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.
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.
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.
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.
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.