Belarus Review Daily – November 16, 2020

Belarus Review Daily – November 16, 2020

Your daily insight into Belarus crisis (delivered Monday to Friday)

TUT.BY
16.11.2020 iSANS
  1. POLITICAL ACTIVITY
  2. REPRESSIONS CONTINUE
  3. INTERNATIONAL SOLIDARITY

POLITICAL ACTIVITY

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Since November 12, thousands of people were bringing flowers and candles to the yard where Raman Bandarenka (31) was kidnapped before he was killed. The regime responded with an assault on mourners, a 14-hours long siege of residential blocks, and an illegal  «ghetto curfew» in a few areas of Minsk.

 

Daily peaceful protests and acts of civil disobedience continue in Belarus for 100 days (following rigged elections of 9 August, 2020). 

There are now more than 900 ongoing criminal cases open against peaceful protesters in Belarus. 0 (zero) cases were open in relation to torture, destruction of civil property, kidnappings and murders of civil population conducted by Lukashenka’s forces in the last 100 days – despite 4,000 applications filed by the victims of police violence.

Over 100 days, up to 26,000 people were illegally detained. There is 121 political prisoner now — an absolute record in Belarusian history. Four people were killed by law enforcement in August-November, 2020. Four more people were reported dead of injuries in suspicious circumstances, likely related to protests and state-orchestrated violence.

Up to 2,500 people were detained in just last 14 days — setting up a new record since August 9-13 events.

On Monday, up to 3,000 pensioners joined march in memory of Raman Bandarenka in Minsk city center. Traditional Monday marches of the elderly that started a few weeks ago are substantially growing week by week attracting more new participants. In the past weeks, Monday marches of the elderly were attacked by OMON units on numerous occasions: pensioners were shot at, stun grenades were used against them, some were beaten, and pepper-sprayed in faces that caused lasting health consequences.

People resembling to Baskau (left) and Shakuta (right) filmed during the kidnapping scene on November 11, 2020.

 

Two close friends of Viktar Lukashenka, the older son of self-declared president of Belarus – Dzimtry Baskau (chairman of Ice Hockey Federation of Belarus) and Dzmitry Shakuta (professional thai boxer and kickboxer) – are named by reputable media as people present in the scene during the kidnapping of Raman Bandarenka on November 11. Raman was tortured the same night for protecting white-red-white stripes on a fence in his yard, and died in hospital the next day.

On Monday, Latvia banned Baskau and Shakuta from entering its borders.

All foreign governments should consider issuing wanted lists for Baskau and Shakuta to investigate the role of these individuals in violent death of Raman Bandarenka due to universal character of this episode as a wider crime against humanity. All foreign governments should consider vouching against IIHF 2021 Ice Hockey Championship in Belarus due to alleged participation of the chairman of Belarus Ice Hockey Federation in kidnapping and subsequent murder of a peaceful protester during intimidation attack on residents of “Changes Square” in Minsk on November 11, 2020.

Detailed footage recorded on the scene by local residents and residential CCTV prove that Belarus officials (including Lukashenka) and interior ministry’s press officer lied about the details of Bandarenka’s kidnapping to cover the murderers – and thus motivate new attacks on civilians by letting the perpetrators get away with gross crimes.

OMON and internal forces preparing for assault of mourners in «Changes Square».

 

Novaya Baravaya residential area with some 15,000 residents is being deprived of access to water by the “authorities” for 3 days. On the third day, heating was switched off in numerous houses. Local school and kindergarten are now closed. To humiliate the residents, “local authorities” sent three mobile water reservoirs, and installed three portable restrooms manually repainted in the colors of white-red-white national flag of Belarus (used as a symbol of protest by local residents).

Local residents are forced to wait in long lines in freezing cold to get water for basic needs. Local residents assume this is a revenge of state security in response to peaceful gatherings of local residents that continue since spring 2020. Belarusian Helsinki Committee already filed a complaint to the Special Rapporteur on the human rights to safe drinking water and sanitation to report gross violations conducted by the regime of Aliaksandr Lukashenka.

A-100 Comfort, a service company that uncovered the source of problem – a stolen gate valve on a major state-owned water pipe leading to Novaya Baravaya – was made subject to governmental checks immediately after they reported their findings. Thousands of families with children in this area are now denied regular access to sanitation services, water to cook meals, and heating – in mid-November, with air temperatures falling below zero. Volunteers from all around Minsk were delivering water to the residents of Novaya Baravaya until late Monday night.

