Belarus crackdown leaves human rights, minorities exposed


Flashback: March of Justice, Minsk, Belarus, in September 2020. PHOTO/Andrew Keymaster/Unsplash

There will soon be no one left to defend human rights or help minorities in Belarus as the country’s third sector moves closer to “complete liquidation”, international rights groups have warned.

Belarus’s authoritarian president, Alexander Lukashenko, has stepped up his regime’s crackdown on any potential opposition in recent weeks, ordering the closure of scores of NGOs, claiming they are being run by foreign entities fomenting the destabilisation of the country.

As of mid-August, more than 60 civil society groups had been shuttered, including not just human rights organisations but some promoting women’s rights, helping the disabled, and working with people who have HIV/AIDS.

This comes amid a wider crackdown on independent media and pro-democracy activists which began a year ago after mass protests following Lukashenko’s re-election in a widely disputed election.

Heather McGill, a researcher for Amnesty International, told IPS: “We are close to the liquidation of the third sector. There is hardly anyone left in Belarus to provide help to people that need it. There won’t be any groups left in Belarus to protect anyone, or defend their rights.”

Belarussian civil society has come under increasing pressure over the last year as authorities in the country have moved to repress any possible opposition to the regime.

Not only have many organisations faced sudden police raids and checks, some staff have been arrested or harassed, while demands to fulfil what groups say are impossible administrative obligations have been used to force their closure.

Some groups have moved out of the country and are continuing their work from abroad. However, this limits what services and help they can provide.

“Some groups provide legal services, lawyers, for instance, for people. Those simply won’t be there now,” said McGill.

Inter Press Service for more

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