Friday, 30 November 2012

EUROPE’S LAST DICTATOR?

In Belarus, Europe last old style Soviet style dictatorship, a prominent human rights organization in Minsk is being evicted from its office. The Deputy Chairman of the Vyasna (Spring) Human Rights Center Valyantsin Stefanovich reported on November 19th that the unregistered organization had received papers from Belarusian authorities saying that it should vacate its office by November 26th.

Back in the USSR?
Belarus has a bad Human rights record, something which lead to the imposition of sanctions (including a travel ban for government officials) by Western governments. An Amnesty International report on Belarus noted that restrictions on freedom of expression, association and assembly had increased during 2012. They noted that the Belarus government continued to carry out executions and that prisoners of conscience remained in detention and were subjected to torture and other ill-treatment. Amnesty also noted the right to a fair trial was also restricted.

The Human Rights centre’s office is situated in the apartment of Vyasna chairman Ales Byalyatskim, who  is currently in prison for tax evasion, a charge he has denied since his arrest last year. Back in November 2011, a court in Minsk sentenced him to 4 and 1/2 years in prison and ordered the confiscation of all his property. The human rights centre has been working in Byalyatski's apartment for 12 years. Viasna’s activist have been subject to systematic harassment for years, the Human Rights Organisation was de-registered by the state authorities in 2003, yet has continued to operate.

The opposition boycotted elections in September of 2012 which the OSCE (Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe) described as unfree with the electoral authorities clearly showing a lack of “neutrality” or “impartiality”, not to mention serious concerns about electoral procedures. Oddly enough the observer mission from the CIS (Commonwealth of Independent States) led by Belarus's ally, Russia described the election as being "transparent and open".

Back in June (2011) 1,000 people defied a ban in Belarus to hold a silent protest at the economic crisis in the capital Minsk, with police holding back. The protestors gathered peacefully in streets close to President Alexander Lukashenko's main administration building. The rally  was organised through social networking sites despite threats from the Belarusian dictator Alexander Lukashenko (who has been in power since 1994) that he would "strike hard" against protesters.

Protest rallies in Belarus are becoming increasingly rare as the authorities have been engaged in a crackdown against dissent since December 2010.  After the Presidential election in December 2010 five former candidates and 37 opposition activists to be accused of incitement after tens of thousands of people took part in protests after the 19th December vote which was described by international monitors as "lacking transparency".

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