27 January 1998


Documentary maker beaten

Incident details

Yuri Khashchevatsky



(HRW/IFEX) - Human Rights Watch reports that Yuri Khashchevatsky, an
internationally renowned film director and member of the Belarusian Helsinki
Committee who recently became a member of the pro-democracy movement
"Charter '97", has been severely beaten. On the night of 23 December 1997,
two unidentified men broke into Khashchevatsky's film studio and beat him
unconscious, breaking his nose, breaking his foot in three places, and
causing him a concussion and multiple bruises and abrasions. No valuables
or equipment were stolen or damaged, strongly indicating the intimidatory
nature of the assault.

In November 1996, Khashchevatsky had completed a documentary film entitled
"An Ordinary President," which is openly critical of the Belarusian
president Alexander Lukashenka. The film drew international acclaim and, in
1997, was awarded a prize from the Berlin Film Festival and the prestigious
Russian Sakharov Prize. However, in Belarus, the film's reception was
markedly different.

On the night of 22 January 1997, a local cable television station in the
town of Karelichi, in Grodno region, broadcast the film. The local police
and the State Security Committee (KGB) arrived at the station just as the
film was ending, broke down the door, confiscated the film and arrested
nineteen-year-old Maksim Svyrid, the video operator at the station who had
broadcast the film. Svyrid was held until 1:00 a.m. and ordered to report
to the KGB the next day whereupon, after questioning, he was released. On
19 November 1997, Belarusian Video Center director Sergei Lukyanchikov fired
resident engineer, Viktor Chernomorets, and fined the Center's chief
engineer, Vladimir Tomashevsky, for reportedly having made a copy of the
film. As a result of this intimidation, "An Ordinary President" is
effectively banned from public veiwing in Belarus.

On 21 December, just two days before the assault on Khashchevatsky, "An
Ordinary President" was shown on the French/German channel ARTE. Although
this channel is not received in Belarus, Human Rights Watch believes that
there is a direct correlation between the timing of the assault and the
broadcasting of the film. In addition, Khashchevatsky's political
affiliations may well have contributed to the attackers' motives, which
appear overwhelmingly to have been to intimidate Khashchevatsky and deter
him from future political activity or film-making.

Recommended Action

Send appeals to the president:

  • commenting that Belarus law enforcement agencies have failed to bring to
    justice those complicit in previous assaults on human rights activists and
    journalists who oppose or are perceived to threaten the administration and
    expressing concern that this failure suggests, at a minimum, that the
    administration approves of or condones these assaults
  • expressing concern that the investigation of the assault on Khastevatsky
    may bear no result
  • urging the government to contintue to vigorously investigate the assault,
    and make public its
    findings; to publicly denounce the assault on Khashchevatsky; and to permit
    the showing of "An Ordinary President" without reprisal throughout Belarus.

    Appeals To

    President Alexander Lukashenka
    Presidential Office
    Minsk 220010
    Republic of Belarus
    Fax: +172 26 06 10

    Please copy appeals to the source if possible.

  • Source

    Human Rights Watch
    350 Fifth Avenue
    New York, NY 10118
    United States
    hrwnyc (@) hrw.org

    Fax:+1 212 736 1300

    IFEX members working in this country 1

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