Amnesty International condemned the detention of peaceful protesters in Minsk and other Belarusian cities on 14 July.
Responding to the arrests of over two hundred protesters in Belarus, Aisha Jung, Amnesty International’s Senior Campaigner on Belarus, said:
“The people who have gathered to denounce the elimination of opposition presidential candidates from the election list have every right to take to the streets. Peaceful protest is an essential way of exercising the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and expression.”
According to the human rights organisation, protesters took to the streets as they believe that political opponents (Viktor Babariko and Valery Tsepkalo had been denied registration – BelarusFeed note) were excluded from the campaign so that President Lukashenko could seek a sixth consecutive term unopposed.
Jung noted that the police sought to disperse peaceful gatherings, with excessive and unnecessary use of force and in many cases deploying police officers in plain clothes.
“This provoked violent responses from some protesters who tried to prevent others being arrested and beaten, and served to escalate tensions. However, according to eyewitnesses and widely available video footage, the gatherings remained largely peaceful, and many of those arrested were peaceful protesters.”
Amnesty International called on the Belarusian authorities to respect human rights and not disperse and prosecute people who stand up for their rights and for their political choices.
“Anyone detained simply for peacefully protesting in Minsk, or other cities, is a prisoner of conscience, and must be immediately and unconditionally released,” Jung concluded.
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On July 14, protests took place in Minsk and other other Belarusian cities after the Central Election Commission refused to register Viktor Babariko and Valery Tsepkalo as presidential candidates. As a result, according to various estimates, from 250 to 280 people were detained, and six police officers in Minsk were injured.