Ales Bialiatski – Exposing Tyranny in Belarus
The head of the Belarusian human rights center spoke about the protest movement in the country and the repressions of the Lukashenka regime
In August 2020, the Belarusian authorities converted a medical and labor dispensary near Slutsk into a camp for those detained during the protests. Although it existed for several days, its appearance shocked human rights defenders. According to them, some of the arrested were sent there when there was not enough space in Minsk to keep people..
“We then perceived this information as a lack of places. So they decided, so to speak, to place the prisoners in the LTP, released him, quickly removed from there those people who had been held there before the elections, and put political prisoners there. But we could not even imagine that literally in three days a concentration camp for political opponents of Lukashenka was actually set up there. As the territory was cleared, new fences were erected, the camp began to be guarded by the army unit from the outside. There were internal troops inside, along with dogs, special equipment, ”the head of the Belarusian human rights center“ Viasna ”told the Russian service of the Voice of America. Ales Bialiatsky.
In the period from 2011 to 2014, Ales Bialiatski, recognized by international organizations as a prisoner of conscience, was imprisoned in a Belarusian prison on a falsified charge. For his contribution to the fight for human rights in Belarus, he was included in the list of nominees for the Nobel Peace Prize.
Former US Ambassador and now Atlantic Council expert John Herbst notes: the existence of such a camp is a violation of human rights.
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Belarusian authorities set up a camp to contain protesters
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“If the camp was created specifically for demonstrators for a specific attitude towards them, then there is a separate term for this – a concentration camp. This would be a separate violation of human rights. If it was a temporary measure, the Belarusian authorities committed a violation anyway. The existence of such camps is evidence that Lukashenka is worried that his tough measures are not tough enough, ”the American diplomat said..
The sources cited by the journalists note that the camp was designed for two thousand people. On August 15, the people who were held in it were released en masse, and the camp itself was quickly dismantled..
The head of the human rights center “Viasna” Ales Bialiatski notes: although the camp was closed a few days later, the situation itself is of great concern.
“We compared and compare it with what happened in Chile, Argentina in the 70s, in the 80s, where people were kept in stadiums. In Belarus, this topic, it seems to me, is not yet closed. By the way the mass of courts are happening now – literally every day there are 10-12 different trials against political opponents of Lukashenka and peaceful demonstrators, activists, members of headquarters, youth who protested against falsification of elections. And now hundreds of political prisoners are in prisons. Now they are mostly in jail, and the period is coming that after the trials a significant part of them will be convicted, these people will go to colonies, ”the human rights activist says..
According to him, more than a thousand people are being held in criminal cases related to mass and peaceful protests, political public activity..
“More than 500 people are now in pre-trial detention centers, several hundred more are under recognizance not to leave at home, and are awaiting trial or are participating in trials. – says Ales Bialiatski. – The court conveyor is constantly running. Approximately half of the people are sent to penal colonies, the other half receive non-custodial sentences. Virtually not a single acquittal. Now the courts are actively underway, and these are sometimes group courts. For example, 10 people at once for gross violation of public order “.
Human rights defenders are also concerned about the future of the convicted demonstrators – it is unclear which colonies and prisons they will be sent to.
“I myself was in one of the colonies, but I was one political prisoner for the entire colony for two thousand people. It is not known whether special units will be created in each of them, or whether their people will be distributed among different units. Or they will make one special colony, as we have, for example, a colony for people associated with drugs, or it will be such a political colony as in the old Soviet times. I think the decision lies ahead of us, but in the coming months it is very possible that we will have such a political colony. “.
Ales Bialiatski adds: in the current situation, international pressure is important. He hopes that the US policy towards Belarus will be more decisive and clear.
“There are opportunities for more US support for the opposition in Belarus, opportunities for more decisive American action against Lukashenka if he continues to take tough measures to combat the demonstrators, and perhaps even if he simply continues the current level of repression, as well as against Moscow. if she decides to help Lukashenka deal with the demonstrators, ”says John Herbst .
In the spring, with the approach of such significant dates as “Freedom Day” and the anniversary of the Chernobyl disaster, which the opposition traditionally celebrates with mass rallies, observers predict an intensification of protests. And the question of how the Belarusian authorities will behave in the future worries human rights defenders not only inside the country, but also abroad..
Ales Bialiatski adds: despite the fact that unmotivated arrests of people continue, he sees no fear in society before the actions of the Belarusian authorities.
Journalist. Graduated from the Taras Shevchenko National University of Kyiv. He has worked on Channel 1 + 1 and Channel 5, on the Voice of America since 2014, and was one of two Voice of America correspondents covering the 2018 Russian presidential elections from Moscow. He pays attention to the topic of US-Ukrainian and US-Russian relations. Actively covered the case of Paul Manafort and Maria Butina.
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