Two years after: Political prisoners are still behind bars, human rights violated
rights defenders describe the human rights situation in 2012 as "consistently
poor", just like it was back in 2011. The ongoing suppressing of civil and
political rights, administrative and criminal proceedings against the regime's
December 19, 2010 – the day of the presidential election – was the date that became a point of no return when mass arrests, torture in prisons and lawlessness on the part of security forces entered the life of Belarusians.
After the presidential election and the wave of arrests in Independence Square, the Human Rights Center "Viasna" released a statement regarding the violation of human rights of people in detention followed by disregard of the rights of those standing trials and those being held in detention centers and prisons.
On December 19 at least 30,000 peaceful protests marched from Kastrychnitskaya Square in Minsk towards the Government House in Independence Square. The march was followed by a meeting. Unknown persons whose actions were condemned by candidates attempted to break the door to the government building. This allowed the riot police in helmets with shields and truncheons to use excessive force and violence for the crackdown on the peaceful demonstrators. Protesters were badly beaten. Many protesters were taken to hospitals, more than 600 people were detained and later sentenced to administrative arrests or fines under Art. 23.34 of the Administrative Code – a violation of mass events procedures.
Among those detained were the presidential candidates Andrei Sannikau, Ryhor Kastusiou, Vital Rymasheuski, Mikalai Statkevich, their election agents, politicians, journalists, civil society leaders, as well as chairman of BHC, coordinator of the campaign "Human Rights Defenders for Free Elections" Aleh Hulak .
The actions of the police to disperse the demonstration were clearly disproportionate. The use of physical force and special equipment led to a large number of wounded among the peaceful protesters.
Shortly after the protest, the office of the HRC "Viasna" was raided by the police, resulting in 10 people being detained. The human rights defenders were however later released. Still, all the computer equipment was seized from the office. Later, a search was conducted in the office of "Charter'97." Opposition leaders were detained, too.
The number of detainees thus exceeded 700 persons.
The criminal case initiated by the KGB under Par. 1 and 2 of Art. 293 of the Criminal Code (“rioting”) was used exclusively for the long-term isolation of the democratic leaders of the opposition movement, as well as to pressure and intimidate independent civil society throughout the country, free journalists and the media, human rights defenders, and all dissidents in the country. The number of political prisoners in the country reached a record number during the period of 16 years of Lukashenka's rule. To date, five of them are still behind bars: Mikalai Statkevich, Pavel Seviarynets, Zmitser Dashkevich, Eduard Lobau and Vasil Parfiankou. Other political prisoners were released, having been forced to sign petitions for Lukashenka’s pardon. While in prison, they were subjected to physical and psychological torture.
Dozens of European organizations condemned the actions of the Belarusian authorities. On December 20, an open letter to the president of Belarus calling to release hundreds of protesters, journalists and politicians detained for the peaceful expression of their beliefs was signed by the members of the Human Rights House Network. Similar appeals were released by the human rights organization "Amnesty International", the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH), International Federation of Journalists, the human rights organization “Freedom House”, European Parliament’s President Jerzy Buzek, the governments of the U.S. and the EU.
The Committee of International Control over the Human Rights Situation in Belarus was deployed in Minsk, following a decision by a coalition of non-governmental organizations of the OSCE. The committee included some 30 international organizations: International Civil Initiative for the OSCE (ICI OSCE), the Moscow Helsinki Group – MHG (Russia), International Network "Freedom, Legality and Rights in Europe" (FLARE), International Youth Human Rights Movement etc.
Since 19 December 2010, the country has witnessed a sharp increase in the wave of politically motivated repression and human rights violations. There are numerous signs of a return of the Belarusian authorities to rigid and repressive methods against political parties, civil society, and independent media.