Annual Review 2011
Bias motivated speech
- In February, President Lukashenko confirmed that he had made homophobic statements during a meeting with the Ministries of Foreign Aff airs of Poland and Germany in the autumn of 2010. The comments seemed to have been aimed at Guido Westerwelle, Germany’s openly gay Foreign Minister. Lukashenko confirmed to reporters that he had made the comments, and reiterated the fact that he condemns “faggotism,” and that whilst “it” may be accepted in Poland and Germany, it is neither normal nor needed in Belarus. He said that he told Mr Westerwelle to lead a normal life. In October, Lukashenko apologised for off ending Mr Westerwelle but once again condemned “homosexual relations.”
- In February, a lecturer at the Belarusian Medical Academy stated, in the presence of journalists, that homosexuals are ill and homosexuality should be treated medically. Though the Academy had remained silent in the face of similar homophobic comments in the past, a couple of weeks after the incident the head of the Academy stated that the other members of the Academy do not share her views. This position was taken after LGBT human rights defenders published the lecturer’s comments and encouraged the Academy’s EU partners to cut ties with it.
- In October, the walls of the building which houses Minsk Gay Pride were covered with homophobic graffiti. The same graffiti appeared on the walls of the club where Pride events took place.
Bias motivated violence
At least seven physical assaults on LGBT people were reported in Brest, Gomel, Minsk and Pinsk, one of which involved serious bodily injury and one involved police brutality.
The Co-Chair of IDAHO Belarus was fired from her job in a bar upon her return to Minsk following her participation in Slavic Pride in St. Petersburg. Her employer knew that she would be going to Pride and had not expressed any problem with it. However, when he fired her he suggested that following a conversation with the KGB (secret services) he did not want to risk the closure of his business so he was dismissing her instead.
Freedom of assembly
- Human rights defenders held a rally on Valentine’s Day in Minsk, the country’s first offi cially sanctioned public action of LGBT human rights defenders in 12 years. Around a dozen people took part in the event, which was held in a park near the Ministry of Justice. No negative incidents were reported, and the event was covered by several reporters who outnumbered the participants.
- Minsk City Executive Committee rejected applications from LGBT human rights defenders to hold a Day of Silence in April, allegedly because it would take place within 200m of underground stations and pedestrian crossings which contravenes the Law of Mass Actions.
- Despite the Organising Committee submitting over a hundred applications suggesting different potential locations for a public Equality Day Event, the Minsk City Executive Committee denied each application. However, human rights defenders staged an unsanctioned Equality Day Event in May, welcoming all Belarusian minorities and coinciding with IDAHO. The event was attended by over 100 people, including foreign diplomats, and was streamed over the Internet by GayRussia website.
- Despite being refused permission for a Pride Parade in Minsk, a group of around 20 people staged a brief march in October in a suburb of Minsk, carrying rainbow flags and shouting for a “Belarus without homophobia”.
Freedom of association
In December, the Ministry of Justice denied official registration of GayBelarus. The reason given was that the date of birth and the spelling of the name of two of the 61 people who founded the organisation were incorrect.
Freedom of expression
- Due to frequent raids by the police, some Belarusian human rights defenders became concerned that the country is not a safe place for the keeping of their personal collections of mementos, books, magazines, and photographs that document the Belarusian LGBT movement. As a result, they moved their archives abroad.
- The organisation GayBelarus was prominently featured in East Bloc Love, a new documentary film which explores the movement for the rights of LGBT people in various countries of the former USSR where freedom of expression is frequently hampered by the State. The film shows preparations for the 2011 Pride with the help of human rights defenders from neighbouring countries. The film was screened at LGBT fi lm festivals in 2011.
- In May, a human rights defender of IDAHO Belarus applied to the Belarusian Ministry of Justice for permission to use the rainbow flag as an international symbol of the LGBT community at public events. He received a 3-page reply which did not comment on the use of the rainbow flag but asserted that no unregistered symbols could be used at public events. Most of the letter covered the unrelated issue of the registration of symbols by political parties, NGOs and associations. No reference was made to the applicant’s point that the rainbow flag is already an international symbol.
- In July, a human rights defender of IDAHO Belarus held a one-woman protest in front of Minsk City Executive Committee. She was protesting against violations of human rights, abuse of power and the disrespectful actions of the police. She was quickly arrested and detained for 10 days.
Police and law enforcement
- At least three LGBT human rights defenders were subject to ‘preventative arrests’ by Minsk Police in June. One man was reportedly severely beaten by the police whilst in custody.
- The KGB pressured a teenage member of the GayBelarus LGBT human rights project, questioning him about the organisation and its members, and questioned other human rights defenders about diff erent activities. Other GayBelarus human rights defenders or organisers were harassed by University authorities and the Ministry of Justice.