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Belarus: Dozen civil society groups raided in latest crackdown

© Valery Sharifulin/TASS

Early morning raids follow Belarusian KGB threat to ‘cleanse radicals’

At least 12 civil society figures detained, with whereabouts of others unknown

‘Civil society is being wiped out in the heart of Europe’ - Marie Struthers

Amnesty international has condemned a wave of raids of civil society organisations in Belarus today.

Early this morning, law-enforcement officers broke into and searched the offices of at least a dozen Belarusian civil society and human rights organisations and opposition groups, as well the homes of civil society leaders.

The list of those raided - growing by the hour - includes the human rights group Vyasna, the Belarusian Association of Journalists, the Belarusian Helsinki Committee, human rights group Human Constanta, the academic research centre BEROC, human rights group Gender Perspectives, the World Union of Belarusians Batskaushchyna, the Belarusian People’s Front opposition party, the “For Freedom” pro-democracy movement and Imena publishing house.  

According to Vyasna, at least 12 people have been detained, including one of Vyasna’s leaders, Valyantsyn Stefanovich, and his colleagues Uladzimir Labkovich, Alena Liptsyonak, Andrey Palyuda, Aleg Matskevich, Igar Kazmerchak, Viktar Sazonau and Maryna Statkevich. The whereabouts of Vyasna founder and former prisoner of conscience, Ales Byalyatski, was unknown at the time of writing. 

Belarusian law-enforcement agencies have given no reason for the raids. According to Vyasna, searches were conducted by officials from the Department of Financial Investigations of the State Control Committee. 

In March, the Belarusian Investigative Committee opened a criminal case into the activities of Vyasna under Article 342 of the Criminal Code (“organisation and active participation in group actions that grossly violate public order”). 

Marie Struthers, Amnesty International’s Director for Eastern Europe and Central Asia, said: 

“The Belarusian KGB boasted last week that it was conducting a country-wide operation to ‘cleanse radicals’ and today we have seen what this looks like on the ground.

“All those detained today must be released immediately, and this campaign against civil society must end. 

“Over the past 12 months, human rights have been under relentless attack from the government of Alyaksandr Lukashenka.

“We reiterate our message to the international community: civil society is being wiped out in the heart of Europe.

“Today’s massive attack on vital civil society organisations shows that nowhere near enough has been done to end this crisis.”

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