Wednesday, March 29, 2006

The Hammer Falls in Belarus

Some 500 of those arrested in Minsk on March 23, 24, and 25 stood trial in nine district courts in Minsk on March 27 and 28 and were jailed for up to 15 days under an article penalizing the organization of or participation in unsanctioned rallies, Belapan reported. Further trials were expected to take place on March 29. (Among those arrested were even journalists and foreigners.)

Human rights activist Uladzimir Labkovich claimed that the Belarusian authorities are violating the UN Convention Against Torture. "People were beaten up and threatened when they were arrested. They were not given food and even water for many hours, and not allowed to go to a lavatory," Labkovich alleged. "Transporting people in paddy wagons, handcuffing them like dangerous criminals, forcing them to stand with their faces against the wall in courts, ordering them not to report their names -- these are all torture. Torture is also being applied to their parents. They are denied information about their children's whereabouts for several days."

Belarusian human right defenders have reportedly drawn up a list of 53 judges all over Belarus who handed down jail sentences to pro-democratic activists during the country's presidential campaign and ensuing protests. They defenders are going to suggest that these judges be banned from traveling to the EU.