Close this search box.

Human Rights Situation in Belarus in 2020

(January 11, 2021)



  • the 2020 presidential election took place against the background of continuous repressions, including against direct participants in the presidential race: members of nomination groups and nominees, as well as bloggers, political activists, journalists and independent observers;
  • the election themselves did not meet the standards of free and democratic elections, as they were marred by numerous violations of national electoral law and falsifications, and their official results did not correspond to the real will of the Belarusian people;
  • it was public outrage at the official election results that led to mass demonstrations in Minsk and other Belarusian cities. Despite the predominantly peaceful nature of the rallies, they were attacked by Interior Ministry forces with disproportionate use of physical force, riot equipment and weapons. As a result of the actions of the security forces, hundreds of people were injured, with at least two demonstrators being killed (Aliaksandr Taraikouski and Henadz Shutau) ​​and one detained protester dead as a result of untimely medical care (Aliaksandr Vikhor);
  • thousands of detained protesters in Minsk and other cities were victims of targeted torture and other inhuman and degrading treatment. As of year-end, Viasna has documented more than 1,000 testimonies of torture victims. The analysis of these testimonies suggests that the acts of torture were widespread, systemic and well organized as a politically motivated punitive operation perpetrated by the authorities to intimidate Belarusian public. The prosecuting agencies and the Investigative Committee’s failure to launch full-fledged investigations into the abundant torture reports confirms these findings;
  • impunity and anonymity of law enforcement officers led to new cases of torture and ill-treatment of detained protesters, as well as the death of protester Raman Bandarenka, allegedly perpetrated by officers of the Interior Ministry. However, the investigation authorities have not yet initiated criminal proceedings to address the deaths of Aliaksandr Taraikouski, Henadz Shutau, Aliaksandr Vikhor and Raman Bandarenka;
  • the country’s legal system has demonstrated its inability to protect the rights of citizens, its complete dependence on the current government and active participation in political repression against the country’s citizens;
  • arrests and imprisonment of peaceful protesters in 2020 became widespread. From the start of the election campaign in May to the end of the year, more than 33,000 individuals were detained, most of whom were later sentenced by courts to terms of administrative detention and heavy fines;
  • the authorities actively used criminal charges for politically motivated persecution. According to the Prosecutor General’s Office, in the post-election period criminal cases were instituted against more than 900 citizens. The Human Rights Center “Viasna” knows the names of more than 650 people involved in criminal cases. 169 defendants were recognized as political prisoners by the Belarusian human rights community, while the number is growing;
  • the authorities repressed journalists in connection with their professional activities: according to the BAJ, 9 journalists are currently in prison as suspects or accused in criminal cases, 477 journalists were arrested, and 97 served terms of administrative detention;
  • 18 members of the Human Rights Center “Viasna” were subjected to various forms of repression during the year, including arrests and terms of administrative detention. Maryia (Marfa) Rabkova, coordinator of Viasna’s volunteer service, and volunteer Andrei Chapiuk continue to be held in pre-trial detention on charges under Art. 293 of the Criminal Code;
  • despite the absence of new executions in 2020, Belarus continued to retain the death penalty. Three people were sentenced to death during the year, and four prisoners are currently held on death row awaiting execution;
  • the 2020 repressions are unprecedented for the entire history of Belarus and testify to the profound human rights crisis in the country, which has led to the international isolation of Belarus and repeated sanctions by the EU, the U.S. and the UK. The authorities’ only response of to the demands of political transformation in the country by the majority of the Belarusian society is the intensification of repressions and imitation of a national dialogue on the so-called “constitutional reform”. This policy only exacerbates the crisis and creates the preconditions for its further aggravation in the months to come.

The full report can be downloaded here

Subscribe to our

Sign up for our monthly newsletter
and receive the latest EPDE news

Subscribe to our

Sign up for our monthly newsletter and receive the latest EPDE news

We use cookies to optimize our website and our service. Manage your cookie settings here.