Deterioration in human rights situation since 2020
Today is the second anniversary of the fraudulent presidential elections in Belarus on 9 August 2020.
I remember those images; I think all of us here do: how in the days and weeks that followed, thousands of protesters stood up against the regime’s gangs of thugs in their black uniforms. Old people, young people, big, small, flowers in their hands.“
- Speech by Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock on the award of the International Charlemagne Prize of Aachen to Maria Kolesnikova, Veronica Tsepkalo and Svetlana Tikhanovskaya
The human rights situation in Belarus has seen a marked deterioration since August 2020. The regime under strongman Lukashenko is persecuting members of the political opposition, and also civil-society actors, with massive repression, violence and intimidation. The number of political prisoners is now more than 1200 and is growing on an almost daily basis. These prisoners include human rights defenders, journalists, trade union activists, media professionals, lawyers and ordinary citizens who criticise the system. Since 2021 steps have been taken to destroy civil society structures. More than 800 charitable associations have been forcibly dissolved or made to close down. The once diverse and independent media landscape has almost entirely disappeared. Many people in Belarus were forced to leave the country. They fled above all to Lithuania, Poland, Ukraine and Georgia to escape persecution
We call for the immediate and unconditional release and rehabilitation of all political prisoners, and for the cessation of repression. The authorities in Belarus must engage in a genuine and inclusive dialogue with all elements of society, leading to free and fair elections under international observation and in accordance with international standards.”
- Declaration by the High Representative on behalf of the EU on the second anniversary of the fraudulent presidential elections, 9 August 2022
The Lukashenko regime granted Belarusian territory for the invasion of Ukraine and full political and logistical support. The regime is now also persecuting Belarusians who oppose the war.
In March 2021, to counter state tyranny in Belarus, the Federal Government together with Denmark, the UK and international partners initiated a mechanism to document severe human rights violations in Belarus. The aim is to make it possible to investigate and prosecute such cases in future. The platform documents human rights crimes by talking to victims of torture and other serious human rights violations. It archives this evidence and processes it in such a way that it can be presented in court.
Action plan for civil society in Belarus
The Federal Foreign Office has substantially expanded its support for civil society, which has been a central pillar of Germany’s foreign policy in Belarus for years. In so doing, we are helping to respond to the political crisis and the violence in Belarus.
The Action plan for civil society in Belarus expanded existing programmes and launched additional projects. The funding is financing the following measures, among others:
- promotion of independent media and civil-society project work, for example within the scope of the programme Expanding Cooperation with Civil Society in the Eastern Partnership Countries and Russia;
- support for victims of state violence;
- easier entry for victims of political persecution, e.g. by issuing visas and allowing them into Germany;
- support for students, including doctoral students, and researchers through the continuation of existing programmes such as the Philipp Schwartz Initiative;
- expansion of regular scholarship quotas of the German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD) and establishment of the new Hilde Domin Programme.