Viasna, a non-governmental human rights center in Belarus, said that seven more people were detained in Belarus on Sunday during the traditional weekend protests against President Alexander Lukashenko, who won his sixth term in office in a disputed election. The total number of detainees is now reported to be over twenty people.
According to a local source, this past weekend marked the 141st day of mass protests against Lukashenko, which have occurred every weekend since he claimed victory in an August 9 election that gave him a landslide win over his popular opponent Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya. Tsikhanouskaya and her supporters have maintained the election was rigged. Lukashenko is the first and only president of Belarus since the establishment of the office 26 years ago.
The protests against Lukashenko have been largely peaceful, with videos showing protesters with red and white flags marching through courtyards in residential areas of the capital, chanting “Long live Belarus!” and “As long as we’re united, we’re invincible.” Yet, the Belarusian authorities have cracked down hard on the demonstrations, the largest of which attracted up to 200,000 people. Police have used stun grenades, tear gas and truncheons to disperse the rallies, and thousands of people have been detained and brutally beaten.
Viasna maintains the position that the overt authoritarian presence at these peaceful protests is a violation of human rights.
“The post-election protests were spontaneous, self-organized, and were caused by distrust of the results of the August 9 presidential election, which was marred by numerous violations and fraud, and was not recognized by the international community as democratic, fair and free. The meetings were peaceful and did not pose a threat to national or public security. Despite this, the demonstrators were attacked by special units of the Ministry of Internal Affairs who used disproportionate violence, riot gear and non-lethal weapons. For the first time in the history of Belarus, rubber bullets and water cannons were used against peaceful demonstrators. A particularly large amount of damage was inflicted by the use of stun grenades.”
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