Belarus: Older people impacted by state repression

2021 2021-03-30T13:21:30+0300 2021-03-30T13:21:30+0300 en The Human Rights Center “Viasna” The Human Rights Center “Viasna”
The Human Rights Center “Viasna”
Credit: Amnesty International

Credit: Amnesty International

The Belarusian authorities have endangered the health of older protesters who are at higher risk from COVID-19 by transporting them in overcrowded police buses and incarcerating them in packed prison cells, Amnesty International said today. In a new briefing, the organization documented the arrest and ill treatment of dozens of older people who took part in peaceful protests, including one 83-year-old man who was made to stand facing a wall for 90 minutes with his arms raised.

“People of all ages have taken part in protests against the increasingly repressive regime of Alyaksandr Lukashenka. And irrespective of age, the Belarusian authorities have responded with the same violence. The treatment of peaceful protesters has been appalling across the board, and the manhandling of people in their 80s shows again how disproportionate the police response has been,” said Tatiana Movshevich, Amnesty International’s Regional Campaigner on Belarus.

“Amnesty International received reports of older people suffering from illnesses, including cancer and heart and lung conditions, being ill-treated and arbitrarily detained for weeks. This raises particular concerns given that older people are at increased risk of serious complications from COVID-19, especially considering that the Belarusian authorities have not taken adequate steps to minimize the risk of infection of detainees.”

Many older people in Belarus have organized their own marches of solidarity with peaceful protesters, known as Marches of Wisdom.

On 20 December 2020, 83-year-old Yanka (name changed for security reasons) was walking on his own holding a small flag bearing a historic Belarusian coat of arms, one of the symbols of protests. Yanka told Amnesty International that he was crudely grabbed and dragged into a police car by three police officers. In the police station Yanka was made to stand facing the wall with his hands up for an hour and a half.

“A few steps away from me another detainee stood facing the wall. I showed him a hand sign and whispered: “Long Live Belarus.” He quietly replied: “Live Forever.” A few hours later I was released. I don’t know what happened to that man,” Yanka told Amnesty International.

Amnesty International’s global solidarity campaign, #StandWithBelarus, highlights how different sectors of Belarusian society are being impacted by the crackdown on protests. The Belarusian authorities have weaponized the justice system to punish survivors of torture rather than perpetrators, and subjected women to sexist abuse.

“We call for solidarity with the people of Belarus as their rights continue to be systematically crushed,” said Tatiana Movshevich.

“The scythe of state repression in Belarus cuts down everyone in its path – young and old, men and women. We reiterate our call on world leaders to take meaningful action to protect the people of Belarus, and to stand up to this horrifying assault on human rights and lives.”

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