IBAHRI calls for investigation into claims of proposed political prisoner camps in Belarus

Wednesday 10 February 2021

The International Bar Association’s Human Rights Institute (IBAHRI) calls for an impartial investigation into plans to create political prisoner camps in Belarus, following the surfacing of an audio recording purported to be of the Belarusian Deputy Interior Minister, Mikalai Karpiankou, informing his subordinates of the proposal.

The recording, thought to be from October 2020, was leaked to social media sites on 15 January 2021 by the group BYPOL. BYPOL was formed by Belarusian police officers who left law enforcement following the use of force to crush peaceful protests in cities across Belarus.

The voice in the recording details an order, purportedly from President Alexander Lukashenko, to set up a concentration camp for political opponents who have repeatedly taken part in protests and to model it on correctional facility No 22 in the town of Ivatsevichi. In the recording, protesters are described as superfluous people who are to be resettled in a special camp ‘surrounded with barbed wire.’ Also referenced is a Ministry of Internal Affairs database that collects information on all persons detained for participating in unauthorised mass events.

The recording contains numerous statements with one directly incriminating the police force in human rights violations, including the death of peaceful protester Alyaksandr Taraykouski, who, on 10 August 2020, died from a lethal wound when security forces fired a rubber bullet directly at his chest.

IBAHRI Co-Chair and former Justice of the High Court of Australia (1996-2006), the Hon Michael Kirby AC CMG, observed: ‘The IBAHRI calls for an investigation into what is being proposed in the recording. If such plans are afoot, the time to act is now to avert further breaches of demonstrators’ rights to protest and international law. Clearly, the situation in Belarus is unstable. The global community, in particular the OSCE: Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe, the Council of Europe, the United Nations Security Council and the UN Human Rights Council, must hold President Lukashenko to account for the grave human rights abuses that have already occurred and prevent future ones from occurring.’

In mid-August 2020 approximately 1,000 civilians were illegally detained for participating in peaceful marches against the result of the 9 August presidential elections and police brutality. They were taken to a labour treatment centre near the city of Slutsk, which supports reports of the existence of a network of enforced labour camps run by the Interior Ministry of Belarus. Reportedly, they can accommodate more than 5,000 people.

IBAHRI Co-Chair and immediate past Secretary-General of the Swedish Bar Association, Anne Ramberg Dr jur hc, commented:The IBAHRI reminds the Belarusian government that should there be any plans to detain protestors in a camp environment, it will be contravening Article 21of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights on the fundamental right to peaceful assembly, which could amount to a breach of international criminal law as a crime against humanity.


Notes to the Editor

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  2. The International Bar Association’s Human Rights Institute (IBAHRI), established in 1995 under Founding Honorary President Nelson Mandela, is an autonomous and financially independent entity, working to promote, protect and enforce human rights under a just rule of law, and to preserve the independence of the judiciary and the legal profession worldwide.
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