University students in Belarus are being arrested on criminal charges and expelled from universities, as a punishment for the series of protests taking place against the official results of the August 2020 Belarus Presidential elections, Amnesty International pointed out in its latest publication.
Amnesty International’s Senior Campaigner on Belarus, Aisha Jung said that teachers and students protesting in Belarus had started their academic year “in a country radically transformed by events over the summer.”
“From the outset, it was clear that their dissent would not be tolerated by either the authorities or many university administrations. On 27 October, Alyaksandr Lukashenka called for universities to dismiss them. We then saw with dismay how universities did exactly this to scores of students,” Jung said.
The independent student union, the Belarusian Students’ Association, said that at least 466 students had been detained, with nearly a third of them being women.
Many students have faced administrative detention or have been fined an average of €120, which is a quarter of the average monthly wage in Belarus. Furthermore, 153 students have arbitrarily been expelled from higher education, 42 are suspected of criminal cases while six have been punished with imprisonment. Afraid of their safety, many of them also moved to neighboring countries.
In November 2020, authorities launched a criminal investigation against 11 student activists and one teacher, with many of them being arrested at their homes, which date was then known as the “Black Thursday.” The trial of these students started on May 14 and is expected to continue until mid-June.
The 19-year-old student activist Anastasia Bulybenka who is one of the defendants said that she was sleeping when six unknown men forcefully entered her apartment, telling her to get up. Since her arrest more than six months ago, Anastasia was in pre-trial detention, and during that period of time, her mother was allowed to meet her only one time for 45 minutes.
“For me, the whole world stopped, and I just looked at her … She is a grown up now, the child was completely gone from her face. And she wrote this to me later in a letter saying, ‘I left our home on 12 November as a child and I will return as an adult,’” Anastasia’s mother, Aksana told Amnesty International.
Amnesty International has urged the Belarusian authorities to urgently end the repression against students, academics, and all people involved in peaceful protests.
“We call on student unions and student leaders across the world to show solidarity with their peers in Belarus and demand that their countries’ authorities take immediate steps to put pressure on Alyaksandr Lukashenka’s government to end the strangulation of public life, of academic life, of the brightest youth in the country,” Jung added.
Last year, the European University Association (EUA) and the European Students’ Union (ESU) also condemned the acts against Belarusian students, calling on authorities to end protests and guarantee the right of free expression and safety to all citizens.
Since August 2020, hundreds of thousands of people across Belarus have protested against the long-standing President Alexander Lukashenko’s regime, who last year won 80 percent of the votes during the presidential elections.