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    June 19, 2020

    On 22 May, the Supreme Court of Belarus upheld the death sentences of young brothers Stanislau and Illia Kostseu, aged 19 and 21 respectively. They have appealed to President Lukashenka for clemency. The President has granted clemency only once since coming to power in 1994. If clemency is denied, Stanislau and Illia Kostseu will be executed imminently.

    There is no doubt that the murder, for which they were convicted, is a serious crime. Both young men have expressed their deep regret and cooperated fully with the criminal investigation. Stanislau and Illia Kostseu are the youngest prisoners to be sentenced to death in Belarus in over ten years. Their execution would be a terrible stain on Belarus’ record. 

    The death penalty has been abolished in law or practice in every country in Europe and Central Asia, except Belarus, although there is a clear and welcome commitment from Belarus to join its neighbours and the global trend towards abolition.

    April 15, 2020

    Emil Ostrovko © Private 


    In April 2018, 17-year-old Emil Ostrovko was waiting for his girlfriend at a bus stop in Minsk, the capital of Belarus. They were going to spend the day together. Suddenly police officers arrived. They beat Emil and arrested him for carrying illegal drugs. 

    Emil worked after school for a courier company. His boss told him that the parcels he was delivering contained things like tobacco and cigarettes. No one ever looked for the owner of the company and Emil has been in prison ever since, waiting for release in 2024.

    The same thing happened to Vladislav Sharkovsky when he too was 17 in 2018. He may not be freed until 2028.

    Neither teenager is well. 

    Emil struggles with chronic bronchial asthma and he was not allowed to carry his medicine with him when he first got to prison. He got frostbite when he was forced to carry snow with his bare hands, and his feet were injured when the shoes he was forced to wear were two sizes too small.

    April 06, 2020

    Emil Ostrovko © Private


    Vladislav Sharkovsky and Emil Ostrovko were imprisoned in 2018, both at the age of 17, for a minor, non-violent drug offence. Like many youths in Belarus, they should not be in prison in the first place. Their health is poor, and with the spread of COVID-19, they and many prisoners face a growing risk. 

    Vladislav Sharkovsky and Emil Ostrovko are two of the many young people in Belarus who were arrested as children and have been imprisoned for minor, non-violent drug-related offences. Their cases have been a growing matter of concern in the country and internationally. The authorities have received multiple calls for their release and for the release of others, and for a review of the country’s highly punitive anti-drug policies. 

    February 22, 2018
    Amnesty International publishes State of the World’s Human Rights report for 2017 to 2018 “Last year our world was immersed in crises, with prominent leaders offering us a nightmarish vision of a society blinded by hatred and fear. This emboldened those who promote bigotry, but it inspired far more people to campaign for a more hopeful future,” says Salil Shetty, head of Amnesty International

    The world is reaping the terrifying consequences of hate-filled rhetoric that threatens to normalize massive discrimination against marginalized groups, Amnesty International warned today as it launched its annual assessment of human rights.

    Nevertheless, the organization found that a growing movement of both first-time and seasoned activists campaigning for social justice provides real hope of reversing the slide towards oppression.

    The report, The State of the World’s Human Rights, covers 159 countries and delivers the most comprehensive analysis of the state of human rights in the world today.

    June 12, 2017

    Photo credit: via Crime Russia website.


    Murad Amriev was handed over to Russian law enforcement officers at 3am on 9 June after having been returned from Belarus where he unsuccessfully attempted to claim asylum. He has been released on bail on condition that he does not leave Chechnya.

    At 12pm on 9 June the Ministry of Internal Affairs of Chechnya reported that at 3am Murad Amriev had been handed over to officers from the Ministry of Internal Affairs of Chechnya. On 10 June it was reported in the media that Murad Amriev had been released on bail on condition that he would not leave Chechnya.

