From the start of the election campaign in May to the end of the year, more than 33,000 individuals were detained, most of whom were later sentenced by courts to terms of administrative detention and heavy fines, HRC Viasna says in its analytical review of the human rights situation in Belarus in 2020.
According to the human rights defenders, the 2020 presidential election took place against the background of continuous repressions, including against direct participants in the presidential race; the election did not meet the standards of free and democratic elections, as they were marred by numerous violations of national electoral law and falsifications, and their official results did not correspond to the real will of the Belarusian people.
„It was public outrage at the official election results that led to mass demonstrations in Minsk and other Belarusian cities. Despite the predominantly peaceful nature of the rallies, they were attacked by Interior Ministry forces with disproportionate use of physical force, riot equipment and weapons. As a result of the actions of the security forces, hundreds of people were injured, with at least two demonstrators being killed (Alyaksandr Taraykouski and Henadz Shutau) and one detained protester dead as a result of untimely medical care (Alyaksandr Vikhor),” the document reads.
Thousands of detained protesters in Minsk and other cities were victims of targeted torture and other inhuman and degrading treatment.
“As of year-end, Viasna has documented more than 1,000 testimonies of torture victims. The analysis of these testimonies suggests that the acts of torture were widespread, systemic and well organised as a politically motivated punitive operation perpetrated by the authorities to intimidate Belarusian public,” the authors of the review stress.
In the post-election period criminal cases were instituted against more than 900 citizens; HRC Viasna knows the names of more than 650 people involved in criminal cases. 169 defendants were recognised as political prisoners by the Belarusian human rights community.
“The 2020 repressions are unprecedented for the entire history of Belarus and testify to the profound human rights crisis in the country, which has led to the international isolation of Belarus and repeated sanctions by the EU, the U.S. and the UK, The authorities’ only response of to the demands of political transformation in the country by the majority of the Belarusian society is the intensification of repressions and imitation of a national dialogue on the so-called constitutional reform. This policy only exacerbates the crisis and creates the preconditions for its further aggravation in the months to come,” the human rights activists believe.