19 January 2020, Sunday, 22:13
The Wait Is Nearly Over

Ales Bialiatski: MIA Is Charged With Xenophobia

Ales Bialiatski: MIA Is Charged With Xenophobia

Active hostile actions against the Roma were carried out precisely on the ethnicity grounds.

Head of the Human Rights Center "Viasna" Ales Bialiatski says that the police have actually declared a war against the Roma.

Ales Bialiatski commented upon the police lawlessness in relation to the Roma in Vital Tsyhankou’s program “Interview of the Week” on Radio Svaboda.

Active hostile actions against a group of people were carried out precisely on the ethnicity ground.

- The Belarusian society is shocked by the actions of the law-enforcement agencies against the Roma during the investigation into the death of a traffic police officer in Mahiliou. You recently sent an appeal to the Prosecutor General's Office with a request to check the legality of the detention of the Roma by the police on May 16 in Mahiliou, and take the necessary measures. Are you hoping for some kind of proper reaction - or, as often happens, the prosecutor's office will send a formal reply?

- This appeal had two objectives. The first is to draw the attention of the prosecutors who must react and respond to such appeals. There is no hope for a sincere reaction. But, given that my appeal is not the only one, the Prosecutor’s Office will formally apply to the Ministry of Internal Affairs asking for clarification of the situation.

In any case, such appeals are important and will play their part. Given the closeness of our system, you never know how it will respond. Sometimes these appeals caused a reaction that helped stop the repression. Given that this is one of the few levers that can affect the situation, you need to use all you have.

Unfortunately, there are no public councils in Belarus under the power ministries, as it is in Ukraine and Russia. The authorities also do not really pay attention to the activities of independent journalists writing on these topics. Meanwhile, joint efforts could bring results.

- In your opinion, what caused such actions on the part of the police towards the Roma? Was it a demonstration of power? Or, maybe, on the contrary - a revenge coming from powerlessness, the desire to pour the anger on defenseless people?

- First, it shows the low level of professionalism in the system of regional branches of the Ministry of Internal Affairs. A false (as it later turned out) tip led to taking organized actions against a national minority.

Plus, it shows a generally unfavorable inter-ethnic climate in Belarus. When it comes to specific cases, things are not so good here, and the state does not work consistently in this direction. We allegedly have “no national problems” - when there are no national minorities.

We see how xenophobia, hostile attitudes, prejudices against people of other nationalities leak into all the cracks. The state seems not ready to respond to this challenge, since there are no institutions (either state or public, supported by the state) whose activities are aimed at educational, outreach activities that show that all people are equal.

Instead, we see that the Ministry of Internal Affairs is charged with xenophobia, rejection of people of other nationalities and even prejudice. In this situation, the police in fact declared a secret war against the Roma. Active hostile actions were carried out against a group of people precisely on the ethnicity ground. And I do not recall anything like this happening before.

It is clear that there was no direct order from the leadership of the Ministry of Internal Affairs, but the telephone law, the verbal instructions were clearly there, and Mahiliou police officers were ordered to obtain this information at any cost.