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Ongoing Repression In Belarus

Belarusian plain clothes policemen detain Zmitser Dashkevich, center, opposition youth movement leader, during a protest action in downtown Minsk, Belarus, in this file photo from March 15, 2005.

This month marks the 2nd anniversary of the Belarusian Government’s brutal crackdown on civil society.

This month marks the 2nd anniversary of the Belarusian Government’s brutal crackdown on civil society, the democratic opposition, and independent media.

Ongoing Repression In Belarus
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The United States calls for the immediate and unconditional release of all political prisoners, including Zmister Dashkevich and Ales Bialiatski.

Mr. Dashkevich is an opposition activist and leader of the youth opposition movement Young Front. He was convicted in March 2011 for participating in peaceful protests following the December 2010 presidential elections. In August 2012, a court added an additional year to Mr. Dashkevich’s two-year sentence for ”repeatedly disobeying orders” of the administration of the penal colony. Belarusian and international human rights groups have called both sentences politically motivated.

According to a Belarusian human rights group, Mr. Dashkevich [dah-shkye-vich] has been subjected to repeated threats of physical violence, including rape and murder, by the administration of the penal colony as well as verbal abuse and arbitrary punishments, such as restrictions on meetings with his family.

The United States is also concerned with the detention and mistreatment of Ales Bialiatski, head of Viasna, the Belarusian human rights center. Mr. Bialiatski was arrested on politically-motivated tax evasion charges in August 2011 and later sentenced to four and a half years in prison. In recent months, Mr. Bialiatski has been prohibited from meeting with relatives and has been held in almost complete isolation.

Members of the media also continue to suffer abuses at the hands of the Belarusian Government. Independent journalists in Belarus are routinely subject to harassment, intimidation, violence, and detention by authorities for their professional activities, particularly their coverage of the efforts of democratic activists and anti-government protests.

In September, international wire service reporters covering a protest rally in Minsk were assaulted, detained for two hours without charge, and had their video and photo images erased. The United States renews its call on the Government of Belarus to cease harassment of those exercising their right to free expression.

The United States regrets that the Government of Belarus has followed a path of self-isolation by repressing its own people. The way to reverse this course is for Belarus to release and rehabilitate all political prisoners unconditionally and without delay, and to respect the human rights of all Belarusians.