Political repression, the human rights situation, and repressive legislative changes in Belarus in 2022

The human rights situation in Belarus in 2022, the persecution of political opponents, and the dynamics of repressive changes in legislation are underlain by a deepening of the political, economic and social crisis in the country, the crisis in human rights and the involvement of the Belarusian regime in the war of aggression of the Russian Federation against Ukraine.

In general, the regime is intensifying its repression of the people of Belarus, especially with regard to socially and politically active citizens. It is possible to distinguish four main changes in the above-mentioned dynamics of the situation in Belarus as it unfolded in 2022.

First, developments have been characterised by a continuation of the repressive campaign that began in 2020, i.e. as a continuation of the persecution of those citizens, social groups and organisations that actively expressed their civic and political position during and after the 2020 presidential campaign;

Second, 2020 was a year of further ‘cleansing’ of the legal, political, media and civic realms in the Republic of Belarus. This applies primarily to those categories of citizens and organisations which could still be potential opponents of the current regime – activists, independent journalists and politicians, as well as human rights defenders, lawyers and figures from the worlds of culture and science;

Third, an important factor influencing the situation has been Russia’s full- scale military aggression against Ukraine, which began on 24 February 2022. For most Belarusians the attack on Ukraine was an extremely significant event, comparable to, or even more important than, the 2020 protests in Belarus. The context of the war has been significant not only for the internal political situation in Belarus, but also in terms of geopolitics, for the future development of Belarus as a whole;

Fourth, a new framework for the functioning of political and all other systems was created after the adoption of amendments and changes to the Constitution of Belarus. Although the situation following the ‘constitutional referendum’ generally had an indirect impact so far as the majority of Belarusian citizens were concerned, it created new conditions for the functioning of the state system at the macro level.

Each of these dimensions can be considered separately, but for a full analysis of the dynamics of 2022, all four dimensions need to be analysed together. The purpose of the report and research is to analyse changes in the human rights situation, the political repression and the persecution of political opponents, as well as legislative changes introduced in 2022 related to the strengthening of legal accountability for, or criminalisation of, various actions, which are indicators of increasing repression by the Belarusian authorities against their own citizens.

This report presents examples of the application of these legal norms by the Belarusian regime, based on data about repressive measures directed against Belarusian society gathered by human rights organisations (primarily, the Viasna Human Rights Centre, Lawtrend, DISSIDENTBY and the Belarusian PEN Centre, as well as other specialised studies and organisations).

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