Press release

Belarus: Freedom House Condemns Sweeping Attack on Human Rights Defenders, Civil Society Groups

The regime continues to terrorize the nation by targeting its bravest citizens who, despite the high risk of political persecution, remain committed to serving Belarusians and improving their country.

In response to office raids and the arrests of dozens of human rights defenders and activists across Belarus, Freedom House issued the following statement:

“We strongly condemn the continuing attempts to use force to destroy independent civil society in Belarus,” said Marc Behrendt, director of Europe and Eurasia programs at Freedom House. “Determined to stifle all types of dissent, the regime continues to terrorize the nation by targeting its bravest citizens who, despite the high risk of political persecution, remain committed to serving Belarusians and improving their country. We demand that Belarusian authorities immediately put an end to this assault and release all human rights defenders and activists, and we call on the international community to take joint action in support of Belarusian civil society.” 

Background: 

On July 14, Belarusian security forces raided at least 21 civil society organizations, searching houses, seizing documents, and arresting dozens of leading human rights defenders and activists. A day earlier, during his meeting with Russian president Vladimir Putin, Alyaksandr Lukashenka threatened nonprofit and nongovernmental organizations (NGOs), as well as foreign media outlets, claiming that they engaged in terror under the guise of spreading democracy.

The attacks followed a wave of unscheduled inspections by the Ministry of Justice and shutdowns of dozens of civic groups earlier this month, as well as searches of multiple independent media outlets and arrests of journalists and media workers. Several of those arrested are now counted on a list of 563 current political prisoners maintained by the Viasna Human Rights Center, a Belarusian NGO.

Belarus is rated Not Free in Freedom in the World 2021 and Not Free in Freedom on the Net 2020. It is assessed as a Consolidated Authoritarian Regime in Nations in Transit 2021.