Intentional deprivation of water source to civilians may fit the definition of genocide under Article 2 of the United Nations Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide (1948). All members of local civil administration and state executives engaged in intimidation acts falling under genocide definition must face international criminal justice immediately. Belarus domestic system of justice ceased to perform its functions, and was turned into an instrument of totalitarian repressions against civil population.

Hence, we urge all foreign governments to support an international investigation and creation of international criminal tribunal on Belarus based on OSCE findings with the application of universal jurisdiction to all perpetrators of human rights, and all state officials and private individuals responsible for atrocities against civil population prior, during and after August 9, 2020 elections.

Unknown masked men and OMON representative during a 14-hours siege of residential buildings in Minsk.

 

Investigative Committee of Belarus opened a criminal case against the participants of November 15 peaceful assemblies – despite terrorist-like behavior of law enforcement agents who intimidated, kidnapped and tortured civilians, damaged private property, and vandalized memorials commemorating the death of Raman Bandarenka. Press-secretary of Belarusian Orthodox Church (Moscow Patriarchy) condemned the destruction of memorials to commemorate Raman Bandarenka.

People who came to kidnapping site to commemorate Raman Bandarenka, were beaten, shot at and assaulted on no reasonable grounds. All flowers, icons, photographs and candles were stolen from the spot, and removed to a remote cemetery at the outskirts of Minsk which has no relation neither to the killing of Bandarenka, nor his family. Civilians, who were searching refuge in nearby houses and basements were abducted and beaten, and a de-facto curfew was established in a whole residential area surrounding a place where Raman Bandarenka was kidnapped. So far, sate officials reject to return the body of murdered Raman Bandarenka to his family.

On Sunday night, residential area surrounding so called “Changes Square” (Плошча Пераменаў) was set in siege. At least 43 civilians were hiding in private apartments and basements of residential housing for up to 14 hours. The practices used by Belarus law enforcement units against the civilians in the last 4 weeks are comparable to practices of national-socialist «Storm Detachments» in relation to Jewish population in early Hitler’s Germany. In more and more cases, civilians are being kidnapped from residential housing, beaten, and tortured – without any legal grounds. The impunity of Belarus state security (and masked groups with no insignia) in relation to people with national symbols is being compared in local communities to impunity of Nazi «Storm Detachments» in relation to their crimes against Jewish people marked with David’s star in the 1930s.

The erosion of the rule of law in Belarus is becoming extremely dangerous, and requires immediate reaction of foreign actors to fasten Lukashenka’s resignation, to stop uncontrolled violence against peaceful protesters and civil population, and to bring all perpetrators and their coordinators to justice.

Paint-sprayed jacket of a former detainee. Interior ministry’s employees paint-spray the heads of inmates or their clothes with crosses once they are fated to torture (often — for speaking Belarusian language). Often, regular paint or water-resistant markers are being used to draw crosses on inmates’ foreheads.

 

Due to continuing state-orchestrated violence, we also recommend foreign banks and governments to stop any cooperation with Belarus state banks, namely Belarusbank and Belagroprombank, as well as to introduce targeted economic sanctions against state-owned enterprises that imposed and / or support repressions against workers on a strike in the last 100 days.

In the last three months, detained Belarusian-speaking people were targeted and systematically marked with spray paint for subsequent use of torture against them.

The foreign governments should officially acknowledge the members of Belarus interior ministry’s “Almaz” unit, OMON (AMAP) units, GUBOPiK (GUBAZiK) units, Military Unit No. 3214 of the Internal Troops of the Ministry of Internal Affairs, as well as KGB’s “Alpha” unit, as well as the 5th Spetsnaz Brigade and 38th Guards Air Assault Brigade of the Armed Forces of Belarus involved in repressions as terrorist groups for their role in illegal application of lethal and non-lethal weaponry against civilians, the use of torture, inhuman treatment, and other crimes that fall under a definition of genocide. All perpetrators of atrocities must be brought to justice wherever possible.

A detainee covered in spray paint (filmed by state propaganda team against state flag to humiliate his political views). In many cases, state security officials throw national white-red-white flag on floors of detention centers and paddy wagons and force the detainees to walk over the national flag to humiliate protesters.

 

Leaked video shows a dozen of brand-new luxurious Mercedes AMGs bought for Lukashenka’s convoy during the pandemic when Belarusian government was requesting international support from the UN and foreign governments. The price of cars is estimated at EUR 2 million.

