President Lukukashenko is tightening his authoritarian grip over Belarus

ISHR, 01 July 2021

The forced landing of a Ryanair flight on Sunday 23 May 2021 has put Belarusian president Alexander G. Lukashenko in a new global spotlight. The plane that was travelling from the Greek capital Athens to Vilnius, Lithuania was forced to land in the Belarusian capital Minsk by military jets, where Roman Protasevich, a 26-year-old dissident journalist and political activist was captured and detained. This incident marks a new quality of Belarusian authoritarian repression that has already intensified substantially since August 2020, when Belarusians were met with violent police crackdown while protesting controversial election results that put Lukashenko back into office.

The detention of Protasevich is one of many measures being taken by the Lukashenko’s authoritarian regime to clamp down on civil and human rights. Presidential candidates have been silenced, election results falsified and state violence has been used to silence peaceful protesters. There are also continued large waves of arrests, nationwide raids, elimination of the independent media, democratic non-governmental organizations and their contacts with the outside world. The juridical system is entirely taken over by the executive, which is manifesting through further license withdrawals in the independent legal profession, show trials, and convictions in the absence of the accused. In prisons, human rights are deeply disregarded, e.g. by torture through solitary confinement in dark solitary cells or even manslaughter through massive use of force by state officers. The stability of the state apparatus, without which these massive national human rights violations could not take place, must be weakened. For human and political reasons, there is an urgent need for concerted action by the EU:

  • The instrument of European economic and financial sanctions (Swift) to weaken the economy must be used where it cannot be intercepted by other support states of the injustice regime. A special commission made up of economic experts urgently needs to be set up for this purpose. Weaknesses in the European companies affected must be compensated for.
  • At the same time, Belarusian migrants must be taken in on a large scale in a European network together with the neighboring countries of Lithuania, Ukraine and Poland.
  • Oppositionists (including hundreds of political prisoners that bear in custody for nearly one year now!) still existing in the country and the numerous groups in exile must be given massive support and brought together.
  • European civil society needs to be better informed about human rights violations in Belarus and the fate of political prisoners. Projects, campaigns and events related to this must be funded by the state.

The International Society for Human Rights (ISHR) is continuously supporting political opponents, journalists and activists and advocating for them by raising international awareness to their situation. Find more information on our Website on different topics in the area of human rights in Belarus, e.g. about the imprisoned journalist Syarhei Pyatrukhin and activist Alexander Kordyukov and the murder of Gennady Shutov. ISHR also joined an open letter of 50 NGOs of 18 countries towards Nestlé, demanding the immediate stop of financing Belarusian state media.

You can make a huge difference by writing letters to the political prisoners. Find more information here.