Belarus: ARTICLE 19 calls for government to end post-election violence

Belarus: ARTICLE 19 calls for government to end post-election violence -

ARTICLE 19 is gravely concerned by the violent crackdown and use of force against the protests around the country by the Belarus Government, in the wake of last week’s hotly contested presidential election. Protesters, as well as independent and foreign journalists, have been attacked and arrested by the police during the last five days of mass demonstrations.

Head of Europe and Central Asia, Sarah Clarke said: 

“The authorities must end these brutal atrocities against their own people. The violence against demonstrators must stop and those who have been arrested should be released, including journalists, who have been attacked and detained for doing their job.

“The Belarusian people were denied their democratic rights at the polling stations and now the Government is going to any length to deny them their rights to speak out and protest.

“We call on the Government to end the violence, allow protesters and journalists to express their political beliefs, and protect freedom of expression in Belarus.”

Protests have been taking place since Sunday’s elections, which saw President Lukashenko re-elected for a sixth term. People took to the streets protesting that the elections were rigged. The police responded with force, firing rubber bullets, beating protestors and detaining those involved for participating in ‘unauthorised demonstrations’. Two people have died, including, 25 year old Alexander Vikhor. Hundreds more have been injured, and around 6,700 people have been detained, including at least 50 reporters and bloggers.

However, the protests have only increased as thousands of people in over 30 cities across Belarus have stood up against the police violence and many workers have come out on strike. There are fears that the Belarusian authorities will respond with further force, and may even send the army in. The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights has condemned the authorities’ violent response and called for the immediate release of everyone unlawfully detained.

Internet access disrupted

Since Sunday, there have been disruptions to the Internet, with social media and independent news websites being blocked. Over 50 human rights organisations have made an urgent appeal to the UN’s Special Rapporteurs on freedom of expression, freedom of assembly and association, and human rights. The groups have urged the Rapporteurs to request information from the Belarusian government about the disruptions and how it will remedy this violation of international human rights law. They have also called for the Government to end its arbitrary interference with the right to freedom of expression online, including the right to seek and provide information.

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