International NGOs oppose surge in arrests and intimidation in Belarus
Forty-eight non-governmental organisations from 24 countries, including the Helsinki Foundation for Human Rights, have signed an open letter to President Alexander Lukashenka, protesting against a wave of arrests and harassment that has been sweeping over Belarus from early March.
The recent massive crackdown targeted journalists and persons who took part in protests against Presidential Decree No. 3, which imposes a special tax on the unemployed and job seekers. The letter’s signatories “strongly condemn the continuing wave of detentions and harassment of peaceful protesters, journalists, human rights defenders, civil society activists, anarchists and opposition party members in Belarus”, indicating that the Decree contravenes the Belarusian Constitution and violates international human rights conventions. The signatories demand the cancellation of Decree No. 3 and release of all detained persons. They further urge Belarusian President to ensure that the protests planned for the upcoming Saturday, 25 March 2017 (Freedom Day in Belarus), are allowed to take place and that the protesters face no further repression.
According to Belarusian and international human rights organisations, in the period between 3 and 22 March 250 persons were detained in Belarus, including at least 31 journalists. About a half of these persons were sentenced to a term of arrest from 3 to 15 days, the remaining were subjected to other measures of repression.