MINELRES: US Dept of State report: Belarus and Moldova - State discrimination against national minorities

minelres@lists.microlink.lv minelres@lists.microlink.lv
Mon May 21 19:37:02 2007

Original sender: Ionas Rus <rus@fas.rutgers.edu>



Country Reports on Human Rights Practices  - 2006
Released by the Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor
March 6, 2007

Government mandated textbooks contained a heavily propagandized  
version of history and other subjects. On June 16, while dedicating  
the country's national library, President Lukashenko rationalized  
government censorship of texts on the grounds that modern books about  
heads of state and historical personalities contain "80 percent lies,"  
and those about Soviet-era leaders Vladimir Lenin and Joseph Stalin  
contain "100 percent lies."

National/Racial/Ethnic Minorities

There was governmental and societal discrimination against the ethnic  
Polish population and Roma. There were also expressions of societal  
hostility toward proponents of Belarusian national culture.
During the year authorities repeatedly questioned the chairman of the  
unrecognized UBP, Anzhelika Borys, and her associates regarding their  
activities (see section 2.d.). On August 16, police summoned UBP  
activist and journalist Andrzej Poczobut for questioning, allegedly  
about a crime he witnessed. However, all of the questions focused on  
the sources of funding for his magazine and a previous fine. In August  
Poczobut was sentenced to 10 days in jail after a local television  
company complained that he obstructed the work of a cameraman trying  
to film a wreath laying. On September 25, police also summoned former  
UBP chairman Tadeusz Gavin for questioning.

On February 25, Minsk police detained Andrey Borys and two other UBP  
activists for three hours as they tried to attend a concert at the  
Sukno Palace of Culture. According to one UBP activist, police grabbed  
Borys, punched him in the face, put a pistol to his head, and dragged  
him from his vehicle. The police later claimed they had an anonymous  
tip that Borys was carrying weapons. No arms were found in the  
vehicle, but police confiscated 58 copies of the UBP publication Glos  
znad Niomna and charged all three activists with distributing printed  
material without required information about its origin.

On December 13, authorities sentenced "Magazyn Polski" Polish magazine  
layout editor Aleksey Saley to seven days in jail on charges of petty  
hooliganism and disobeying police officers after being arrested. Saley  
left his office on December 12 when several plainclothes police  
officers arrested him and forced him into a vehicle.

There was significant official and societal discrimination against the  
country's approximately 40,000 to 60,000 Roma.

Government media and officials portrayed Roma negatively. On January  
14, the prosecutor rejected complaints by the Romani community about a  
documentary film shown on state television in 2005 that portrayed Roma  
as criminals who began selling drugs in childhood. Nikolay Kalinin,  
the head of the Roma community and a human rights activist, stated  
that the program, Gypsies Go to Jail, contained "exclusively negative  
information" that portrayed fellow Roma as criminals. The prosecutor,  
however, stated that the documentary did not contain any  
discrimination or insults directed at the Romani community.

On April 3, a group of six unidentified men assaulted and beat Kalinin  
in downtown Minsk. The assailants told Kalinin the beating was to  
defend the honor of a woman whom Kalinin had allegedly insulted.  
Kalinin claimed that he had never seen the woman and linked the attack  
to his human rights work and involvement in monitoring the March  
presidential election.

There was high unemployment and low levels of education within the  
Romani community. In November 2005 authorities estimated the  
unemployment rate among Roma at 93 percent. Romani children, who spoke  
mainly Roma and Belarusian, struggled in the school system where the  
primary language of instruction was Russian. Romani students reported  
that teachers and fellow students often considered them lazy or  
mentally incompetent due to language-related academic difficulties.  
During the year the Romani Lawyers Group continued to petition the  
government to permit establishment of a public school in Minsk for  
Roma, arguing that there were schools for Jews, Lithuanians, and  
Poles. The government has yet to respond to the petition, which was  
first submitted in September 2004. Roma were often denied access to  
free, higher education in state-run universities.

The Russian and Belarusian languages have equal legal status; however,  
in practice Russian was the primary language used by the government.  
Few official functions and publications were in Belarusian. As of  
September 1, the Ministry of Education ordered all course instruction  
in grades 10 and 11 at Russian language schools to be in Russian.  
Previously both Russian and Belarusian language schools taught  
national history, geography, and Belarusian language and literature in  
Belarusian. The Belarusian Language Society protested the decision.  
The ministry later agreed to allow individual schools to decide on the  
language of instruction. However, both Russian and Belarusian schools  
received new textbooks about Belarusian history and geography for 10th  
and 11th grade in Russian.

