Political Prisoners in Belarus – U.S. Embassy in Georgia
ANTONY J. BLINKEN, SECRETARY OF STATE
The Lukashenka regime now holds more than 1,000 political prisoners. These Belarusians, from all walks of life, have been arrested and confined simply for peacefully exercising their rights to freedom of expression and assembly in response to a fraudulent election and abuses by the Lukashenko regime. Tens of thousands of other innocent Belarusians have also spent time in prison since and before the fraudulent August 2020 presidential election.
Since August 2020, the United States, in coordination with its allies and partners, has imposed five rounds of sanctions on officials and supporters of Lukashenko’s brutal regime. These sanctions will remain in place until the authorities cease their relentless crackdown on the Belarusian people, including by unconditionally releasing all political prisoners.
Each of these 1,000 prisoners is an individual being deprived of liberty. While some of the political prisoners are well known to the public, each is known and missed by family, friends and colleagues. We see that these families are also suffering unnecessarily.
Many of these prisoners – and those who were previously detained and released, as well as those who were forced to flee the country – were subjected to reprehensible conditions. Harsh treatment, including torture, in prisons and detention centers has been widely documented. Some political prisoners suffer from serious illnesses and disabilities and have been denied the necessary qualified medical care or have been deliberately mistreated to aggravate their condition. They are often unable to find adequate legal representation due to the regime’s retaliation against defense attorneys. Dozens of lawyers have been stripped of their legal licenses – and sometimes imprisoned themselves – for daring to represent prisoners or opposition figures.
The United States calls again for the immediate and unconditional release of all political prisoners, recognizing it as a necessary step for Belarus to emerge from its political crisis. We will continue to work for justice for victims and accountability for perpetrators. We call on Belarus to respect its commitments as a participating State of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe and its international legal obligations to respect human rights and fundamental freedoms. We stand with the people of Belarus in their quest for a future based on the rule of law and accountable democratic government.