kept in the border control office, stripped to their underwear during the inspection and subjected to the body search. Nothing forbidden was found, but two women and the man were kept there until 1 a.m. when no direct transport to Minsk was available any longer.
*We could not provide the photo of Alla Fedynich because, despite her presence at every court hearing of the case of her husband, she does not seem to be photographed on her own or even with her face facing the camera.
On the 7th of March 2018 Zinaida Mihniuk, Deputy Chairperson of the Radio and Electronic Industry Trade Union (REID), was taken off the train Vilnius – Minsk at Gudogai border checkpoint. Her luggage was inspected. Usually this takes place in the train and only on special occasions (when a lengthy inspection is needed, there are issues with the documents or transported goods, or a body search is needed).
On the same day as Zinaida Mihniuk, the 7th of March 2018, Anna Dus’, the leader of the Youth of REID, had the same experience. She was taken off the train at the same border checkpoint on her way from Vilnius to Minsk on the grounds of some issues with her ID documents. At the checkpoint her luggage and personal belongings were inspected; she also was subjected to the body search. Several hours later after border controllers drafted their statement about the inspection Anna, just as Mihniuk earlier, was free to continue her journey to Minsk.
During the several hours at the border checkpoint Anna conversed with the custom officers who explained to her that when they receive orders regarding specific individuals, these individuals are being pulled out and subjected to a thorough inspection.
On the 23rd of March 2018, was taken off the train on her return from Vilnius to Belarus. Evgenia was subjected to a thorough personal inspection that had lasted several hours.
We already reported about Natalia Strelchenko in the first part of the report. Natalia, an activist of the United Civic Party was detained on the 25th of March and was kept hungry in the police custody. Later, during the trail in the court, she fainted from hunger but no medical assistance was offered to her. She was fined that months for “disobeying” the police.
In April the story of the repressions against her was added by a new chapter. On the 23rd of April 2018 the authorities of Dubrovno threatened her with possible involuntary termination of her parental rights over her two children when came to “check” the living conditions of her family.
An activist of the women’s group “Mother 328”, was supposed to join a nation-wide protest of the activists of this group in a form of a hunger strike. She was meant to submit an application to organise this protest in Vitebsk. However on the day of application (the 3rd of May) she was followed by men she did not know. This shadowing was made in a way that she became fearful for her life. Nevertheless she joined the hunger strike individually.
Natalia also notice that the quality of her mobile connection worsened; this together with some other factors made her believe that her phone was wire-tapped. She addressed the independent media explaining why she thought her phone was indeed wire-tapped and sent official requests to investigate the matter.
Sharipo stated that, although she had not officially received a satisfactory explanation, after her three appeals, the quality of mobile communications improved significantly, in particular, the constant interferences on the line during the ongoing calls were gone.
An activist, whom we reported about in other parts of this report, was rallying for closing down of a restaurant (“Let’s go to eat”) that was built on the site of mass burials of the victims of repression in Kuropaty. On the 6th of June 2018, as she was standing in a picket, she was charged by the Road Police with “violation of traffic rules by pedestrians and participants of road traffic”.
An activist, whom we reported about in the first part of this report, was rallying for closing down of a restaurant (“Let’s go to eat”) that was built on the site of mass burials of the victims of repression in Kuropaty. Just as Olga Nikolaichik, on the 6th of June 2018, as she was standing in a picket, she was charged by the Road Police with “violation of traffic rules by pedestrians and participants of road traffic”. The same repeated on the 16th, 23rd, 26th, 27th and 30th of June. One police statement was given for ”disobedience to the legal demands of the officials” (June 23rd).
On the 9th of June 2018, an unidentified motorcyclist in a helmet ran over the foot of a public activist Nina Boginskaya, who took part in rally for closing down “Let’s go to eat” that was built on the site of mass burials of the victims of repression in Kuropaty.
Later the same month, on the 19th of June 2018, a police statement was written against her for taking part in the same rally in Kuropaty.
Ekaterina, a Belsat TV journalist, who was a heroine of the first part of this report, was arrested on the 6th of June 2018 at the site of Kuropaty where she was covering the rally against a restaurant being built on the site of mass burials of the victims of repression. While in the police custody she was subjected to the full body search. Apart from striping down she was forced to do squats to “ensure she did not hid any recording equipment”.
In June four police statements were given against Natalia, an activist and a Human Rights Defender, for her participation in the rally for closing down of the restaurant that was built on the site of mass burials of the victims of repression in Kuropaty. Her alleged offences were, respectively: “violation of traffic rules by pedestrians and other participants of road traffic” (June 9th, 10th, 11th and 14th); “”disobedience to the legal demands of the officials” (June 11th).
On the 19th of 2018 a police statement was given against Sofia for her participation in the rally for closing down of the restaurant that was built on the site of mass burials of the victims of repression in Kuropaty.
On the 29th of June 2018 Marfa, an activist and a student of the European Humanities University (the University in Exile) was taken off the train on her way from Vilnius to Minsk. Her luggage and personal belongings were inspected; she also was subjected to the body search. The customs officer answered to Marfa’s questions about the reasons for the detention the following: “It is not we who decide, we do what is required from us.”