On May 16, 2017, the Belarusian opposition movement Havary Pravdu (Tell the Truth) was registered after seven years of unsuccessful attempts to gain official status. It was the seventh attempt to obtain the registration and Tatsyana Karatkevich (Co-Chairwoman) was not sure they would succeed this time. Karatkevich said that when the official handed over the registration papers he also warned the leaders (Andrey Dzmitryeu and herself) not to violate Belarusian laws.

Earlier on Tuesday, the Belarusian President stated that Lithuania and Poland could have been training fighters who were behind provocations in his country.

“The other camps were located in Ukraine (and), it seems to me, in Lithuania or Poland – I won’t insist on this, but somewhere there. The money was coming here via Poland and Lithuania”

Andrey Yegorov, the head of the Belarusian-based European Transformation Center says that by making such statements, Lukashenka is warning protesters not to participate on the protest planned for Saturday 25th (which could bring thousands of people) and also as a justification for possible repressions including use of force. He also says that the administration is preparing for the day by fueling hysteria in the media about alleged fighters.

According to Yegorov, the protests along with these words by the President are a sign for the Western world to revise its policies of resuming the relations with Belarus.

The Belarusian Viasna Human Rights Centre and FIDH (the International Federation for Human Rights) believe that the new repression against peaceful protesters confirms the absence of political change in Belarus. More than 150 opposition activists, journalists, human rights defenders and average citizens have been detained since the protests began. On March 10, Vitali Rymasheuski (BCD), Anatol Liabedzka (UCP) and Yuri Hubarevich (MFF), were arrested and sentenced to 15 days administrative arrest. Pavel Seviarynets (BCD) was arrested on March 12 and sentenced also to 15 days administrative arrest. The same day Valiantsina Ihnatsenka, Chairperson of UCP in Orsa, was threatened with arrest and forced to stay home. The Belarusian Association of Journalists (BAJ) reported the arrest of 18 journalists and bloggers on March 12.

This way the authorities wanted to prevent them to participate in the planned and authorized protest of March 15.

On the day of the rally, March 15, people were detained arbitrarily on their way to the demonstration or on their way back home on the streets or in the public transport. The detentions were carried out by men dressed as civilians and people were taken to police stations in unmarked vehicles. Two independent websites operating from abroad were blocked during the mass protest. The protests gathered thousands of citizens in Minsk and other cities.

Arrests have continued after March 15. On March 19 authorities detained Viktar Marchyk from BPF together with 2 other organizers of planned rallies for that same day, Mikalay Charnavus, a local BPF activist, and Ryhor Hryk, an independent trade union leader.

And in addition to the citizens protesting against the Decree nr. 3, others have been detained for their actions impeding the beginning of the construction of a business center in Kuropaty.

As a response, Lukashenko says today that “Western funds under the direction of Western security services” are trying to “inflame the situation in Belarus”.

On March 9, Lukashenko announced that he will suspend the application of the Decree number 3 for one year. Those who paid the fee last year can request a refund. The Belarusian president spoke of the protestors in unexpectedly accommodating terms and promised to take officials to task for unfairly labeling anyone a parasite.

By suspending the unemployment tax he has found a way to both halt protests without capitulating to mass protest.

Part of the reason for backtracking is the ineffectiveness of the decree itself. Belarusian analysts doubt that the fee will even offset the cost of collecting it.

Protests in Belarus

February 28th, 2017   Theme: Belarus

Alexander Lukashenko issued on April 2, 2015, Decree No. 3 to “prevent social dependency”. Known among the population as the decree against spongers, tax on parasitism, vagrants law, idleness decree, it applies to all inhabitants of Belarus (regardless of citizenship), provided they spend more than half of the year in Belarusian territory, who have not paid taxes for more than 183 calendar days during the year. The duty amounts to about 230 euros.

During the last two weeks, protests against the Decree have been taking place in different Belarusian cities. In February 17 and 19 more than 2,000 people rallied in Minsk, Gomel Mogilev, Vitebsk, Brest and Grodno against the measure. The last protests on Sunday 26 took place in Vittebsk, Bobruisk, Baronovichi and Brest, gathering more than 3000 people. The marches went forward without incident, and without advance approval from authorities. About 60,000 people have signed a petition opposing the law.

Protests against Minsk’s efforts to extract more money from the population via Decree number 3 have shifted from being about the economics of that action to being a political protest against Alexander Lukashenko. This contest between the Belarusian population and Lukashenko has also been strengthened by the fact that Belarusian lawyers are now rushing to help those rejecting the law.

