President Alyaksandr G. LUKASHENKA Karl Marx Str. 38, 220016 g. Minsk, Belarus
via facsimile +375 172 22 38 72
I am writing to you on behalf of the International Helsinki Federation for Human Rights (IHF), representing 44 Helsinki Committees and associated organizations in Europe, Central Asia and North America.
Our organization is deeply concerned with the ruthless police crack-down -- including murders on political grounds-- on the Belarus political opposition and Belarus non-governmental organizations, including the Belarus Helsinki Committee, over the last several years.
Recent measures taken against a civil organization representing the interests of the Polish national minority, mostly living in the country's Western regions (oblasti) are the last examples of the intents of your government to once again “normalize” non-government organizations.
The problem of the Association of Poles in Belarus has become more serious since March 2005, when elections within this association were held democratically, and new board members replaced the former ones subordinate to the authorities. Mrs. Andzelika Borys was elected as new Chairwoman. These results immediately came under attack of Belarusian authorities, who resorted to repressive measures against these newly elected board members, including the refusal to “grant” them access to the Association’s headquarters, and to officially register them. A take-over and further closure of the Association’s organ, the weekly G³os znad Niemna, followed.
These actions have intensified during the last week, as three of the Association's activists were arrested for a period of 10 to 15 days for organizing an allegedly illegal rally on 3 July 2005. In reality, the events relate to a concert that was supposed to be organized at the “Polish House” in Szczuczyn near Grodno. But because the House was closed down by the authorities, the event took place outside the building. On the evening of 27 July, the police and the Belarus security service forced their way into the headquarters of the Association of Poles in Grodno, escorted out eighteen activists, two journalists of the Polish daily Gazeta Wyborcza and ten journalists of Belarusian independent media, and transported them to the Lenin District Internal Affairs Office in Grodno, where they were interrogated. Following the interrogation, the police released all of them. The building was occupied by the Association’s former board, submissive to the authorities.
On the morning of 28 July, the security organs interrogated the Chairwoman, Andzelika Borys. As official reason for the interrogation they gave the presumptive embezzlement of money of the Association of Poles.
Through the state-controlled media a false image was given of the events, presenting the situation as a conflict between Poland and Belarus, while the issue is about the violation of human rights and freedoms, especially the freedom of assembly and association, as well as the freedom of speech with reference to one of the last independent, non-governmental organizations in Belarus. These events are yet the latest of a series of measures aimed at stifling any manifestation of civil society's activity in Belarus.
The IHF deplores these Soviet-like actions. We ask you to do all in your power to put an end to the current repression, including by re-installing the legitimate Association of Poles in Grodno in their right, and by refraining from any further actions against the board and activists of this association and all human rights defenders operating on the territory of Belarus.
Based in London, we are an informal group dedicated to supporting democracy and human rights throughout
the former Soviet Union. Our aims are:
Informing the public about issues in this area that receive little coverage in the Western media.
Staging peaceful demonstrations and letter-writing campaigns in support of specific causes.
Supporting and publicising nonviolent pro-democracy groups throughout the region.
Encouraging European and American involvement.
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