10 August, 2020, Viasna

Разгон мироной демостранции в Минске 9 августа.Dispersal of a peaceful demonstration in Minsk 9th of August 

Joint statement of Belarusian human rights organizations 

Minsk, 10.08.2020 

We, representatives of Belarusian human rights organizations, express strong opposition to the law enforcement agencies’ actions against peaceful protesters. Freedom of expression during peaceful assemblies is one of the most important human rights. Because Belarus doesn’t have effective mechanisms for realization of the right for a peaceful assembly, there are neither fair and free elections nor effective procedures in place for appealing against violation of human rights. Protesting is the only way to express disagreement. 

Protests on the streets of Belarusian cities were caused by disagreement with authorities during the election campaign of the President of the Republic of Belarus, which from the very beginning was held in an atmosphere of fear and intimidation. 

We condemn disproportional use of force by law enforcement authorities on 9th and 10th of August, as well as the use of non-lethal weapons against peaceful protesters. 

We put full responsibility for events that happened after the first round of presidential elections on the authorities and law enforcement agencies. At the same time we urge for a quicker de-escalation of this conflict. 

Once again, we want to emphasize that the use of violence, dispersal of assemblies and detention of their participants without reasons are unacceptable restrictions of human rights such as freedom of assembly and freedom of expression. We want to mention that any violence inevitably results in a backlash, that can be unpredictable and uncontrollable. That is why we once again urge the police, the army and other authorities involved in forceful dispersal of peaceful demonstrations to stop using violence and weapons. 

We call to stop detentions, use of force and non-lethal weapons against people, who take to the streets of cities for peaceful protests. 

It is important to note that in Belarusian cities where law enforcement officers refused to use force against peaceful protesters, only peaceful demonstrations took place. We are deeply concerned about the news of at least one death during night clashes and seriously injured civilians by stun grenades and rubber bullets used during protests on the streets of Minsk and other cities. In this regard, we request law enforcement agencies to abandon such practices. 

We also call for health authorities and medical staff to share full and correct information about deaths and injuries during clashes with citizens and media. We remind that according to the Article 34 of The Constitution of the Republic of Belarus, the citizens shall be guaranteed the right to be informed about the State’s activities in a timely and transparent fashion. 

We want to remind that during the crisis caused by COVID-19 pandemic, volunteers among citizens promptly provided necessary assistance to Belarusian doctors by supplying them with personal protection equipment. 

We demand from investigative and prosecution authorities to conduct impartial investigations of all facts of the use of violence and non-lethal weapons against peaceful protesters, as well as reasons and circumstances resulting in these events. 

Finally, we urge the law enforcement officers to refuse to execute criminal orders and directives authorized by the Belorusian government to use disproportionate force against peaceful protesters. 

As of August 11th, 2020 this statement was signed by: 

National Human Rights Public Association “Belarusian Helsinki Committee” ; Human Rights Center “Viasna”; “Legal Initiative”