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Chronicle of human rights violations in the sphere of culture (1-15 June 2024)

Last update: 17 June 2024
Chronicle of human rights violations in the sphere of culture (1-15 June 2024)

As of 15 June 2024, at least 159 cultural figures, including not less than 38 People of the Word, were behind bars.

Political prisoner Alaksandr Franckievič, the author of prison literature, will stand trial for “malicious disobedience to the administration of a penal colony.”

Master of ceremonies, scriptwriter, and actor Kirył Ałachvierdzian was detained.

The Supreme Court of Belarus rejected the appeal from political prisoner, journalist, essayist, and non-fiction literature author Ihar Karniej.

The date of the trial of writer, doctor, and mother of four Alena Cieraškova became known.

Sviatłana Raŭkoŭskaja, manager of the Fantaziory circus studio, was fined in Orša.

Aleh Astralenka, deputy director of the Rużovaja Ziebra (Pinsk Zebra) event agency, was detained.

A patient of Hospital No 5 in Minsk was detained over a tattoo depicting the Pahonia (Pursuit) national coat of arms.

A court designated the researcher, literary historian Jazep Januškievič’s foreword to Vincent Dunin-Marcinkievič’s two-volume book as “extremist materials”.

I. Criminal prosecution of cultural figures, authors and performers

1. Political prisoner Alaksandr Franckievič, the author of prison literature, will be tried for “malicious disobedience of the penal colony administration.” He is serving a prison sentence in the Vaŭkavysk colony.

2. On 1 June, master of ceremonies, scriptwriter, and actor Kir Ałachvierdzian was detained for playing the role of a policeman for the Belsat TV channel. A Telegram channel close to security services published a video claiming he was arrested in a criminal investigation for facilitating extremism.

3. On 7 June, the Supreme Court of Belarus rejected the appeal of the politically imprisoned journalist, essayist, and non-fiction author Ihar Karniej, sentenced to three years in prison and a 20,000 BYN fine for allegedly participating in an extremist formation. The verdict of the Minsk City Court was upheld. Ihar Karniej is being kept in the Mahiloŭ pre-trial detention centre. It remains unknown where he will serve his sentence. Ihar was detained in July 2023, shortly after the funeral of the political prisoner, artist Aleś Puškin, with whom Ihar Karniej was friends.

4. The date of the criminal trial of Alena Cieraškova, writer, doctor, mother of four children, and sister of political prisoner Maksim Viniarski, became known. She will appear before Minsk’s Central District Court on 19 June on charges of organising, preparing, or actively participating in actions that grossly violate public order under Article 342 of the Criminal Code

ІІ. Administrative arrests

1. In Orša, Sviatłana Raŭkoŭskaja, the manager of the Fantaziory circus studio, was fined 400 BYN ($122). Police officers found photos with the Belsat TV channel logo in her Facebook profile.

2. On 1 June, it became known that Viktar Stelmach, a master of ceremonies, was detained in Brest. In a video shot by police officers, he said that he did not delete his mark on an “extremist” account on social media. The video also showed photos of Viktar Stelmach during the 2020 post-election protests.

3. On 5 June, the deputy director of the Pink Zebra event agency, Aleh Astralenka, was detained. In the video shot by the police and published on a pro-government Telegram channel, Astralenka said that he participated in the protest marches twice in 2020. He also said that the list of his agency’s clients included private and public companies and named his salary. “For my participation in the protests, our company will be excluded from the register of organisers of cultural and entertainment events,” Astralenka said at the end of the video.

III. Repressions for Belarusian and Ukrainian national symbols

1. On 5 June, the Roman Catholic parish priest in Šumilina, Father Andrzej Juchnievicz, was not released from a remand prison. He was sentenced to administrative arrest for the third time in a row, having served his previous two arrests, 15 days each, for using Belarusian and Ukrainian symbols in social media, including the Ukraine official flag in his social media profile.

2. A patient of Hospital No 5 in Minsk was detained for wearing a tattoo of the Pahonia historical coat of arms on his right calf. He was accused of “picketing” and received seven days of administrative arrest.

IV. Dismissals from cultural institutions

Documentary film director Halina Adamovič, the prize winner of numerous film festivals, who had collaborated with the studio since 1995, was fired from Letapis, a division at the Belarus film national film studio dealing with the production of documentaries. The reason was questions about the director’s recent works, including a phonogram dedicated to Ukraine in one of the films.

V. Repressions in the book sector

1. The Žytkavičy District Court in the Homiel region designated as “extremist materials” the foreword by the researcher and literary historian Jazep Januškievič to Vincent Dunin-Marcinkievič’s two-volume book. The preface to the book published by the Mastackaja Literatura (Fiction Literature) publishing house was labelled as “extremist”. In November 2023, the same court designated the entire collection as “extremist” but removed it from the “extremist materials” list in April.

2. The authorities admitted for the first time that they destroyed publications they labelled as “extremist”. Evidence comes from the court ruling, which sentenced a resident of Kobryn to ten days of arrest for “spreading extremism” – Uładzimir Arłoŭ’s book Fatherland: A Colorful History. From Rahnieda to Kasciuška, which he kept in his home library.