The fraudulent August 2020 presidential election in Belarus resulted in massive, country-wide protests. They were met with excessive force by Belarusian security forces and increasing repression by the country’s Alyaksandr Lukashenka regime. Since then, human rights NGOs estimate that the regime has detained over 40,000 people and issued politically-motivated charges for their involvement in the peaceful, pro-democracy movement. Opposition candidates and their associates were arrested on false charges or forcibly exiled. At least eight members of Viasna, Belarus’s leading human rights organization that has been documenting human rights violations following the election, were arrested and remain unjustly detained. So far, two Viasna staff or volunteers were tried in closed-door proceedings and sentenced to prison. In March 2021, Belarusian authorities opened a politically-motivated criminal case against Viasna.
Today, the Lukashenka regime holds more than 1,000 political prisoners. These are people from all walks of life who suffer for exercising their rights to freedom of expression, association, and peaceful assembly.
“Many of these prisoners – and those who have been previously held and released, as well as those forced to flee the country – have been subjected to reprehensible conditions,” said Secretary Blinken. “Harsh treatment, including torture, in prisons and detention facilities has been extensively documented. Some political prisoners suffer from serious illnesses and disabilities and have been denied necessary qualified medical care or deliberately abused to worsen their conditions. They often are unable to find adequate legal representation due to the regime’s reprisals against defense lawyers. Dozens of lawyers have been stripped of their law licenses – and sometimes jailed themselves – because they dared to represent prisoners or opposition figures.”
The United States “will continue to work for justice for victims and accountability for perpetrators,” said Secretary of State Antony Blinken, calling on the Lukashenka regime to immediately and unconditionally release all political prisoners. He noted that this is a necessary step for Belarus to emerge from its political crisis.
“We call on Belarus to meet its commitments as a participating state of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe and its international legal obligations to respect human rights and fundamental freedoms,” said Secretary Blinken.
“We stand with the people of Belarus as they seek a future based on the rule of law and accountable, democratic government.”