Belarus


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Belarus Human Rights

Head of state: Alyaksandr Lukashenka
Head of government: Raman Halouchanka

summary

The year was characterized by recurrent peaceful protests, with the presidential election in August serving as a catalyst for the most egregious crackdown on freedoms of expression, peaceful assembly and association in Belarus’ post-independence history. Opposition candidates, their campaign teams and associates were arrested on false charges or forcibly exiled. Police used excessive and indiscriminate force to disperse demonstrations. Tens of thousands of peaceful protesters and bystanders were detained, and many of them tortured or otherwise ill-treated. Journalists, medics, students, union leaders and others were also targeted with arrest, beatings and prosecution. The government’s initial response to the COVID-19 pandemic was inadequate. Death sentences continued to be imposed.

Human Rights Issues

Amnesty International’s concerns in Belarus focus on restoring rights guaranteed by its own constitution and international covenants. These rights, despite official statements promising them to citizens, have nevertheless been abridged and suspended by political power and pressure exerted by President Lukashenko. Among the rights that have been violated are the rights to freedom of expression, assembly, and association, and the right from arbitrary arrest, detention, and torture. Ill-treatment of prisoners by police is a common practice, and political “disappearances” continue to be utilized as a technique to silence opposition to Lukashenko’s rule. Belarus is the last country in Europe to exercise death penalty.

Freedom of expression and Arbitrary Detention

The right to freedom of expression remains severely curtailed in an attempt to curb all opposition and dissent, including through the targeting of individuals and media outlets, legislative changes, administrative pressure and the use of technical means such as internet blackouts. The media remains under tight government control. Independent journalists and media organizations are harassed and prevented from carrying out their legitimate work.

The right to freedom of assembly remains unduly restricted, and protestors have been arbitrarily detained. Between the start of the presidential campaign in May 2020 and the election, hundreds of peaceful protesters, online activists, independent journalists and others were arbitrarily detained. Following the election, hundreds of thousands of Belarusians regularly and peacefully took to the streets across Belarus to protest, tens of thousands were arrested, and hundreds were subjected to torture and other ill-treatment and heavily penalized. Amnesty International directly witnessed the unfounded, arbitrary, and brutal nature of a number of these arrests. Unrestricted access to lawyers, vital for ensuring representation and a full examination of the defendents’ interest, is believed to have been minimized. They are often subjected to threats and are allowed to meet with clients only while being monitored by a KGB agent. Amnesty International calls for greater protection of lawyers and for the ensurance that they are able to defend the rights of their clients without deterrence.

Women

Women with dissenting views faced gendered reprisals and were targeted via their perceived vulnerabilities, including through threats of sexual violence or of their young children being placed in state care.

Torture and other ill-treatment

The authorities systematically used torture and other ill-treatment against people detained during protests, including participants, journalists and bystanders. Local and international groups documented hundreds of cases across the country. The Belarusian authorities admitted receiving some 900 complaints of abuse by police in connection with the protests but by the end of the year 2020 not a single criminal investigation had been opened, nor had any law enforcement officer been charged with respective violations.

Arrests of Human Rights Activists

Human rights defenders, notably the Belarusian Helsinki Committee and Human Rights Centre Viasna, have also been targeted. Human rights organizations throughout the country have been subjected to searches, confiscation of property, and questioning by the KGB in such a manner and frequency that it can suspected that the true intention is to intimidate rather than to carry out investigations. Amnesty International calls on Belarusian authorities to stop harassing human rights groups for their legitimate work and concerns.

Amnesty International recognizes these events as purposeful deprivation of human rights and calls for the immediate, unconditional release of Belarus’s many prisoners of conscience and for compensation to the victims of its actions. Amnesty International would further call upon Belarusian authorities to refrain from repeating such unacceptable actions and to recall its commitments to international legislation, its own legislation, and to its people.

Read more: Amnesty International’s country report on Belarus (2020)

Belarus Newsroom



December 20, 2021 • Press Release

New evidence of brutal violence from Belarusian forces against asylum-seekers and migrants facing pushbacks from the EU

Asylum-seekers and migrants trying to enter the EU from Belarus and facing pushbacks and other human rights violations on the Polish border, are subjected to horrific torture or other ill-treatment, inhumane conditions, extortion and other abuse at the hands of Belarusian forces, new evidence gathered by Amnesty International reveals.

December 1, 2021 • Press Release

“Exceptional Measures” Normalize Dehumanization of Asylum Seekers in Europe

In response to today’s proposals from the European Commission which would allow Latvia, Lithuania and Poland to derogate from EU rules, including by holding asylum-seekers and migrants at the border for 16 weeks with minimal safeguards, Eve Geddie, Director of Amnesty International’s European Office said: “The arrival of people at the EU’s borders with Belarus is entirely manageable with the rules as they stand. Today’s proposals will further punish people for political gain, weaken asylum protections, and undermine the EU’s standing at home and abroad. If the EU can allow a minority of member states to throw out the rule book due to the presence of a few thousand people at its border, it throws out any authority it has on human rights and the rule of law.

July 6, 2016 • Report

It’s Enough for People to Feel it Exists: Civil Society, Secrecy and Surveillance in Belarus

Belarus authorities are using phone networks run by some of the world’s biggest telecoms companies to stifle free speech and dissent, said Amnesty International in a report published today.

February 18, 2016 • Report

Amnesty International State of the World 2015-2016

International protection of human rights is in danger of unravelling as short-term national self-interest and draconian security crackdowns have led to a wholesale assault on basic freedoms and rights, warned Amnesty International as it launched its annual assessment of human rights around the world. “Your rights are in jeopardy: they are being treated with utter contempt by many governments around the world,” said Salil Shetty, Secretary General of Amnesty International.

February 25, 2015 • Report

State of the World 2014/2015

This has been a devastating year for those seeking to stand up for human rights and for those caught up in the suffering of war zones. Governments pay lip service to the importance of protecting civilians. And yet the world's politicians have miserably failed to protect those in greatest need. Amnesty International believes that this can and must finally change.

May 16, 2013 • Report

Annual Report: Belarus 2013

Republic of Belarus Head of state Alyaksandr Lukashenka Head of government Mikhail Myasnikovich Prisoners of conscience remained in detention; some were sentenced to increased prison terms for violating prison rules. …

April 24, 2013 • Report

What is not permitted is prohibited: Silencing civil society in Belarus

This report examines the state of the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and of association in Belarus, rights that are fundamental to the existence of civil society.

July 11, 2011 • Report

Annual Report: Belarus 2011

Head of state: Alyaksandr Lukashenka Head of government: Syarhey Sidorski Death penalty: retentionist Population: 9.6 million Life expectancy: 69.6 years Under-5 mortality (m/f): 14/9 per 1,000 Adult literacy: 99.7 Three …

March 19, 2011 • Report

Annual Report: Belarus 2010

Head of state Alyaksandr Lukashenka Head of government Syarhey Sidorski Death penalty retentionist Population 9.6 million Life expectancy 69 years Under-5 mortality (m/f) 14/9 per 1,000 Adult literacy 99.7 per …

December 10, 2020 • Press Release

Abuse of Protesters and Prisoners Highlights Urgent Need to Regulate Torture Tools

The world must act urgently to prohibit the global trade in equipment designed to inflict excruciating pain and injury, Amnesty International and the Omega Research Foundation said today, ahead of a high-level UN meeting on the ‘torture trade’. In a new report, Ending the Torture Trade: The Path to Global Controls on the ‘Tools of Torture’, the organizations also called for controls on standard policing equipment to ensure it does not end up in the hands of abusers.