Belarus Human Rights

General Overview

President Aleksandr Lukashenko was elected to office in 1994, and since that time his government has been authoritarian. The Belarusian government has cracked down on opposition leaders and movements, and abused civil rights to freedom of assembly and association.

It was announced on 20 December 2010, that Lukashenko had again been reelected as president by 79.7% of the votes. The Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe observer mission determined the election, despite fairer campaigning practices than in previous elections, has failed to meet OSCE standards.

Those who oppose Lukashenka's regime through non-violent venues, including opposition candidates and human rights activists, have been systematically suppressed by means of violence, arrests, and threats. The international community has recognized Belarus's measures as intentional silencing of legitimate concerns. Financial and travel sanctions against ruling officials have been levied by the European Union and the United States in an attempt to force the Belarusian government to cease its abuse of human rights.

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 and assembly, and the right from arbitrary arrest and detention. 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.

Arbitrary Detention

In addition to clear violations to Belarusian citizens' right to peaceful assembly, many of the protestors have been arbitrarily detained. According the NGO Human Rights Centre Viasna, the detainees were sentenced in large groups without the presence of legal representation. Amnesty International does not believe it is because of legitimate concerns for the safety of the state that these people were arrested, but because they had chosen to participate in a predominantly peaceful event to voice anxiety about the fairness of the election. Unrestricted access to lawyers, vital for ensuring representation and a full examination of the defendents' interest, has 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.

Poor Prison Conditions

Amnesty International is also concerned about the conditions of those that have been charged. There are no records of the detained being given access to medical treatment, despite documented cases of police brutality and sustained injuries. Amnesty International calls upon the Belarusian authorities to ensure proper, immediate medical attention for those who have been injured.

Arrests of Human Rights Activists

Human rights defenders, notably the Belarusian Helsinki Committee and Human Rights Centre Viasna, have also been targeted. Since the 19 December demonstration, 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 for all confiscated property to be returned and that Belarusian authorities 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.

Belarus Newsroom

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.

November 9, 2020 • Press Release

More than 1,000 people arrested in Belarus in a single day of peaceful protests

Responding to the arrest of more than 1,000 people in a single day of peaceful protest in Minsk and other Belarusian cities, Marie Struthers, Amnesty International’s Director for Eastern Europe …

August 12, 2020 • Press Release

Attacks on journalists in Belarus mount amid protest crackdown

The Belarusian authorities must immediately end their assault on journalists, Amnesty International said today, amid reports of journalists being arrested, beaten, and targeted with rubber bullets while covering the vicious police …