CAHR condemns repression against Belarussian civil society and human rights defenders

News | Posted on Tuesday 10 August 2021

The Centre for Applied Human Rights condemns the most recent wave of searches and arrests of human rights defenders and journalists by Belarusian authorities that took place in July 2021.

Together with 160 other human rights organisations CAHR demands in a global letter in solidarity with the Belarusian civil society an end to the repression against the Human Rights Center ‘Viasna’ and other human rights organisations, defenders and journalists in Belarus. This repression is in retaliation for denouncing and documenting the ongoing human rights violations taking place since the crackdown of the peaceful protests after the August 2020 election.

Between 14-16 July 2021, more than 60 searches were conducted in homes and offices of Belarusian human rights defenders, including those of the Human Rights Centre Viasna, two member organisations of the International Committee for the Investigation of Torture in Belarus, Human Constanta and Legal Initiative, the Belarusian Helsinki Committee, the Belarusian Association of Journalists, the Legal Transformation Center LawTrend, and Ecodom among others. More than 30 people were interrogated, 13 of whom were detained for 72 hours, allegedly in relation to public order violations and tax evasion. The majority of those detained were subsequently released, including seven Viasna members; yet several of them face criminal charges and travel restrictions. However, three Viasna members including chairperson Ales Bialitsky remain detained, in addition to four other Viasna members who have been detained already since late 2020 or early 2021. Viasna is one of the most prominent human rights organisations in Belarus. It has been targeted by the authorities repeatedly over the past 20 years, but now the Belarusian authorities are attempting to stop the organisation’s work altogether by detaining seven of its core staff.

Human Rights Center Viasna member, human rights defender Andrei Paluda who coordinates the campaign “Human Rights Defenders against the Death Penalty in Belarus” was among the HRDs detained for 72 hours but subsequently released. He described the pre-trial detention conditions as “inhuman”.

Reiterating the demands in the global solidarity letter, CAHR condemns the massive human rights violations perpetrated by the Belarusian authorities; stands in solidarity with Belarusian colleagues and friends who are detained, harassed, and persecuted for their brave work; urges Belarusian authorities to stop the harassment and intimidation of critical voices, and to free all unjustly detained human rights defenders, journalists and activists; and calls on the international community to take a strong stance in support of the Belarusian human rights community.