Today IPHR released the results of a joint investigation into the heavy-handed government response to peaceful protests across Belarus in February-March 2017. The report, which has been prepared together with Truth Hounds (Georgia/Ukraine) and is issued in the framework of the Civic Solidarity Platform (CSP), concludes with recommendations to the Belarusian authorities and international policy makers. The organizations closely cooperated with the Belarusian Human Rights Centre Viasna, another CSP member.
The protests brought together several thousand people, who peacefully voiced their discontent with the government’s economic and social policies. Many were ordinary citizens, not associated with opposition or civil society groups.
The Belarusian authorities dealt with the demonstrations in a violent, heavy-handed way, resulting in the largest clampdown on dissent in Belarus since December 2010. Policing strategies included pre-emptive actions such as restriction of access to protests sites, detaining and marginalizing civil society activists and generally preventing people from mobilizing. Police also used ill-treatment and excessive force against demonstrators, observers and passers-by. At least 941 activists and observers were subjected to arbitrary detention, often using excessive force. While most people were released without charge, hundreds were sentenced to periods of administrative arrest of up to 15 days, including political leaders and activists, local and international human rights defenders and at least 73 journalists and photographers. The authorities also initiated criminal proceedings against 32 individuals following allegations by security agencies about an alleged plot to use armed violence during the protests.
The report The Cost of Speaking Out: Overview of human rights abuses committed by Belarusian authorities during peaceful protests in February-March 2017 can be downloaded here.
A shorter policy paper with preliminary mission findings, published on 10 May 2017, can be accessed here.