Despite calls on Belarusian authorities from the UN Human Rights Committee to criminalise forced disappearances, HRHF is seeing troubling reports of increases in disappearances of human rights defenders in the country. On 10 May, human rights defenders, Uladzimir Vialichkin and Roman Kislyak disappeared after observing peaceful environmental protests in Brest. Authorities did not confirm their detention for two days. Such methods of detention are illegal under international human rights law.

May has been a particularly troubling time for human rights in Belarus. On 12 May alone, more than 25 court hearings took place across Belarus against human rights defenders for joining in peaceful protests, according to the Human Rights Centre Viasna, a member of the Belarusian Human Rights House. Just this week, Viasna reported the arrests of at least 120 peaceful protestors challenging recent detentions by Belarusian authorities against opposition figures. These actions, less than three months before the scheduled 9 August 2020 Presidential elections, follow patterns observers have seen in past Presidential election cycles in Belarus.

According to another member of the Belarusian Human Rights House, the Belarusian Association of Journalists, administrative arrests have taken place against independent journalists attempting to report on recent peaceful protests against the 9 May military parade and attacks on opposition political figures by Belarusian authorities. Belarusian law entitles journalists access to peaceful protests and the right to cover them. Any attempts by the Belarusian authorities to silence free and independent media should cease immediately and authorities must ensure the freedom of expression for all people in Belarus.

HRHF condemns the actions by Belarusian authorities to limit the spread of information about COVID-19, stop peaceful protests, and attack human rights defenders and journalists. These trends appear designed to intimidate and limit independent civil society. HRHF stands in solidarity with Belarusian human rights defenders and independent journalists during this critical time.