Viasna human rights defenders statement on the occasion of Political Prisoner Day
Today, on Political Prisoner's Day in Belarus, we, Viasna human rights defenders, note the following:
In a situation of profound legal crisis following the 2020 presidential election in Belarus, criminal and administrative persecution of protesters and dissidents has become the main tool of politically motivated repression.
The Human Rights Center Viasna emphasizes the number of politically motivated court rulings, each of which demonstrates the arbitrariness of the authorities on the one hand, and the tragedy of the convicted persons, their families and relatives, and the entire democratic society on the other. Persecution of all opponents of the authorities, brutality, and threats leave no room for the idea of national reconciliation and no hopes for a change of the state's policy.
Law-enforcement agencies and courts are intolerant to different points of view on the processes taking place in the country; they have became instruments of systematic, widespread, regular persecution of dissenters.
Thousands of criminal cases, initiated after the Presidential elections, more than 2,000 politically motivated sentences, and more than 1,200 political prisoners recognized by the human rights community - this is how the authorities responded to a mostly peaceful protest against falsified election results, mass torture, and acts of ill-treatment, to anti-war actions, launched following the military aggression against sovereign Ukraine unleashed by the Russian Federation and supported by the Belarusian authorities.
Arbitrary and disproportionate persecution of opposition is accompanied by unprecedented brutality, torture, and acts of inhuman and degrading treatment of detained and imprisoned people. Basic human rights–the right to life and humane treatment–are violated.
Women and children as well as people with disabilities and impaired health became victims of politically motivated persecution. It should be emphasized that for many, the loss of health was the result of inhumane treatment during detention and criminal prosecution. It is not only political prisoners, but also their husbands and wives, children, and other relatives and friends who suffer.
In such circumstances, we have a duty to remember the political prisoners and others whose names are still unknown to the public, who have fallen under repression for the peaceful exercise of their civil and political rights, the protection of their rights and freedoms, and who have faced violations of the basic principles of a fair trial. Their release must remain among the priority goals of a democratic society.
In this regard, we remind the Belarusian authorities of our demands for the release of political prisoners, the review of all politically motivated cases, an end to the persecution of citizens for the peaceful exercise of their political and civil rights, for their protection from violations and for their rehabilitation, and we strongly protest the continued policy of repression and human rights violations.
We also continue to demand the effective investigation of all protest-related deaths and torture, acts of cruel, inhuman, degrading treatment, and the identification and prosecution of those responsible.