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  • Amnesty International: Belarus authorities used torture, ill-treatment against detainees, but no police officer charged yet

    On April 7, the Amnesty International organisation published its 2020/2021 report on the state of the human rights in the world; it covers 149 countries and delivers a comprehensive analysis of human rights trends globally in 2020.

    The authors describe the cur­rent sit­u­a­tion in Belarus on four pages of the report.

    “The year was char­ac­ter­ized by recur­rent peace­ful protests, with the pres­i­den­tial elec­tion in August serv­ing as a cat­a­lyst for the most egre­gious crack­down on free­doms of expres­sion, peace­ful assem­bly and asso­ci­a­tion in Belarus’ post-inde­pen­dence his­to­ry. Oppo­si­tion can­di­dates, their cam­paign teams and asso­ciates were arrest­ed on false charges or forcibly exiled. Police used exces­sive and indis­crim­i­nate force to dis­perse demon­stra­tions,” the doc­u­ment reads.

    Accord­ing to the human rights watch­dog, the right to free­dom of expres­sion was severe­ly cur­tailed in an attempt to curb all oppo­si­tion and dis­sent, includ­ing through the tar­get­ing of indi­vid­u­als and media out­lets, egisla­tive changes, admin­is­tra­tive pres­sure and the use of tech­ni­cal means such as inter­net black­outs.

    “The Belaru­sian author­i­ties sys­tem­at­i­cal­ly used tor­ture and oth­er ill-treat­ment against peo­ple detained dur­ing protests, includ­ing par­tic­i­pants, jour­nal­ists and bystanders. Local and inter­na­tion­al groups doc­u­ment­ed hun­dreds of cas­es across the coun­try. UN human rights experts received 450 tes­ti­monies of ill-treat­ment of detainees sup­port­ed by pho­to, video and med­ical evi­dence, doc­u­ment­ing a hor­rif­ic litany of abus­es. They describe how pro­test­ers were tor­tured and ill-treat­ed dur­ing arrest, trans­porta­tion and deten­tion in severe­ly over­crowd­ed facil­i­ties. Pro­test­ers were humil­i­at­ed, bru­tal­ly beat­en, sub­ject­ed to sex­u­al vio­lence, includ­ing against women and minors, and deprived of access to food, clean water and med­ical care dur­ing lengthy peri­ods of deten­tion. Detainees were also denied the right to inform their rel­a­tives of their where­abouts, in some instances for the entire peri­od of ‘admin­is­tra­tive arrest’, and denied access to their lawyers. Parcels and let­ters were with­held, and warm clothes and hygiene prod­ucts were con­fis­cat­ed includ­ing for men­stru­at­ing women,” the authors stressed.

    The Belaru­sian author­i­ties admit­ted receiv­ing some 900 com­plaints of abuse by police in con­nec­tion with the protests, but by the end of the year not a sin­gle crim­i­nal inves­ti­ga­tion had been opened, nor had any law enforce­ment offi­cer been charged with respec­tive vio­la­tions, Amnesty Inter­na­tion­al experts added.

    On 9 August, the large-scale protests start­ed in the coun­try on the back of announc­ing the pre­lim­i­nary results of the 2020 pres­i­den­tial elec­tion; the major demands of Belaru­sians were Alyak­sndr Lukashen­ka’s res­ig­na­tion; hold­ing a free and fair elec­tion; releas­ing polit­i­cal pris­on­ers; putting an end to police vio­lence as well as bring­ing to jus­tice those involved in bat­ter­ing and tor­tur­ing peace­ful demon­stra­tors. There are sev­er­al deaths that are linked to the post-elec­tion protests. As of 7 April, 337 per­sons have been recog­nised as polit­i­cal pris­on­ers by the Belaru­sian human rights com­mu­ni­ty.

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