This is a new episode in the elimination of all opposition by President Alexander Lukashenko. Dozens of Belarusian non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and associations, covering fields ranging from the defense of human rights to journalism, were being liquidated by the authorities on Friday 23 July.
According to the human rights organization Viasna, itself in the sights of the authorities, at least forty-seven NGOs are concerned, many of them having been the subject of searches in recent weeks. Among them are the Belarusian office of PEN, the association for the defense of writers; the Belarusian Journalists Association, which recently denounced arrests and searches of the press; or a well-known business school in Minsk.
Organizations for the defense of human rights, language teaching, assistance for the disabled or employment assistance for young people, and even charities are also being liquidated, according to the government’s legal portal, on which it is possible to consult the status of these organizations.
“Cleaning is in progress”
These measures follow criticism from President Alexander Lukashenko, who compared Thursday, during a government meeting, members of NGOs to « bandits » and “Foreign agents” who act “To the detriment of the State”. “Cleaning is in progress”, he said. During a meeting in Russia in early July with Vladimir Putin, Lukashenko had already called for “Bring to justice” the « sales ONG » cultivating ” terror “.
For months, the regime of Alexander Lukashenko has imprisoned opponents, journalists and activists in order to definitively put down the historic challenge born of his re-election, deemed fraudulent, to a fifth term in August 2020.
In July, a series of searches and arrests targeted the independent and opposition press, while eleven students and a professor received heavy prison sentences for demonstrating against the government.
The protest movement of 2020, which for months brought together tens of thousands of demonstrators, had, for its part, been put down with massive arrests, torture and forced exile for its leaders.