Attempt To Register A LGBT Organisation in Belarus Provokes Police Raids

Published: February 6, 2013

On the night of 11 January, about ten policemen, some plain-clothed, blocked the exits to Club 6A, the prime gay dance destination in Minsk, and took the personal details of over 100 persons present there. They said they were looking for a fugitive prisoner among the clubbers. The following day, the police spokesperson refused to provide journalists with any information about the reasons for and outcome of the raid.

More Raids of Gay Clubs

The following night, a Vitebsk club was raided by police special forces. They ordered all the guests to line up along the walls, the women separately from the men. They recorded everyone on video; asking for their name, home address and place of work.

According to witnesses who later spoke to journalists, the police behaviour was extremely harsh and threatening. Once again on this occasion, the local police spokesperson was unable to provide any information on the motives and results of the operation.

Two weeks later, the same Club 6A was raided by eight or nine policemen in plain clothes who requested the passport details of all present there; they detained about 40 people in order to "establish their identities".

Before the use of mobiles was banned, those detained managed to report that the police attitude was rough, both to men and women. The detainees were told by the police that the raid was provoked by the activities of Siarhiej Androsienka, the leader of GayBelarus.

LGBT Visibility Makes Authorities Nervous

It is common knowledge that registration of non-governmental organisations in Belarus is almost impossible if the NGO has not been blessed by the state authorities beforehand. At the same time, any political or social activism without such registration is banned and can be classified as criminal.

In 1999 and 2011, LGBT activists attempted to register organizations, but were unsuccessful. Last December, the largest Belarusian LGBT organisation, GayBelarus, made another attempt. It held a convention in Minsk, in Club 6A, in which 72 delegates from all of Belarus’ regions took part.

The application for registration of the Human Rights Centre Lambda was submitted to the Ministry of Justice. Why Lambda, not GayBelarus? The registration procedure is not transparent, and using a word like "gay" could become just one more reason to provoke a negative outcome.

Siarhiej Androsienka of GayBelarus said that he did not have any illusions: "if they register us, good; if not, we will continue working without registration." According to Androsienka, the authorities were aware of the convention at Club 6A. The club owner was called to the city police headquarters to provide information about the event and its organisers. At no point was it suggested to him to ban GayBelarus from his premises.

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