33 cultural figures unfairly imprisoned in Belarus, says report by PEN Belarus
During the first three months of 2021, there were 291 cases of human and cultural rights violations, says a report by PEN Belarus entitled "Monitoring of Violations of Human Rights in the Sphere of Culture". The number is nearly equivalent to half of the cases documented in 2020.
The repression and pressure on cultural workers, which manifested itself especially strongly starting in the 2nd half of 2020, is not weakening and is acquiring additional forms, the survey finds.
Among the 325 political prisoners in the country, as of late March, thirty-three were cultural workers. Another 4 cultural figures were sentenced to home confinement. In total, during the first three months of the year, 12 people were convicted in criminal cases. They were sentenced to up to 3 years of restricted freedom (“khimiya”) or up to 8 years in penal colonies.
The outlines the key trends of repression affecting cultural workers. These include detentions and interrogations of publishers, crackdown on art and event spaces, reprisals targeting stores selling national symbols, which the authorities blacklisted as "protest-related", and other forms of repression.
Of particular concern is the criminal case involving several activists of the Polish minority union. Following an event commemorating members of the Polish WWII anti-Nazi and post-war anti-Soviet resistance, four activists of the Union of Poles were arrested and charged with "rehabilitating Nazism."