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Human Rights Situation in Belarus: September 2020

(October 5, 2020)


A woman confronting riot police during a protest in Minsk. October 4, 2020. Photo:



  • during the month, the authorities actively applied criminal prosecution for political reasons. Seventy-four political prisoners continued to be held in detention, and the number continues to grow. The total number of citizens held in criminal cases during the electoral and post-electoral periods has reached 242;
  • the authorities continued to use illegal practices of forcible expulsion from the country of opposition figures. In particular, on September 7, Maryia Kalesnikava, a member of the Presidium of the Coordination Council, was abducted in central Minsk and later forcibly taken to the Ukrainian border. Having torn up her passport at the border crossing, Maryia thwarted the security forces’ plans to forcibly expel her from the country;
  • on September 9, lawyers, members of the Coordination Council Maksim Znak and Illia Salei were detained. Later, they, together with Maryia Kalesnikava, were officially charged under Part 3, Art. 361 of the Criminal Code (calls for actions aimed at causing harm to the national security of the Republic of Belarus) and taken into custody;
  • the authorities continue the practice of using violence, riot gear and arrests of participants in peaceful protests that continued both in Minsk and other cities of the country. During the month, representatives of the Ministry of Internal Affairs detained at least 3,500 people for participating in demonstrations, of which at least 2,700 were taken to detention centers;
  • the persecution of independent journalists continues, as well as the practice of blocking independent Internet resources by the Ministry of Information. During demonstrations, the practice of disrupting mobile Internet was observed;
  • on September 17, the employees of GUBAZiK (the Interior Ministry’s Main Directorate for Combating Organized Crime and Corruption) detained activist of the Human Rights Center “Viasna” Marfa Rabkova, who was later charged under Part 3 of Art. 293 of the Criminal Code (training and other preparation of riots, as well as financing of such activities) and taken into custody for two months. Viasna views this fact as direct pressure on the entire organization;
  • the Prosecutor’s Offices and the Investigative Committee have yet failed to open a single criminal case to investigate systematic and widespread torture of protesters detained on August 9 to 12. Thus, the Republic of Belarus continues to ignore its international obligations to properly investigate all facts of torture, provide the victims with effective remedies and restore their violated rights;
  • in general, Viasna experts note the intensification of repression and the further aggravation of the human rights crisis in the country.

Political prisoners and politically motivated persecution

Criminal prosecution of citizens continues to be one of the main types of repression used by the Belarusian authorities, which testifies to the continuation of the acute phase of the human rights crisis in the country.

During the month, the authorities actively applied criminal prosecution for political reasons.

The investigating authorities continue to open criminal cases under Art. 293 of the Criminal Code (rioting). It is worth recalling that experts of the Human Rights Center “Viasna” have repeatedly disagreed with the qualification of the demonstrations that took place on August 9-12 as mass riots, since the demonstrators did not perform actions that constitute the disposition of Art. 293 of the Criminal Code: arson, destruction of property, or armed resistance to police officers.

On September 1, a co-founder of the Belarusian Christian Democracy Party and political prisoner Pavel Seviarynets was detailed interview to Viasna’s website, in which he told about the pressure he faced from GUBAZiK, including threats to the coordinator of Viasna’s volunteer service Marfa Rabkova and the organization in general.

On September 17, in Minsk, GUBAZiK officers stop torturing detainees and to bring to justice the police officers who reportedly humiliated and beat demonstrators in places of detention with impunity.

They also called on the authorities to fully respect basic safeguards — immediate registration, judicial oversight of detention, and notification of family members as soon as a suspect is deprived of their liberty — in order to prevent enforced disappearances.

The Human Rights Center “Viasna” and the Belarusian Helsinki Committee sent an appeal to the UN Committee against Torture in the interests of  More on this on the website of the Human Rights Center ‘Viasna’ here

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