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Human Rights Situation in Belarus: February 2021

(March 3, 2021)


Belsat journalists Katerina Andreyeva and Daria Chultsova sentenced to two years in jail. Source: © EPA



  • in February, the authorities continued to apply criminal prosecution for political reasons. Viasna is aware of at least 102 sentences handed down during the month, with 49 convicts sentenced to terms of imprisonment;
  • there are 258 political prisoners in places of detention, as their number continues to increase. The total number of criminal cases initiated in the post-election period amounted to more than 2,300, while Viasna knows the names of as few as 850 people involved;
  • security forces continue to detain peaceful protesters and other people accused of displaying white-red-white symbols, including in private homes and territories. In total, Viasna possesses information about the detention of 511 citizens during the month; 312 court rulings were issued: in 222 cases short terms of administrative arrest detention were imposed, in 73 cases – fines were handed down;
  • persecution of journalists and bloggers continues. On February 17, the Frunzienski District Court of Minsk sentenced Belsat journalists Katsiaryna Andreyeva and Darya Chultsova to two years in prison for reporting on a protest triggered by the death of Raman Bandarenka;
  • pressure on human rights activists intensified. On February 2, Siarhei Drazdouski, chairman of the Office for the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, was placed under house arrest on charges of fraud, and Aleh Hrableuski, the organization’s legal adviser, was remanded in custody;
  • on February 16, the offices of numerous human rights organizations and the apartments of human rights defenders, journalists, and civil society activists were searched in Minsk and across the country. Searches were conducted in the offices of the Human Rights Center “Viasna”, BAJ, and the independent trade union REP. The search warrants referred to a criminal case under Art. 342 of the Criminal Code (group actions that grossly violate public order);
  • of particular concern are the scheduled legislative amendments aimed at strengthening administrative and criminal liability for participating in protests and public criticism of the current political regime;
  • during the month, the human rights situation in the country continued to deteriorate, indicating an even greater aggravation of the already profound human rights crisis.

Political prisoners and politically motivated persecution

During February, according to the Human Rights Center “Viasna”, at least 102 convictions were handed down in criminal cases related to events during and after the presidential election. Of these, 88 are men, 33 women and 3 minors. 49 defendants were sentenced to terms of imprisonment, 26 – to restricted freedom in open penitentiaries, 21 – to home imprisonment, 3 – to arrest for up to three months and 3 – to fines.

The largest group of defendants in the political trials were convicted under Art. 342 of the Criminal Code (group actions that grossly violate public order) – 39 people and under Art. 369 of the Criminal Code (insulting a government official) – 17 people, under Art. 364 of the Criminal Code (violence or threat of violence against a police officer) – 15 people, under Art. 293 of the Criminal Code (mass riots) – 12 people and under Art. 339 (hooliganism) – 11 people.

According to the data voiced by the Investigative Committee chairman Ivan Naskevich, since the summer of 2020, more than 2,300 criminal cases of “extremist orientation” have been initiated in the country.

The number of political prisoners by the end of the month reached 258 and continues to grow as information on criminal cases continues to be received and analyzed.

The month was marked by a number of high-profile criminal trials in politically motivated cases, which caused outrage and condemnation both in Belarus and abroad.

On February 17, the Frunzienski District Court of Minsk  Website of the Human Rights Center “Viasna” here

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