Belarus: Authorities unleash mass criminal proceedings against hundreds of peaceful protesters

Responding to news that the Belarusian authorities have started mass criminal proceedings against more than 200 peaceful protesters who were detained during a rally on Sunday, and are now at risk of being jailed for up to three years, Denis Krivosheev, Deputy Director of Amnesty International for Eastern Europe and Central Asia said:

“The Belarusian authorities clearly fear freedom of peaceful assembly in the country, and are now criminalizing it wholesale, by attempting to prosecute 231 detained protesters in one single case. The protesters called their rally on Sunday a March against Terror, and now they are being intimidated by the authorities even further.

The Belarusian authorities clearly fear freedom of peaceful assembly in the country, and are now criminalizing it wholesale, by attempting to prosecute 231 detained protesters in one single case
Denis Krivosheev, Deputy Director of Amnesty International for Eastern Europe and Central Asia

“By officially calling hundreds of participants of a peaceful demonstration criminals, the Belarusian authorities show their deep disdain for human rights and fundamental freedoms. This criminal case is utterly absurd and sets a dangerous precedent. It must be immediately dropped.

“We call on world governments to respond to the vicious cycle of oppression and deepening injustice in Belarus by putting pressure on the country’s authorities to ensure that human rights are respected and that all Belarusians can freely exercise their rights and freedoms – without these kinds of ugly reprisals.”

Background

On Monday, the Investigative Committee of Belarus opened a criminal case accusing 231 people detained during Sunday’s peaceful protest rally in Minsk of "organizing or preparing activities that gravely breach public order” (part 1 of Article 342 of the Criminal Code of Belarus, a crime punishable by up to three years of imprisonment). 

According to the investigation, the suspects took part in an “unauthorized action”, which caused damage to “city infrastructure and a police vehicle” and “obstructed the public transportation and the work of organizations.”

Following overwhelmingly peaceful protests on Sunday, at which there were isolated scuffles between police and protestors the authorities have responded by orchestrating a campaign of mass arrests, disproportionately arresting about 300 people.