The Belarusian authorities violate human rights and the state obligations by suppressing protests, violent arrests and sentences.
During the second half of February whole Belarus got shaken by social protests related to the introduction of Presidential Decree №3 «On prevention of social dependency." First the law enforcement agencies did not pay any attention to the protesters demanding the abolition of the decree in Minsk and the regions, but the situation has dramatically changed in March: there appeared arrests, sometimes quite brutal, many of them ended with harsh sentences. The dramatic events culminated on March 25 when Belarusians came out to celebrate Freedom Day, but as a result about 700 people were detained. The next day Minsk citizens went to Kastrychnickaja Square to express their solidarity with the protesters, and many of them got arrested as well. A judicial conveyor was working in Belarus whole day: all those arrested during the weekend quickly received fines or days of arrest. The "EuroBelarus" Information Service discussed the results of these meetings with Nasta Loika, lawyer of the Human Rights Center "Viasna".
- Human rights activists were watching yesterday's trials. How many people were convicted in total?
- The trials were watched by the social control activists. You do not need any certificates, anyone can come to court. There were our colleagues and volunteers from the Human Rights Center “Viasna”among observers, "the Belarusian Documentation Center", "Identity", student activists, but also a lot of people who cares, who simply responded to my post on Facebook calling to come to courts. We have data about 138 people who have been tried, and the results of 83 trials.
- What can you say about such a variety of sentences - from 4 to 80 base values, from 4 to 25 days of arrest? Why is there such a difference, is there any logic to it?
- Obviously, the courts had certain flexibility – they were giving out fines and arrests about 50/50. The logic is very subjective: foreigners sometimes received harsher sentences than the Belarusians - no one was fined, they got jail terms only.
- Can we compare the current situation with the events of December 2010?
- In 2010, there was at least a minor reason for the crackdown of protests: there actually were many people and glass got broken. However now we saw less than five thousand participants and no reason to intervene at all. But it is noteworthy that the number of detainees was similar, although 130 out of the 700 detainees only remained in pre-trial detention, others were released. Nevertheless both times we could observe disproportionate use of force, arbitrary detention, accidental arrests, degrading treatment, also law enforcement agencies did not provide any information about the detainees.
- How can the human rights activists and civil society confront the situation?
- We can and we do demonstrate a high level of solidarity, both within the country and internationally. Various NGOs are involved in observing the situation, providing parcels and raising funds for the detainees, etc. Foreign colleagues gather information, disseminate it, and support us in these difficult days.
- What will happen to the monitoring of public protests and its results?
- We plan to continue monitoring and we even prepared a report on the action of March 25. We described the impediments observers faced and tracked the events by the media as well.
- How can you generally describe the events associated with the protests, arrests and punishments that took place last month?
- Once again we have entered the stage of strict measures towards the dissentient, including crackdowns, arrests and prosecution, which is a gross violation of human rights and the obligations taken on by the Belarusian authorities.