Stop the crackdown on the civil society in Belarus

Early this morning Belarusian law enforcement forces carried out a series of raids in the offices and homes of the heads and staff members of the Belarus Association of Journalists (BAJ) and the Human Rights Centre Viasna.

The raids happened in Minsk, Brest, Vitebsk, Homel, Mozyr, Svetlogorsk and Mohilev. The homes of 30 persons were investigated. BAJs office was sealed. The formal accusations vary from article 362 of Criminal Code, “murder of a policeman”, disclosed in Homel; – to the article 342 “financing illegal protest activities”.

– We call on Belarusian authorities to stop the searches of homes and offices and immediately drop all trumped-up allegations against civil society groups in Belarus, says Geir Hønneland, the Secretary General for the Norwegian Helsinki Committee.

Today’s raid is another of the regime’s attempt to silence critical voices, but this is not how the political crisis in the country can be solved.  On the contrary, the regime’s repressive actions demonstrate weakness and its loss of legitimacy. A country cannot be governed by violence and fear. – We call the international society to swiftly condemn the crackdown against independent civil society in Belarus. The sanctions against Lukashenko regime must be stepped up even further, says Hønneland.

Since the 9 of August 2020 presidential elections in Belarus, several hundred thousand people came to the streets to protest the results, which officially indicated Lukashenko’s victory. Svetlana Tikhanovskaya, the opposition candidate who stepped in for her arrested husband Sergei Tikhanovsky, became a symbol of the protests. Tikhanovskaya and several representatives from the opposition have been forced to leave the country. Hundreds have been imprisoned, including representatives of the Coordination Council Maria Kolesnikova, Maksim Znak as well as members for strike committees. There are currently 246 political prisoners in Belarus, numbers are increasing at high speed.  Around 32 000 Belarusians were detained and accused to various forms of punishment and there are widespread confirmed reports of torture.

We believe the reason for this recent crackdown is the efficient work of brave Belarusian journalists and human rights activists, which is to provide independent information, monitoring of the human rights situation and documentation work.


Berit Lindeman, NHC Head of Eastern Europe and Central Asia Department

All this work, the right to which is guaranteed by the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, has continued despite constant pressure and harassment from the authorities. However, now we see a new turn of the wrench from Lukashenko’s regime.

Next week, the UN Human Rights Council will meet for its 46th ordinary session. In its resolution 45/1, the Human Rights Council requested the High Commissioner to submit a comprehensive written report on the situation of human rights in Belarus in the lead-up to, during and after the 2020 presidential election during an enhanced interactive dialogue at the forty-sixth session. The Council will consider the report of the High Commissioner (A/HRC/46/4) (forthcoming). The UPR report on Belarus will also be discussed and adopted.

Norwegian Helsinki Committee follows up and is concerned with this new attack against independent Belarusian civil society groups. Among these alarming attacks we find the accusations of “seizure of power” and “extremist activities” against Coordination Council members Maria Kolesnikova and Maxim Znak. Marfa Rabkova from the Human Rights Centre Viasna might get 12 years imprisonment for “participation in a criminal organisation”. This happens at the time, when it is almost impossible to find a decent defence and many lawyers have had their licences withdrawn. All these prosecutions must be a matter of international investigation. We urge the international society to keep on eyes to the Belarusians’ fight for freedom”.

The Norwegian Helsinki Committee encourages to write to Marfa Rabkova, Maria Kolesnikova and other political prisoners. Click here.

How to help?

  • ✉️  Write a letter. Make a scan of your letter or postcard and share it online
  • 🤝  Please use the Russian (or Belarusian) name of the prison
  • 💡  Foreign-language messages may be blocked, so attach a translation (e.g. translate.google.com)
  • 💡  Letters are subject to censorship, so don’t be cynical or too judgemental of the authorities

Here you can find ways to follow up with the development and support NHCs work.

Contact us

Employee

Inna Sangadzhieva

Senior Adviser, Russia and BelarusEmail: [email protected]Phone: +47 97 69 94 58
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Employee

Berit Lindeman

Head of Eastern Europe Central Asia departmentEmail: [email protected]Phone: 909 33 379Twitter: @LindemanBerit
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