    March 24, 2017

    Belarusian authorities must ensure that rallies planned in the capital Minsk and elsewhere on Freedom Day, 25 March, are allowed to go ahead unhindered by excessive use of police force or arbitrary detentions of peaceful protesters such as those witnessed in recent weeks, Amnesty International said.

    This year’s turnout is expected to be the largest in years, fueled by public discontent over a punitive bill against the jobless and a notable drop in living standards in Belarus.

    “Belarusian authorities must honour their international obligations and finally come to recognize peaceful protest as a fundamental right. In practice this means refraining from banning public rallies, using force against peaceful protesters or otherwise persecuting them,” said John Dalhuisen, Amnesty International’s Director for Europe and Central Asia.

    “Public officials must stop depicting dissenters as a ‘fifth column’, and instead ensure the rights to freedom of expression and peaceful assembly for all.”

    March 13, 2017

    Belarusian authorities arrested dozens of peaceful protesters and journalists across the country over the weekend in a massive escalation of their crackdown on freedom of expression and peaceful assembly, Amnesty International said today.

    According to media reports, at least 48 protesters, including civil society leaders and independent journalists, were detained on 10, 11 and 12 March in connection with protests in the cities of Babruisk, Kobryn, Brest, Luninets and Maladzechna. The “We are not spongers” marches were called against a so-called “social parasite” tax imposed on unemployed people.

    “With basic freedoms strangled in Belarus, it has been years since we saw protests of this scale, which appear to have taken the Belarusian authorities by surprise,” said John Dalhuisen, Director for Europe and Central Asia at Amnesty International.

    November 30, 2016

    As many as three of the four men on death row in the Belarusian capital Minsk have been executed in a shameful purge since 5 November, Amnesty International revealed today after confirming with local activists.

    Hard on the heels of this news the organization is launching a new online petition and video aimed at stamping out the use of the death penalty in Belarus – the last country in Europe and the former Soviet Union to still carry out executions.

    “Purging death row of its prisoners is an appalling measure for any country to take. But it is additionally shameful in Belarus, where executions are typically shrouded in secrecy and carried out at a moment’s notice,” said Aisha Jung, Campaigner on Belarus at Amnesty International, who recently returned from Minsk.

    “This sudden spike in executions is especially surprising in Belarus, the death penalty’s final frontier in Europe, since many believed the country was on track to eliminate capital punishment for good.”

    July 08, 2016

    By Joshua Franco, Technology and Human Rights Researcher at Amnesty International

    “In principle if I am talking indoors, or on the phone, or writing emails, I assume it all gets to the KGB(Belarus state security). So I don’t worry about it, I talk openly and say only what I would say if there were a KGB agent sitting next to me.”

    This is what an activist in Belarus told me when I asked them about the reality of living with the threat of surveillance.

    I had travelled there to see for myself whether the human rights situation had improved after a huge crackdown on activists in 2010, and what role surveillance played in this, for a new Amnesty International report on this subject. I was surprised at first how many of my conversations with activists started out with people telling me they had “nothing to hide,” and were doing “nothing illegal.”

    But if many of these activists had been arrested or imprisoned merely for speaking out against the government, or for protesting. Did they really feel they had nothing to hide?

    July 07, 2016

    Austrian, Turkish and other telecoms firms facilitate illegal government spying

    Belarus authorities are using phone networks run by some of the world’s biggest telecoms companies to stifle free speech and dissent, said Amnesty International in a report published today.

    The report, “It’s enough for people to feel it exists: Civil society, secrecy and surveillance in Belarus”, documents how potentially limitless, round-the-clock, unchecked surveillance has a debilitating effect on NGO activists, making basic work, like arranging a meeting over the phone, a risk.

    “In a country where holding a protest or criticizing the president can get you arrested, even the threat that the authorities are spying on you can make the work of activists next to impossible,” said Joshua Franco, Technology and Human Rights Researcher at Amnesty International.

    May 11, 2016

    Amnesty International strongly condemns the execution of 22-year old Siarhei Ivanou in Belarus. He is the first person known to have been executed since November 2014.

