Amnesty International urges Belarus to end repression against peaceful protestors
Amnesty International strongly condemns the current clampdown on the rights to freedom of expression and peaceful assembly in Belarus. The statement comes in response to reports from local human rights defenders claiming that over 150 people have been prosecuted and fined on “illegal protesting” charges, following their peaceful participation in protests in November and December 2019.
An initial wave of arrests took place during the parliamentary election campaign period in November, followed by more demonstrations in December after President Lukashenka announced plans to discuss the possibility of deeper integration between Belarus and Russia.
“Peaceful protestors, opposition parliamentary candidates and members of their campaign teams, as well as journalists and bloggers were arrested, and then sentenced to periods of administrative detention or fined, as penalties. One blogger, Ales Krutkin, was sentenced to 15 days’ administrative detention for simply posting a call to protest on Facebook,” Amnesty International said.
The second wave of arrests saw dozens of peaceful protestors being fined over USD 600 and/or sentenced to periods of administrative detention of between five and 15 days with some still serving sentences. Hearings continued throughout December and January and are ongoing in February with more sentences and fines expected.
The statement highlights the cases of blogger Dzmitry Kazlou and opposition politician Pavel Seviarynets who have been given a number of consecutive sentences of 15 days’ administrative detention.
“On 27 January, Dzmitry Kazlou was given his eighth consecutive sentence, bringing the total number of days of administrative detention to 120,” it stresses.
Others, such as civil society activist, Piotr Markelau, or parliamentary candidate, Stanislau Shashok, were arbitrarily denied access to their legal representatives for days following their arrest and detention.
“The rights to freedom of expression and to peaceful protest are freedoms that must be fully respected by the authorities in Belarus,” Amnesty International said. “The Belarusian authorities must immediately end all administrative proceedings against peaceful protestors. All those currently serving administrative detention sentences in connection with their attempt to exercise their rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and expression should be immediately and unconditionally released, and all fines issued to peaceful protestors should be immediately withdrawn.”