Belarus: protesters attacked by Dinosaur

Maja Abramchik is a 21-year-old student from Belarus. On 19 December last year, when she heard that there were protests about the disputed election, Maja and her friends went down to Minsk’s main square to see what was happening. Protests aren’t all that common in Belarus.

When they got there, they soon found themselves confronted by three security officers, who ominously told them: “Now we are going to show you what you came to see” and started beating one of Maja’s friends with a baton. When Maja protested, they started beating her.  She fell to the ground and couldn’t get up, in the end she had to be carried to the police van.

After hours driving round detention centres, all of which were full with the estimated 700+ protesters arrested that night, she was taken to hospital. Her Tibia had been crushed and she had to have an operation.

This is how the authorities in Belarus treat people who want to exercise their right to freedoms of expression and assembly.

Amnesty’s new report “Security, Peace and Order? Violations in the wake of elections in Belarus”, out today, looks at the human rights abuses committed by the Belarusian authorities in the aftermath of Alyaksandr Lukashenka’s disputed re-election last December. Hundreds of people like Maja were detained and many were beaten by riot police during the dispersal of that demonstration.

Accompanying the report is a new video featuring footage of abuses, interviews with eyewitnesses, victims and family members, plus an interview with playwright Sir Tom Stoppard, a long-time champion of freedom of expression in Belarus, who describes Belarus thus:

“It's an overt dictatorship. As such it's there, like a dinosaur, curiously enough still stomping around a precious part of Europe.”

You can watch and embed the video here.

Amnesty is calling on the Belarusian authorities to immediately and unconditionally release 14 prisoners of conscience, who are either in detention or under house arrest for attending or organising the 19 December demo. They are:

Presidential candidates Alyaksei Mihalevich, Mykalau Statkevich, Uladzimir Nyaklyayeu and Andrei Sannikau;

Journalists Alyaksandr Atroshchankau, the press secretary of Andrei Sannikov;  Iryna Khalip, correspondent for the Russian newspaper Novaya Gazeta; and political commentator Alyaksandr Fyaduta;

Opposition activists Pavel Sevyarynets, Anatol Lyabedka, Uladzimir Kobets,
Zmitser Bandarenka, Alyaksandr Arastovych,  Syargei Martseleu, and
Anastasiya Palazhanka.

I’ve been talking recently to Irina Bogdanova, the sister of detained presidential candidate Andrei Sannikau, who has seen her brother beaten, detained and reportedly tortured, before the authorities then attempted to take Andrei’s three-year-old son, her nephew, into care. She described the situation facing her family as “like a bad dream, I just really want to wake up”.

Meanwhile, European Foreign Ministers are meeting in Warsaw today to show solidarity with Belarusian opposition groups. A donor conference will reportedly help raise funds for human rights organisations and free media outlets.

As we watch the power of popular protests in the Middle East help people achieve what may have once looked like an unrealisable dream, sadly for protesters in Belarus the nightmare continues.

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Our blogs are written by Amnesty International staff, volunteers and other interested individuals, to encourage debate around human rights issues. They do not necessarily represent the views of Amnesty International.
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