Belarus on Hold: Crackdown on Post-election Protests – Joint report

© Nasta Zakharevich

This report summarises the findings of a monitoring mission to Minsk, the capital of Belarus, organised by Truth Hounds and International Partnership for Human Rights (IPHR) within the framework of the Civic Solidarity Platform (CSP) on 10-18 August 2020. It documents and investigates allegations of human rights violations perpetrated by Belarusian authorities in connection with the peaceful mass protests that followed the highly contested and charged presidential election that took place on 9 August.

The mission team gathered over 40 testimonies from victims and witnesses of human rights violations related to the post-election  protests, as  well  as  from observers such  as  journalists  and  human  rights  defenders. The mission team also drew on information from other credible sources, including material available in the public domain.

This reports shows that the response of the authorities to the post-election protests in Belarus has resulted in violations of key human rights standards. Major findings include:

  • The authorities have severely impinged upon the right to freedom of assembly, with law enforcement authorities and security forces violently dispersing peaceful protests and using excessive, unnecessary, and indiscriminate force against protesters. The evidence compiled by our mission also indicates that law enforcement authorities have used rubber bullets, flash grenades, stun guns and other less-lethal weapons against peaceful protesters with the apparent intention of harming them, as well as of intimidating and discouraging them from exercising their right to assemble peacefully.
  • The authorities have carried out arbitrary, indiscriminate and unlawful detentions of peaceful protesters, passers-by, as well as observers, in violation of the right to liberty and security of person. In addition to riot and regular police, plainclothes police officers with no signs of identification have played an active role in these round-ups.
  • People detained in connection with peaceful protests have been subjected to torture and other ill-treatment at the hands of law enforcement authorities. We have documented allegations of detainees being severely beaten; forced to assume stressful body positions for prolonged periods of time; intimidated and coerced into signing confessions and statements; subjected to sexual harassment and violence; and held in overcrowded detention cells and denied access to safe drinking water, food and adequate sanitary facilities. Detainees have also been denied access to medical treatment, including vital medication for chronic conditions.
  • The authorities have failed to safeguard the right to life of protesters, including by using excessive force against protesters and allowing enforced disappearances to take place. Violent interventions of law enforcement authorities have resulted in serious injuries and even fatalities among protesters, with several people reported to have died during protests, in detention or as result of enforced disappearances. The evidence compiled for this report shows that the authorities have failed to investigate allegations of enforced disappearances  and that they have deprived family members of disappeared persons of relevant information needed to ascertain the whereabouts of their loved ones.
  • The authorities have failed to comply with international standards guaranteeing fair trial and due process rights when putting protesters on trial. Many court hearings have been hastily convened and held behind closed doors inside detention facilities. This has prevented defendants from arranging for legal counsel and preparing their defence, while also preventing public scrutiny of the proceedings.
  • In violation of the right to freedom of expression, journalists and human rights defenders covering protests have been subjected to arbitrary and/or unlawful  detentions, intimidation and harassment, which appear to have been aimed at preventing them from documenting and publicising information about the harsh response of the authorities to the post-election protests.

Download the report here.