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Calm facade of Belarus conceals political repression

Calm facade of Belarus conceals political repression

As Russia’s aggression against Ukraine enters its third year, the Belarusian regime is maintaining control over the country and keeping its economy stable. Lukashenka’s efforts to mitigate the impact of international sanctions imposed on Belarus have been largely facilitated by the financial and economic aid from the Kremlin.

The Lukashenka regime is currently in the final stages of the political system reform. On 25 February 2024, the Single Voting Day, new parliament members and local representatives were elected. In the coming few months, a new institution, the All Belarusian People’s Assembly, will be established. Following the ban and dissolution of almost all political parties in 2023, the Belarusian regime permitted only three pro-government political parties to continue their activities after the re-registration: the Belarusian Communist Party, the Liberal Democratic Party, and the Republican Party of Labour and Justice. In addition, a new party, Belaya Rus, was formed, which likely will become the main pro-regime party in Belarus. All the four parties likely will be allowed to oppose each other, thus creating an illusion that Belarusian domestic political scene is undergoing a positive change. In reality, all opposition political parties have been dissolved and their members persecuted or imprisoned.

Repression of Belarusian citizens continues. Human rights organizations have recorded approximately 1,500 political prisoners in Belarus, including journalists, businesspeople, supporters of former presidential candidates, and participants of the 2020 protests against the Lukashenka regime. The Belarusian regime continues to persecute Belarusian citizens who participated in the 2020 protests or who express any form of opposition to the regime. Even sharing an opinion critical of the regime on social media is enough to trigger the regime’s reprisals.

Political prisoners are mistreated and tortured at imprisonment facilities. Human rights centre Viasna has obtained a testimony of one of the political prisoners sentenced to two and a half years in prison for participating in the 2020 protests and placed in the penal colony No. 17 in Shkloŭ. According to the former prisoner, he spent three weeks in a solitary confinement cell for a misdemeanour during his incarceration. He was forced to sleep on a wooden bed without any bedding. The temperature in the cell was maintained at a maximum of 10 degrees Celsius. In addition, the cell window remained open from 7 am to 2 pm, even when the outside temperature dropped below 0 degrees Celsius. During his time in the solitary confinement cell, the prisoner was denied the ability to shower and was prohibited from sleeping, reading or writing during the day. The former prisoner lost 17 kilograms of his weight during the imprisonment due to insufficient food.

The information on the condition of prominent opposition activists, including former presidential candidates Viktar Babaryka, Syarhei Tsikhanouski, Mikalai Statkevich, and Maryia Kalesnikava, is not available. No one is allowed to visit them, and they are denied the right to contact their families or lawyers.

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