On November 29, Viktoriya Dashkevich, head of a puppet theater in the  
northern city of Vitebsk, reported that the neo-Nazi, Russian National  
Unity group (RNU) sent her a letter demanding that the theater stop  
staging Belarusian-language plays and translate all plays into Russian  
because Belarus will soon become a part of Russia. Dashkevich filed a  
complaint with law-enforcement agencies over the letter, but the  
authorities refused to open a criminal investigation.

Ultranationalist skinhead groups made up of ethnic Russians harassed  
and vandalized property belonging to persons promoting Belarusian  
national culture. On April 3, unknown persons affixed fliers and signs  
with emblems of Russia's ultra?left National Bolshevik Party at the  
entrance to the Frantsisk Skaryna Belarusian Language Society  
headquarters. In June the leader of the Vitebsk chapter of the UCP  
received a threatening letter from the RNU telling her to abandon her  
opposition activities or face unspecified retribution from the RNU. On  
August 16, opposition BPF members discovered fake explosives planted  
near their office that were decorated with the RNU emblem, which  
resembles a swastika, and packed with RNU leaflets. The RNU denied  
planting the fake explosives. Also in August the independent newspaper  
Vitebskiy Kuryer received a letter from RNU leaders with threats to  
drive the paper out of business.


Country Reports on Human Rights Practices  - 2006
Released by the Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor
March 6, 2007


Academic Freedom and Cultural Events

On August 22, the Ministry of Culture refused for the third  
consecutive year to install a bust in central Chisinau of Romanian  
writer Liviu Rebreanu, stating that it had not received an  
authentication certificate. The Union of Writers, the Academy of  
Science, and several NGOs protested the ministry's refusal. On August  
30, nine Hyde Park NGO members were arrested and detained during a  
protest against the ministry's refusal (see section 2. b.).

On October 11, several hundred historians, politicians, teachers and  
students protested in the capital against a new "Integrated History"  
course introduced by the education ministry to replace the History of  
Romanians and Universal History courses. Protest organizers claimed  
that new textbooks reflect Stalinist ideas and promote xenophobia and  
anti-Romanian sentiments. The ministry stated that the textbooks had  
been compiled with wide input from the academic community and would be  
subject to any necessary revisions in the future.


According to Jewish community representatives, authorities have not  
returned Jewish community property.

Roma suffered violence, harassment, and discrimination. However, in  
contrast to the previous year, local and international NGOs did not  
report arbitrary arrests or incommunicado detention of Roma (see  
section 1.d.).

The European Roma Rights Center continued to report that officials  
discriminated against Roma with regard to housing, education, and  
access to public services. The Roma were the poorest of the minority  
groups and continued to live in unsanitary conditions in segregated  
communities lacking basic infrastructure. These conditions often led  
to segregated education and schools with even fewer resources than  
that elsewhere in the country. Many Romani children did not attend  
school, very few received a secondary or higher education, and there  
was no Romani-language education.

Authorities in the separatist Transnistrian region continued to  
discriminate against Romanian speakers, although to a lesser extent  
than in previous years. They continued to refuse to observe the  
country's language law, which requires use of Latin script, and  
required schools in the region to teach Romanian using the Cyrillic  
alphabet. Many teachers, parents, and students objected to the  
requirement, asserting that it disadvantaged persons who wished to  
pursue higher education opportunities in the rest of the country or in  
Romania, where the Latin script is used. Under a temporary  
arrangement, Romanian-language schools were allowed to use the Latin  
script for instruction. However, they complained that the arrangement,  
which applies to all Romanian-language schools, could be rescinded at  
any time by the authorities.

In July 2005, under an OSCE-negotiated formula, Transnistrian  
authorities allowed Latin-script schools in the region, which were  
registered with the Moldovan Ministry of Education, to register  
locally and to begin the school year in September. In 2004 regional  
police closed Latin-script schools in Ribnitsa, Tiraspol, Dubasari,  
and Corjova, stating that the institutions violated the Transnistrian  
legal requirement for the schools to register locally and to use the  
Cyrillic alphabet for instruction. The schools have since reopened and  
are allowed to teach in

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