Belarussian observers have come to the following conclusions: the sense that no one in the country supports the idleness decree, the regime can’t imprison all those who won’t pay the tax (estimated now in more than 415.000 people) and Lukashenko is now frightened.

Adding to these protests, another one is escalating in Kuropaty where opposition activists are protesting against the construction of a business center near the site of the mass graves. Protesters say they expect more provocations from Lukashenko forces but in the current environment, any use of force by the Minsk regime is more likely to spark more protests rather than to intimidate anyone.

Is Belarus entering a revolutionary situation? In that case Lukashenko is unlikely to survive.  What happens now will depend not only on Belarusian people, on Lukashenko and his government reaction, but also in the responses from Moscow and the West if protests escalate.

 

Russia’s Federal Security Service (FSB) has established a security zone with border controls along the country’s border with Belarus. Recently Belarus announced the five-day visa-free regime for some 80 countries (including USA and EU member countries) that will take effect on February 9. According to Moscow, the decision was taken “to create necessary conditions for the protection of the state border of the Russian Federation”. The establishment of a border zone came as a surprise because the two countries have formed a “union state” since January 2000 and there have been no border controls between them. Officials in Moscow have said Minsk’s resolution to abolish visas presents a security threat to Russia.

According to the Belarusian NGO Viasna, Siarhei Khmialeuski, Ivan Kulesh and possibly Hyanadz Yakavitski have all been executed with a gunshot to the back of the head, after November 5. The fate of the fourth man on death row, Siarhei Vostrykau, hangs in the balance following his death sentence on 19 May.

Amnesty International’s campaigner on Belarus, Aisha Jung, said on November 30 that the “sudden and shameful purge” of death-row prisoners in Belarus was “additionally shameful” because executions there “are typically shrouded in secrecy and carried out at a moment’s notice.”

On September 11, parliamentary elections were held in Belarus. In an article for the Jarl Hjalmarson Foundation Margareta Cederfelt, Member of Parliament from the Swedish Moderate party and Deputy Chair of the Swedish OSCE-delegation, describes her findings from the third election she has observed in the country. (more…)

Lukashenka wants to show that he wants to select who will be the moderate opposition in his country. The elections were efficiently organized but still beset by systemic shortcomings.

Read more at Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty

The Central Election Committee announced that two opposition candidates have won seats, after the results of yesterday’ September 11 elections, in which the composition of the 110-seat lower house of parliament was to be determined. (more…)

The Belarus regime’s latest move in increasing the budget revenues amid the economic crisis, targets small businessmen and entrepreneurs in the country. The Belarus government has begun requiring small private business to obtain costly certificates guaranteeing the quality of their products. One of the protesters said that they are not against the certificates per se, but against the price for such certificate which reaches from 100-200 USD while an equivalent certificate in the rest of Europe costs about 5 EUR. The demonstration in Minsk was the largest protest in recent years, in an authoritarian country where little tolerance has been showed for dissent.

Read more at Associated Press

Investigative journalist and author Svetlana Alexievich to receive the 2015 Nobel Prize in Literature. “They pretend I don’t exist”, “I am not published [in Belarus], and I cannot speak publicly anywhere.” says Alexievich, a vocal critic of totalitarianism.

(more…)

“A secret apartment in an old Minsk building has become just the latest risky place for journalists from the independent Belsat television station to work. The journalists take great precautions to elude detection, frequently moving their makeshift studio from one underground apartment to another, and transmit reports to Poland for broadcasting from there. Still they face regular searches and harassment. In the run-up to Sunday’s presidential election, the government has gone after journalists like those at Belsat who seek to skirt state censorship by broadcasting from outside Belarus. So far this year, 28 journalists in the former Soviet republic have been slapped with hefty fines, in some cases after intimidating interrogation by the KGB.”

Read full article by Associated Press

“The European Union will lift its sanctions on Belarus, including those on authoritarian President Alexander Lukashenko, for four months after Sunday’s vote barring any last-minute crackdown, diplomatic sources said. (…) Those moves have cemented a perception among EU officials that Lukashenko, the close Moscow ally known in the West as Europe’s “last dictator”, is opening up Belarus to Europe.

Read the full article at Reuters

The BPF Party supported nomination of Tatsiana Karatkevich, who is a “Tell the Truth” campaign activist and Belarusian Social Democratic Party (Hramada) member, as candidate for president in the 2015 presidential elections. She would like to run as candidate for president not from a single organization, but from the whole “People’s Referendum” coalition.
Next presidential elections must take place no later than on November 20, 2015.

