Belarus: Arrests, death penalty, crackdown on protests. Belsat TV journo in AI report

Amnesty International has released the 2017/2018 annual report on the state of the world’s human rights in 159 countries and territories.

According to the watchdog, Belarusian authorities have a record of human rights abuses.

“After several years with no large protests, mass demonstrations took place in February and March against a tax on the unemployed, introduced by a Presidential Decree in 2015. The authorities clamped down on the protests <…> Between February and April, over 900 people were arrested in connection with the protests, including political activists who were prevented from attending the protests and journalists,” the document reads.

One person was executed and four were sentenced to death in Belarus.

“We know about four death sentences delivered in 2017. We got wind of one of them much later, in 2018,” Valyantsin Stefanovich, a lawyer at the Belarus-based Human Rights Centre Viasna, says.

AI reveals the details of the case of 23-year-old Dzmitry Paliyenka who received the two-year suspended sentencefor purportedly assaulting a police officer during a peaceful cyclists’ protest in Minsk in April 2016. The organization recognised him as a prisoner of conscience. It also recalls that more than 100 print, radio and TV journalists and bloggers, including Belsat TV contributors were arrested for not having obtained accreditation, which lead to fines and administrative detention of between five and 15 days.

“Journalist Larysa Shchyrakova, from the city Homel in southeastern Belarus, was arrested and fined repeatedly for reporting on protests. She reported that police warned her that she could be found “socially irresponsible” if she committed further administrative offences and that her 11-yearold son might be placed in a children’s home,” Amnesty International stresses.

Human rights are not limited to the freedom of expression and assembly; the issue of forced labor is very acute in Belarus as well. And it is not only the notorious decree Nr3 which the authorities had to make amendments to after the protests.

“All the elements of forced labor remain, they are widely used. I am referring to our occupational therapy detox centres, works that are voluntary in theory but compulsory in practice and so on. The International Labour Organization has already paid attention to these facts,” Stefanovich says.

In addition, there are violations to which foreigners pay less attention to, e.g. the further discrimination of the Belarusian language. According to Stefanovich, even in the Soviet times, our native language had more rights than in Lukashenka’s Belarus.

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