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Human Rights Situation in Belarus in 2021

(January 18, 2022)




– the presidential election of August 2020 and the unprecedented protests that followed determined the long-term political situation in Belarus;

– violence, repression, demolition of civil society, creation of an atmosphere of fear have become tools to retain power instead of electoral support;

– the country’s legal system has demonstrated its inability to protect human rights and freedoms, complete dependence on the current government and has been actively involved in political repression;

– criminal and administrative persecution, arbitrary arrests, dismissals and expulsions have become the main tools for retaining power and repressing opponents, critics of the regime and dissidents;

– as of January 1, 2022, there are 969 political prisoners in Belarus, classified by the country’s leading human rights organizations in accordance with the Guidelines for the Definition of Political Prisoners. During the year, the number increased by 800 people. At the same time, more than 100 people earlier listed as political prisoners were released in 2021;

– Viasna knows the names of at least 1,285 persons convicted in politically motivated criminal trials in 2021;

– Viasna is aware of at least 6,443 detainees and at least 3,060 administrative fines imposed for exercising their rights and freedoms, of which 2,186 were terms of administrative imprisonment and 836 were administrative fines;

– last year, the authorities did not conduct a proper effective investigation into the deaths of peaceful protesters Aliaksandr Taraikouski, Henadz Shutau, Raman Bandarenka, Aliaksandr Vikhor and Vitold Ashurak;

– likewise, the authorities did not properly investigate about 5,000 complaints (including more than 100 from minors) requesting investigation and prosecution of perpetrators of torture and other ill-treatment of peaceful protesters and other acts of ill-treatment of peaceful protesters and other persons in police custody, including 680 allegations of torture committed in Minsk detention centers in the immediate aftermath of the August 2020 election, when thousands of detained protesters in Minsk and other cities were deliberately subjected to torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment. To date, more than 1,000 testimonies of torture victims have been documented by the Human Rights Center “Viasna”. Their analysis suggests that the acts of torture were widespread and systemic, and was an organized as a politically motivated punitive action by the authorities to intimidate Belarusian society;

– the authorities continue to actively repress journalists in connection with their professional activities: according to the BAJ, 32 journalists and media workers are currently imprisoned, 113 journalists have been detained, served 29 terms of administrative imprisonment, and subjected to 146 searches during the year;

– nearly all members of the Human Rights Center “Viasna” were subjected to various forms of repression during the year, including arrests and administrative imprisonment. Maryia (Marfa) Rabkova, coordinator of Viasna’s network of volunteers, Ales Bialiatski, chairman of Viasna, Valiantsin Stefanovich, member of the organization’s Board, Uladzimir Labkovich, lawyer and coordinator of “Human Rights Defenders for Free Elections”, and volunteer Andrei Chapiuk continued to be held in pre-trial detention on trumped-up charges. Leanid Sudalenka, head of Viasna’s branch in Homieĺ, and Tatsiana Lasitsa, a volunteer, were sentenced to three years and two and a half years in prison, respectively. Viasna’s human rights activists were searched at least 86 times and interrogated at least 146 times;

– the judiciary became an integral part of the process of repression, ignoring the standards of a fair trial; the bar has lost the features of an independent self-governing institution; lawyers operate under constant pressure, threats and harassment;

– Belarus continues to use the death penalty. One person was sentenced to death in 2021; three to five people were held on death row awaiting execution, at least one of whom was supposedly executed and two were pardoned;

– the political repression of 2021 is by a number of indicators the largest crackdown in the contemporary history of Belarus and testify to the profound crisis of human rights in the country, which led to the international isolation of Belarus and wide sanctions by the EU, the US and the UK. The only response of the authorities to the demands of political transformation in the country from the majority of Belarusian society is the intensification of repressions and the imitation of a nationwide dialogue on the so-called constitutional reform. This government policy continued to intensify the crisis and created preconditions for its further development.

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