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Australia must stand with Belarusian protesters, older people, women and children: Amnesty International

Belarusian president Alyaksandr Lukashenka
Belarusian president Alyaksandr Lukashenka. Image source: Amnesty International Australia

The ongoing detention, torture, and ill treatment of peaceful protestors in Belarus is a gross violation of human rights that cannot stand unopposed on the global stage.

In a series of reports and briefings, Amnesty International has documented gross human rights violations against Belarusian protesters, older people, women and children.

Since Belarus’ controversial presidential election in August 2020, tens of thousands of peaceful protestors have been detained, tortured, and some even killed. This surge in police violence, torture and other forms of ill treatment in custody has amassed victims of regime violence on an unprecedented scale across the country.

The people of Belarus continue to suffer severe violations of their human rights as a direct result of the regime’s ongoing sinister crackdown on all forms of dissent, real and imaginary.

As thousands of individuals gather to claim their rights and have their voices heard, Amnesty International is concerned about the broad impacts of the regime’s brutal crackdown on peaceful dissent:

  • There has been a consistent use of unlawful force by police and law enforcement officials against peaceful protesters and bystanders since the 2020 election. The state-sanctioned use of unlawful force has led to the deaths of several protestors, whose families are yet to see justice for their loved ones. Rigorous efforts to intimidate and silence victims (and witnesses) of such human rights violations are out-matched only by the pure scale at which these violations have occurred.
  • The inhumane treatment of children has been core to the Belarusian authorities’ increasingly desperate attempts to suppress dissent, as children are threatened with arbitrary arrest and years imprisonment. Weaponising child custody legislation is a particularly insidious strategy used by authorities to threaten and intimidate both children and their parents.
  • The clampdown on hundreds of artists and other cultural figures protesting the regime has taken the form of arbitrary detention and torture, beatings, criminal charges, and intimidation.
  • Women protestors in Belarus are subject to an additional dimension of abuse from guards and police officers, testifying to rampant patriarchal attitudes and persecution for representing gender equality issues.
  • The regime’s cruel treatment of older people participating in Belarusian protest movements has been a cause of particular distress across the country. The authorities have targeted older protestors involved in dissent actions, like Wisdom Marches, and detained these citizens under appalling conditions for weeks on end. Reports maintain that the medical needs of detainees suffering illnesses such as cancer, heart and lung conditions have been neglected, and no provisions have been made to protect older detainees from contracting COVID-19.

Amnesty International has written to Foreign Minister Marise Payne to ask her to encourage the Belarusian authorities to put an end to these human rights violations, and immediately release all people detained solely for exercising their rights to peaceful assembly and expression.

Read the letter.

Story source: Amnesty International Australia

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Benjamin Murdoch

Benjamin Murdoch is a student of international relations and journalism at Macquarie University. He is passionate about art, languages and writing, and is interested in global human rights and environmental issues. He has also done campaign work for a number of NGOs.

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