Only 12% of Belarusians trust official media, shows the latest survey. This number is devastating for Lukashenka’s team – especially after the engagement of experts from Russian propaganda media who were sent to Belarus by Kremlin after Belarusian state media workers refused to continue working for state TV and press. The context is important – all state press in Belarus works to praise Aliaksandr Lukashenka for decades. After August 9, 2020, most state-owned media were turned into hardcore propaganda machines. Taking into account the survey was made in a totalitarian country where people are biased to provide opinions critical to the existing government, the actual numbers may be even lower. 33% of the population now uses Telegram to learn about the latest news.

Meanwhile, self-declared president Lukashenka announced he will not release former presidential candidate Viktar Babaryka under any circumstances Babaryka remains in KGB internal jail since 18 June 2020. The charges against him yet remain vague, and it remains unknown what exactly he is allegedly guilty of.

REPRESSIONS CONTINUE


Mourners beaten by OMON on Sunday afternoon

 

On November 15 only, at least 24 journalists were detained for performing their professional duties. Almost 1,300 civilians were detained all across the country: Hrodna, Homiel, Mahiliou, Vitsebsk, Brest, Polatsk, Navapolatsk, Navahrudak, Babruisk, Mazyr, Iuye, Beshenkovichi, Baranavichi, Asipovichi, Maladzechna, Vileyka, Biarezina, Zhodzina, Svetlahorsk, and Smarhoni. People were brutally beaten. Law enforcement car hit a pedestrian during protest dispersal.

The court of the Partizansky district of Minsk left Maryia Kalesnikova and Maksim Znak in a pre-trial detention center. The complaints of the defence were not satisfied. The lawyers will appeal the decision in the Minsk City Court. Kalesnikava and Znak played key roles in presidential campaigns of Viktar Babaryka and Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya, and peaceful protests against rigged elections. They were both acknowledged political prisoners domestically and internationally. Earlier,  the Vice-President of German Bundestag Claudia Roth, and Germnay’s ex-Federal Minister of the Interior Gerhart Baum signed an appeal on the behalf of Kalesnikava. 174 Belarusian lawyers signed a petition in support of Znak. This is a unique example of corporate solidarity of lawyers in all Belarusian history.

A woman claiming to be pregnant was sentenced to 25 days in jail despite prohibition to arrest pregnant in the national laws.

OMON continues to use extensive, unproportionate and non-discrimantory weaponry against peaceful protesters in residential areas against national legislation.

On 13 November, 43 members of Belaruskali strike committee were detained during bus excursion to the birthplace of Tadeusz Kocsiuszko.

Self-declared president Lukashenka deprived the ambassadors who publicly criticized him of pensions and special allowances upon resignation. Earlier at least five ambassadors (Latushka, Liashchenyia, Markovich, Astapenka, and Pustavy) were deprived of diplomatic rank for public criticism of Lukashenka after August 9, 2020. A few more professional groups will now have new allowance conditions upon resignation. This measure introduce at current time should be seen as another effort of self-declared “authorities” to keep public servants silent and loyal – by depriving them of allowances in case they prove not being absolutely loyal to Lukashenka and his team.

INTERNATIONAL SOLIDARITY

A victim of torture in a hospital.

 

OSCE Parliamentary Assembly President George Tsereteli urges investigation of crimes conducted in Belarus after August 9, 2020. Tsereteli noted that despite the overwhelmingly peaceful nature of the demonstrations, crackdown on protesters continues and police forces destroy even local memorials set up to commemorate the death of Raman Bandarenka.

EU foreign ministers are set to give green light to a third EU sanctions package on Belarus this Thursday. Guy Verhofstadt, MEP, ex-prime minister of Belgium, calls up for the EU to increase the pressure on Lukashenka’s regime and supporting peaceful protesters by introducing new sanctions, humanitarian corridor for the injured, visa-free travel for civilians, support for media and human rights defenders, and supporting international tribunal for Belarus.

On Wednesday, the United States Senate will consider amendments Belarus Democracy Act of 2004 as new America’s response to atrocities on Belarus. The draft of the bill includes sanctions against politically exposed businesses, individuals and Russian nationals engaged into influence operations against the population of Belarus after August 9, 2020.

On November 17-18, president-elect of Belarus Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya is having a work visit to Sweden. There, she will meet top government officials – including the prime minister, head of MFA, a wide range of politicians and NGOs, as well as Belarusian diaspora:

Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya announced that Belarus will sign the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court after Lukashenka’s resignation.

Belarus Free Theatre named as the laureate of Sergei Magnitsky Human Rights Awards 2020
Belarusian Association of Journalists was announced the recipient of first Media Freedom Award (established by the United Kingdom and Canada)

Best regards,
iSANS team

Images: RFE/RL, tut.by, videograbs

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