The Right Livelihood Foundation strongly condemns crackdown on Belarusian human rights activists and organisations

The Right Livelihood Foundation deplores the recent reprisals against civil society in Belarus and, in particular, against members of Human Rights Center “Viasna,” a 2020 Right Livelihood Laureate. We condemn in the strongest terms the authorities’ latest desperate attempt to clamp down on dissent with mass raids and intimidation against human rights organisations. 

On Tuesday, February 16, 2021, a renewed crackdown against human rights defenders, journalists and civil society organisations took place in Belarus, where police carried out coordinated attacks across the country through office and house searches, as well as the harassment and detention of human rights defenders.

Belarusian authorities raided Viasna’s offices and seized laptops, documents, a phone and the video surveillance system. 2020 Right Livelihood Laureate Ales Bialiatski was later taken to his home for a search. During this one day, at least 40 activists, most of them affiliated with Viasna and the Belarusian Association of Journalists (BAJ), were either detained or targeted by the nation-wide police raids.

The raids are allegedly linked to a criminal case opened under Article 342 of the Belarusian Criminal Code in relation to “the organisation and preparation of actions that grossly violate the public order or active participation in them,” used to target activists and monitor peaceful mass protests.

“We are appalled by the blatant attacks and intimidation tactics used by Belarusian authorities to try to silence human rights defenders,” said Ole von Uexkull, Executive Director of the Right Livelihood Foundation. “The Right Livelihood Foundation stands with our Laureates Ales Bialiatski and Viasna. Supporting those continuing to stand for democracy and freedom in Belarus is more important than ever.”

In December 2020, 29 German and Swedish lawmakers, including German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas, demanded an end to the persecution of protesters and activists in Belarus. The lawmakers called on the government to ensure that protesters’ right to freedom of opinion and expression, assembly and association be respected in all circumstances, without any fear of reprisals.

We echo their calls and urge Belarus to uphold its international human rights obligations and refrain from stifling and intimidating dissenting voices and criminalising the legitimate work of human rights organisations. All those arbitrarily detained on groundless accusations must be promptly released.

Lastly, with a view to the upcoming 46th session of the UN Human Right Council, we urge Member States to thoroughly address the human rights situation in the country and ensure that those responsible for gross human rights violations are investigated and prosecuted.