Belarus: Sweeping closure of dozens of NGOs as the crackdown on civil society continues

Responding to the news that the Belarusian authorities have dissolved at least 46 human rights and other civil society organizations, Marie Struthers, Amnesty International’s Director for Eastern Europe and Central Asia, said:

“Today is another dark day that will go down in the history of Belarus. Undeterred, the Belarusian authorities are pushing in their unprecedented and increasingly brutal attack on civic space, all forms of opposition or peaceful dissent. Following mass arrests of human rights defenders and activists earlier this week, the authorities are now dissolving dozens of critical civil society organizations, in complete disregard of their human rights obligations under international law.”

“Belarusian authorities must immediately reverse the dissolution of the NGOs, end the escalating crackdown, and allow civil society organizations to freely carry out their human rights work. The authorities should respect, protect, promote and fulfil the rights to freedom of expression, association and peaceful assembly.”

“The rest of the world must not remain a passive observer of this ongoing brutal repression in Belarus.”

“We call for a strong international response to ensure that the Belarusian authorities immediately end their vicious crackdown on civil society and release all those human rights defenders and activists being arbitrarily detained solely for their human rights activism. The government of Belarus must meet its obligations to respect, protect, promote and fulfil human rights or face the consequences for its brutal repression.”


On 23 July, in a coordinated action without resort to the court, the authorities in Minsk and across other regions dissolved at least 46 NGOs, alleging that they carried out activities beyond their charters. The list includes the Centre for Ecological Decisions, European Youth Parliament, Belarusian PEN Centre, Human Constanta human rights group and Youth Labor Rights. The number of dissolved organizations is likely to grow as new information becomes available.

This move is a part of an ongoing restriction of civic space and crackdown on civil society organizations that has escalated in the past week with a wave of searches and detention of human rights defenders and civil society activists and the arrest of the leadership and staff members of Vyasna human rights group. On 22 July, Belarus’ President Alyaksandr Lukashenka, whose re-election in August 2020 has been widely questioned as manifestly fraudulent, addressed the Cabinet with a message comparing NGOs to “bandits and foreign agents” and saying that a “clean-up” was underway.