Political prisoners in Belarus

The number of political prisoners in Belarus continues to grow. Every day human rights organizations receive information about new detainees. According to the data from the human rights center Viasna there are 1437 persons who are considered political prisoners in Belarus (as of 12/14/2022 https://prisoners.spring96.org/en).

Most of the arrests are made among those who were members of the community group chats. The witnesses state on their social media that the police arrested “literally the whole families”. And they warn the others to think twice before someone makes a decision to come to Belarus “for the upcoming Christmas and New Year holidays”.

The repressions in Belarus haven’t stopped for a day since the election campaign in August 2020. Most of the arrests were made during the protests or right after them. When the activists from the streets were imprisoned the secret forces started to look for new potential detainees on social media. People posted thousands of their photos online and it didn’t take much to deduct and capture them. Also, many pictures of the protesters became available because they were posted in independent news media and TV reports.

The lack and negligence of security led to the fall of the “community chats”. These chats were created to coordinate protests and no doubt they were infiltrated by police and KGB. Later these undercover special agents transferred all the data for future arrests. Access to some of the chats was gained after the detention and arrest of the activists. Sometimes police used torture to get passwords.

The opposition groups which started their activities out of Belarus are also responsible for a number of arrests. One of the initiatives called “Black Book of Belarus” was called to collect information about the police officers and other special agents connected to the repressions and tortures against Belarusians. But for some reason, an undercover police agent was able to work there for several months and even to manage the secret chats where people were sending personal data about the police and other officers. Only One year after the problem was disclosed, the responsible opposition persons admitted the failure and recommended to more than 10,000 people who had cooperated with the initiative to leave the country.

Things worsened a lot with the beginning of the Russian invasion of Ukraine. This war is extremely unpopular among Belarusians. Some of them formed underground groups and tried to attack the railway and communication infrastructure. The Belarusian authorities organized special operations to catch them. As a result, some of the activists were severely wounded and received enormous terms of imprisonment.

Last week Belarusian parliament introduced the death penalty for “State treason” – the measure widely used in Soviet times, especially during Stalin’s repressions.

Some of the opposition leaders claimed 2 years ago that these political prisoners “will not stay in custody for the full terms”. But in reality, we see that some of the detainees start to return back to normal life after the end of their terms, as do now the figurants of the “Student’s case”.

The regime claimed a couple of months ago that an amnesty would take place in Fall. But as of now – no one of the political prisoners has been released according to it.

The security forces in Belarus continue methodical repressions and the situation is not going to improve in the nearest future.

Marlon Parker

US – Belarus