Amnesty International: Belarus authorities targeting minors to clamp down on dissent

The Belarusian authorities are resorting to threats, harassment and prosecution of children in an increasingly desperate attempt to suppress dissent, Amnesty International recalls ahead of the six-month anniversary on 9 February of the start of protests in the country.

Some children are facing years in prison, while others live in fear that their parents will be imprisoned, or that they will be placed in state care, the human rights watchdog stressed.

“Children as young as eight have been threatened in schools with reprisals against their politically active parents. One of the most insidious forms of harassment and intimidation is the threat to exploit legislation to remove children from families and place them in state care – effectively making them hostages of the government,” Aisha Jung, Amnesty International’s Senior Campaigner on Belarus, said.

AI’s #StandWithBelarus campaign was launched on 27 January with the publication of a report revealing how the Belarusian authorities have weaponiaed the justice system to punish victims of torture rather than perpetrators.

Teenager describes police brutality and torture after peaceful protests in Brest

Last week, a Homiel court sentenced a 15-year-old teenager to two years in a special closed educational facility. The resident of the Belarusian town of Dobrush was an administrator of the Telegram channel Data of Punishers of Belarus, where the personal data of officers who reportedly used violence against peaceful protesters were published. The minor might become the youngest political prisoner in Belarus.

On September 14, the Prosecutor General’s Office of Belarus announced that parents would be punished for their children’s taking part in ‘unauthorised mass events’, and the minors might be taken away from their families. The parental responsibility for ‘illegal’ behaviour of their kids is to be increased in severity, Deputy Prosecutor General Alyaksei Stuk warned.

“The competent authorities’s activity aimed at holding [parents] accountable for involving their children – especially minors – in illegal gatherings has been recognised as insufficient,” Stuk stressed.

The Belarusian authorities have repeatedly threatened journalist Larysa Shchyrakova, a Belsat TV contributor and single mother, to take away her 13-year-old son. When she was detained and interrogated amid the post-election protests in the country, the police said the boy might be sent to orphanage.

Teenager in intensive care unit after police interrogation, following