In recent years, the human rights situation in Belarus has deteriorated significantly, with an alarming increase in violations and repression by the government. This article will provide an overview of the recent increase in human rights violations in Belarus, drawing from multiple sources.
Increase in Political Repression
According to the U.S. Department of State’s 2022 Country Reports on Human Rights Practices for Belarus, the government of Belarus has been criticized for its human rights violations and persecution of non-governmental organizations, independent journalists, national minorities, and opposition politicians. The report highlights the crackdown on dissent and the targeting of human rights defenders, journalists, activists, and other individuals perceived to disagree with the official agenda.
The Belarusian government has been known for its authoritarian ruling style, and Western countries have described Belarus under President Alexander Lukashenko as “Europe’s last dictatorship”. The government has been accused of carrying out a widespread and systematic crackdown on dissent, which has led to the imprisonment and persecution of political prisoners, human rights defenders, and activists.
Crackdown on Freedom of Expression and Press Freedom
Freedom of expression in Belarus has been severely restricted, with independent journalists and media outlets facing increasing pressure and harassment. Reporters Without Borders ranks Belarus below all other European countries in its Press Freedom Index. State media in Belarus are subordinate to the president, and independent media are subjected to censorship and harassment.
Belarusian authorities have targeted independent journalists and media outlets, using various charges, including defamation, to prosecute and silence them. The authorities have blocked websites, detained journalists, and imposed restrictions on media organizations. The crackdown on freedom of expression has created an information void, with independent news outlets and journalists facing repression and censorship.
Suppression of Civil Society and Freedom of Association
The Belarusian government has launched a campaign against civil society organizations, targeting NGOs and human rights groups. In July 2021, the authorities liquidated at least 270 non-governmental organizations, including all previously registered human rights organizations in the country. This crackdown has severely curtailed freedom of association and impeded the work of human rights defenders and activists.
The government has been accused of using arbitrary charges of “extremism” and “terrorism” to shut down organizations. Independent civil society organizations, including trade unions, have faced harassment, arbitrary arrests, and restrictions on their activities. The crackdown on civil society has further limited the space for dissent and advocacy in Belarus.
Violations of Freedom of Assembly
Peaceful protests in Belarus have been met with excessive force and violence from law enforcement officials. During the August 2020 protests that followed a disputed presidential election, thousands of individuals were subjected to mass, arbitrary detentions, and the use of excessive force. Human rights organizations have documented widespread and gross human rights violations by Belarusian authorities in the aftermath of the 2020 elections.
The authorities have used trumped-up charges to prosecute and imprison participants of the protests, including opposition figures and activists. Trials have been routinely unfair, and those convicted have faced harsh sentences. The justice system has been widely abused to suppress dissent and imprison government critics.
International Response and Sanctions
The international community has condemned the human rights violations in Belarus and imposed sanctions on Belarusian officials responsible for repression and abuses. The European Union and the United States have imposed personal sanctions on Belarusian government officials responsible for political repressions, forced disappearances, propaganda, and electoral fraud. These sanctions aim to hold accountable those involved in human rights violations and advocate for the respect of human rights in Belarus.
As Rights Defenders, we consider the recent increase in human rights violations in Belarus to be extremely worrying. The government’s crackdown on dissidents, freedom of expression, freedom of the press, civil society, and assembly leads to the imprisonment and persecution of those who dare to speak out against the regime. The international community should continue to monitor the situation and impose sanctions on those responsible for violations. It is very important to keep the spotlight on Belarus and advocate for respect for human rights in the country.
- U.S. Department of State: 2022 Country Reports on Human Rights Practices: Belarus
- Wikipedia: Human rights in Belarus
- Amnesty International: Human rights in Belarus
- The Independent: 2 journalists are detained in Belarus as part of a crackdown
- EEAS: Belarus: EU adopts new round of individual sanctions
- Beata Zawrzel/NurPhoto via Getty Images