The wave of repression that followed the presidential elections of 19 December 2010, has lead to a dramatic decline in human rights and civil and political liberties in Belarus.
19 December 2010 – Hope for democratisation crushed
Over 700 were arrested in Minsk on 19 December and many underwent the trials. People were beaten during their arrests and stuffed into tiny prison cells in the Ministry of Internal Affairs, while criminal cases into the “unrest” were launched against several dozen people in a KGB pretrial detention center. During those first days after the election, seven presidential candidates were imprisoned. For more details see FIDH report Belarus: Restrictions on the Political and Civil Rights of Citizens Following the 2010 Presidential Election.
These mass administrative detentions and arrests were characterized by a wanton use of force, interrogations, and court proceedings conducted in gross violation of national procedures and laws, and international standards. Fabricated criminal charges in an environment of complete State control over the court system were followed by searches, interrogations, and a campaign of slander and fear against a wide range of civil and political activists. The scale, duration, and range of the repressions clearly show that this was not simply an isolated suppression, albeit especially harsh, but a sharp change in political course. The increasingly visible authoritarianism of the past 10 years has fostered the inevitable burgeoning isolation of a State located at the heart of Europe.
After the 2010 election, criminal cases for organizing and participating in mass unrest were brought against 38 political opposition activists, including seven candidates in the presidential election. Most were arrested on 19 and 20 December. A few months later some were released though denied the right to leave the city or transferred to house arrest. Others, after having endured long months of degrading and inhumane detention, were pardoned.
Let’s put an end to this… there will not be any more of this senseless democracy
- said President Lukashenko.
This prediction, or, more precisely, decree, quickly brought results: the repressive actions that swiftly followed were accompanied by a large-scale crackdown on civil society.
The Bitter Winter lasts
Belarusian civil society has been targeted by a violent crackdown on their legitimate functions since the 19 December 2010. President Lukashenko’s regime ramped-up repression against all political activists, journalists, lawyers, human rights defenders, trade unionists and activists who continue to fight for dignity and human rights.
Today, 11 individuals identified by us as political prisoners remain in behind bars. They suffer regular punishments that sharply exacerbate the already difficult conditions of their detention by restricting their means of support and the quality of their food and medical assistance. Deprived of meetings with relatives, and subjected to limits on correspondence and constant pressure to receive petitions for pardon, these psychological ordeals compound their physical hardships, qualifying their detention conditions as inhuman and degrading treatment.
We ourselves are guilty; primarily the government is guilty of this. By the eve of the presidential election, we had become so democratized that not only you, but also I, felt queasy. There was already so much democracy that we felt nauseous,
– President Alexander Lukashenko in an address to parliament and the Belarusian people on April 21, 2011.
Moreover, scores of “unimprisoned” Belarusian citizens are currently subject to severe restrictions imposed following prosecution in politically motivated criminal cases. Indeed, the convictions of 25 political prisoners pardoned or released early in 2011 to 2012 have not been expunged, depriving them of numerous civil and political rights, including the right to run in elections or work as government employees. Their names remain on “preventive watch” lists maintained by internal affairs agencies, making them vulnerable to regular police visits. If brought in on administrative charges three times in one year, they face “preventative supervision”. Such supervision carries more serious restrictions and makes repeated criminal prosecution and deprivation of freedom possible. Violating these regulations can entail repeat criminal prosecution and deprivation of freedom.