"Human rights organisations who observed the demonstration stated that it had been conducted peacefully, without incident and in full compliance with the authorization issued by Minsk city executive authorities. I therefore believe that the detention and further administrative arrests of participants in this approved peaceful rally are wholly unlawful and an outrage to citizens’ constitutional rights. The arrest of journalists in the performance of their professional duties is clearly indicative of the Regime’s repressive treatment of freedom of speech in the country", stated Valiantsin Stefanovic, HRC Viasna Vice-President.
“These charges and detentions are obviously an attempt to maintain a climate of fear among the Belarusian people who were demonstrating peacefully and with the required legal authorisations” said Souhayr Belhassen, FIDH President.
On 29 April 2013, two Radio Racija journalists, Henadz Barbarych and Aliaksandr Yarashevich, were sentenced to three days of detention each for “disobeying police orders” while covering the mass event. Human rights defender Viachaslau Dashkevich, who was observing the march was sentenced to five days of administrative detention on the same charges. Activist Ihar Trukhanovich was sentenced to ten days of detention on charges of participating in an illegal mass gathering and disobeying police orders. Two more participants of the rally – Dzmitry Charniak and Aliaksandr Tarnahurski – were sentenced to ten days of arrest each on similar charges. Several other instances of detention before, during and after the rally were also recorded.
A mass event commemorating the catastrophe at Chernobyl nuclear station takes place every year on 26 April. This year the demonstration was authorised by the authorities and went on peacefully, but with the interference of law enforcement agents.
At 6:30pm, people gathered near the October cinema house in Minsk. They were holding banners stating “Our Lives – The Nuclear Plant’s Price”, “We Are Against Nuclear Plant Construction”, “Hot Summer 1986 – For Whom?”. Young people in tissue masks distributed leaflets entitiled “Budget Spent on Nuclear Plant Leaves Nothing for Salaries”. The flags belonging to the civil society groups, European Belarus, Tell the Truth movement, the Belarusian Christian Democracy and the National People’s Front could be seen in the crowd. Those at the head of the demonstration were carrying the icon of the God Mother of Chernobyl. The procession chanted Long Live Belarus, No to the Nuclear Power Plant in Belarus, Astraviets is the Second Chernobyl. The demonstration urged for the release all political prisoners, referring to such prisoners by name.
The meeting venue, Bangalor Square, was surrounded by a metal fence and yellow tape. The Special riot police units (OMON) searched each participant of the demonstration carefully; loud speakers were not permitted for use on the stage despite the fact that the organisers of the rally had received advance authorization for their use from the authorities.
During the meeting, a resolution was adopted that included demands to stop the construction of the Astraviets Nuclear Power Plant and release all political prisoners. It was also announced that the National ecological committee named after Ivan Nikitchanka was to be founded.
The two journalists from Radio Racija were detained after the demonstration ended, at around 10 pm. The journalists had their press cards on them but were taken to the Soviet district police department; the duty police officer at this department nevertheless denied that any detainees had been brought there. At midnight the journalists’ colleagues saw them being taken to the detention center in Akrestsina street. According to the duty officer in the detention center, the journalists were accused of disobedience of police’s demands (art. 23.4 of the Code of Administrative Violations). However, guards refused to take a parcel to the detainees this morning, saying that all items can be transferred only after their trial, which is to take place on Monday.
In another incident, two journalists from Nasha Niva were detained, but later set free. Aksana Rudovich and Iryna Arakhouskaya had tried to photograph the detention of anarchist, Ihar Trukhanovich, following which they were followed and detained in a trolleybus. The journalists were taken to a blue mini-van by people who did not introduce themselves. They were taken to the same police department; the police looked through the recordings, checked the women’s IDs and set them free.
On April 26, independent journalists Aliaksandr Barazenka and Nasta Yaumen were also briefly detained in Astravets were they came to report about a trip of opposition activists to the building site of the nuclear station.
Before the rally, many activists from the ecological movement opposed to the construction of the nuclear plant were detained. For example, chairperson of the Council of Ekodom Iryna Sukhiy, and activists Vasil Siniukhin, Kanstantsin Kirylenka and Volga Kaskevich were arrested in front of their buildings. They were kept in Piershamaiski police department and released as soon as the Chernobyl Way was over. Other ecologists, blockaded in their apartments, were thereby prevented from joining the demonstration. The ecologists had intended to protest against the construction of the nuclear power plant in Belarus during the Chernobyl Way rally 2013.
Earlier that day in the town of Astraviets of the Grodna region where the nuclear power plant is being built, leader of the United Civil Party, Anatol Liabedzka, and several accompanying journalists were detained twice.
Human rights activist, Viachaslau Dashkievich, was arrested near Savietski police department where some of the detained were taken. After the rally, activist from the anarchist movement, Igar Trukhanovich, was beaten up by four special services officers dressed as civilians.
Even the journalists filming the assault on Igar were detained, as well as other meeting participants on Bangalor Square.
For more information on human rights violations during the rally, see (in Russian) the report on the results of monitoring of the Chernobyl Way rally 2013, prepared by Belarusian human rights defenders.