    Siarhei Ivanou was executed on the night of 18 April. In March 2015 he was sentenced to death having been convicted of the murder of a 19-year old woman in 2013. The UN Human Rights Committee had requested a stay of execution while it considered his case.  Such requests are binding on state parties to the First Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), which Belarus acceded to in 1992. Despite that, and in contravention of Belarus’ human rights obligations, Siarhei Ivanou was executed.

    Siarhei Ivanou’s family only learned of his execution in May, after the sentence had been implemented. They were not given any warning or granted a final meeting with him. In keeping with Belarusian law, his body will not be returned to them for burial, nor will his place of burial be disclosed. His personal belongings have not yet been returned to them. They are now required to collect his death certificate from the Belarusian authorities.

    May 02, 2014

    The Belarusian government has scored its own goal by cracking down on civil society in a bid to silence dissenters ahead of the Ice Hockey World Championship, which opens 9 May in Minsk, said Amnesty International as it starts a new campaign calling for the immediate release of peaceful activists.

    Civil society activists are currently working in an atmosphere of heightened repression in Belarus. In the last 10 days, 16 have been arrested and detained.

    “Instead of cleaning up their act ahead of the championship, the Belarusian authorities have preferred to silence those they feared would expose abuses. As criticism is increasingly quashed within Belarus, it must come more forcefully from abroad,” said John Dalhuisen, Director of the Europe and Central Asia programme at Amnesty International.

    October 24, 2013

    The President of the Republic of Belarus must introduce an immediate moratorium on executions with a view to abolishing the use of the death penalty. Amnesty International reiterated its call while welcoming the fact that earlier this week the country’s Supreme Court overturned a death sentence.

    “A step in the right direction has been made. It has to be followed by the introduction of a moratorium on the death penalty until this ultimate cruel, inhuman and degrading punishment is abolished,” said Heather McGill, Amnesty International’s researcher on Belarus.

    “Amnesty understands that part of the court’s reasoning was based on fair trial concerns. If this is the case, the Supreme Court of the Republic Belarus has demonstrated the important role that the judiciary can play in ensuring strict adherence to fair trial standards. This is particulary important in a country that continues to  impose death sentences.”

    September 30, 2013

    Ales Bialiatski, a Belarusian human rights activist and a prisoner of conscience, was awarded the Václav Havel Human Rights Prize in recognition for his work to improve the human rights situation in his country and for the great personal risk he took in the process, Amnesty International said today.

    “The prize that Ales Bialiatski received today recognises his courageous human rights work in the face of adversity and for the great personal sacrifices he has made. It is also an indictment against the Belarusian authorities for their persecution of human rights activists and their attacks on freedom of association, assembly and expression,” said Heather McGill, Amnesty International’s researcher on Belarus.

    Ales Bialiatski is currently serving a four and a half year sentence for his human rights activities as Head of the Human Rights Centre Viasna in Belarus. The organization campaigns against the death penalty, torture and other ill-treatment, and on behalf of political prisoners.

    August 04, 2013

    The last time Ales Bialiatski, a Belarusian human rights activist received a prison visit or a food parcel was last February.

    “They give you just enough (food) to make sure you don’t die, but it is a diet with very little vitamins and inevitably affects your health. Last year Ales never got any fresh vegetables or fruit,” his wife Natalia Pinchuk recently told Amnesty International.

    Today is the second anniversary of his arrest on 4 August 2011. He is currently serving a four and a half year jail sentence for using his personal bank accounts in Lithuania and Poland to fund the Human Rights Centre Viasna. The organization was not officially recognized by the Belarusian government and could not hold a bank account in the country.

    Amnesty International declared him a prisoner of conscience, imprisoned solely for his peaceful actions to defend human rights. It believes his trial was deeply flawed and the sentence, politically motivated as part of a strategy to stop his human rights work.


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