Read more about the nomination in the article posted on the BPF’s website.

The Belarusian political activist Alyaksandr Frantskevich, charged in May 2011 for attacking government buildings, has now been released from prison.

Read Freedom House’s article

March 24, Belarus was marking the 95th anniversary of the proclamation of the Belarusian National Republic. But freedom wasn’t exactly the main theme of the day. The police control was heavy and already in beforehand, prisoner vans were parked in a close-by area.

(more…)

Belarusian activists have been renowned for their creative and non-violent way to demonstrate. One of those protests was the teddy bear campaign last fall. The Belarusian regime on the other hand continues to demonstrate its power with authoritarian methods, now sending the guard responsible for the border control the day of the teddy bear incident to two years in prison.

Read the article from the Daily Mail

In June this year, the 23’rd session of the UN Human Rights Council will be held. One of the topics that will be brought up at the Council by the EU is the current situation in Belarus, due to the recent violations against human rights in the country.

Read the article from Charter 97

Belarusian freedom activists have always been creative, with everything from ´silent’ protests to ‘toy’ protests. The most recent one is a Facebook photo protest. More and more people are posting photos of themselves holding up photos of other activists holding photos. This action is taken in solidarity with the three people fined due to a photo of them holding a picture of  the political activist Ales Byalyatski.

Read the article from Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty

A newly published report from the Index on Censorship explores the harsh situation for democracy activists in Belarus and how the regime plans even further restrictions on Internet freedom. By surveillance, blocking of websites and cyber-attacks against opposition websites, the authorities accelerates its oppression of the Belarusian people.

Read the policy paper


Since the elections in Belarus on December 19, 2010, there has been an increase of violence against the democratic opposition. Starting immediately after the elections and during the following ten months, the Jarl Hjalmarson Foundation published a weekly report, covering the latest incidents, day by day. The report has over the time been used by journalists as well as members of the Belarusian opposition.

Since late 2011 the Jarl Hjalmarson Foundation do not publish weekly reports on the developments in Belarus. News about dissidents in Belarus can be found on the home page of Viasna.

The report is written by Juras Stankevic for the Jarl Hjalmarson Foundation



Week 45, October 24-31

October 31st, 2011   Theme: Belarus

Once again the Belarus authorities are arresting and sentencing individuals to administrative arrest. (more…)

Week 44, October 18-24

October 24th, 2011   Theme: Belarus

The Council of Republic adopts amendments to law “On Mass Events” at a closed session, in two readings at one time. According to the changed law organisers of a mass event have no rights to announce the date, time and place until they receive an official permit, this includes announcements on the Internet. (more…)

Week 43, October 11-17

October 17th, 2011   Theme: Belarus

The last case on “mass riots”, in regards to the presidential election in 2010, is up for consideration in Court. In addition the authorities introduce amendments to the Belarusian legislation in order to constrict conditions for public and political activities in Belarus, giving unlimited power to the KGB. (more…)

Week 42, October 4-10

October 10th, 2011   Theme: Belarus

People’s Assembly was a peaceful manifestation arranged on October 8 by different oppositional movements in order to high light the deep economic crisis in Belarus. The purpose of the manifestation was to gather as many Belarusian citizens as possible and to put forward to the regime demands of economic and political reforms in order to improve the situation in the country. Hundreds of people gathered around the country to talk openly about the political, as well as economic situation. In order to limit possibilities for the opposition to organize these events, KGB and the Police repeatedly arrested activists across Belarus or blocked them in their homes. Dozens of people were arrested, some of them detained and sentenced to prison, others had to pay a fine. (more…)

The regime releases from prison Dzmitry Us, oppositional candidate in the presidential elections 2010, who was sentenced to 5, 5 years in prison. Three political activists declare hunger strike in prison The last case on “criminal riots” after December 19, 2010, will be considered on October 12.

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Week 40, September 20-26

September 26th, 2011   Theme: Belarus

The investigator of the Financial Investigation Department of the State Control Committee dismisses a request sent by Ales Bialiatski’s wife, appealing for a meeting after not being allowed to meet husband since August 5 The Lithuanian authorities express their intention to add 18 more Belarusian officials to those banned from entering Lithuania (more…)

Week 39, September 13-19

September 19th, 2011   Theme: Belarus

The authorities offer three political prisoners to apply to President Lukashenka for pardon and, as a result, to be released from prison. The government releases 11 more political prisoners. (more…)