Belarusian Canadians call on Canada to consider urgent new measures to help stop violence
TORONTO, November 17, 2020 – Belarusian Canadian Alliance (BCA), a non-profit organization that represents Canada’s Belarusian diaspora, strongly condemns the escalation of terror used by the Belarusian regime against peaceful protesters and civil society in Belarus.
On November 12, a 31-year-old opposition activist Raman Bandarenka died in a hospital in Minsk after being beaten in police detention – a result of the deplorable actions by the Belarusian authorities who are now at war with their own people. After 100 days of protests following the August 9 fraudulent election, over 1,000 more Belarusians were arrested on November 15. The riot police continue to break up pro-democracy protests using clubs, tear gas, rubber bullets, and water cannons to disperse thousands of demonstrators.
“We are grateful to Canada for its principled and active position on Belarus and its commitment to our shared values of democracy,” says Alena Liavonchanka, head of the Belarusian Canadian Alliance. “But the world also needs to recognize that changes are needed urgently as every day of the current regime is measured in lost and broken lives. Symbolic measures are not effective in stopping what essentially has become a genocide of the Belarusian nation. Belarusians cannot overcome this on their own – it will take an entire democratic community to stop the reign of terror in Belarus and bring democratic change.”
The Viasna human rights organization again reported that detainees were beaten by police following the most recent arrests. Police and military forces are seen attacking and arresting unarmed Belarusians on the streets, in their homes and in stores. International media shared disturbing images of protesters beaten in a supermarket on November 15.
The number of arrests is nearing 30,000, with close to 900 of them viewed by authorities as politically motivated criminal cases. According to Tut.by and local sources quoted by NEXTA, a popular pro-opposition Telegram channel sharing information about the protests, in one of the protest-oriented Minsk communities called Novaya Baravaya, utility service providers have intentionally blocked the supply of water and heating to the homes of local residents despite freezing temperatures.
It is clear that the regime is not listening to international appeals or entering into an inclusive national dialogue to resolve the crisis. Instead, the regime is stepping up the intimidation and violent repression of Belarusians.
Members of the Belarusian Canadian Alliance are asking Canada and its international partners to consider options for coordinated international action that goes beyond symbolic measures and includes the strongest economic sanctions possible.
“Belarusians have not seen this level of repression since the Second World War,” says Liavonchanka. “The criminal tactics employed by the totalitarian regime and its security system include murder, rape and sexual abuse, torture and markings on the clothes of the detainees chosen for particularly severe beating. The Belarusian Canadian Alliance condemns the terror that’s undertaken against peaceful protesters, participants in the pro-democracy movement, ordinary Belarusians, members of the church and independent media to instill fear and suppress dissent against election fraud and police brutality.”
The Belarusian Canadian Alliance has represented the Belarusian community in Canada since 1948. Throughout these years, it has built close relationships with many other Eastern European diaspora organizations within Canada, as well as with the Coordination Council of Belarus led by the President-Elect Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya. The organization has repeatedly called on the Belarusian authorities to immediately release all illegally detained Belarusians and political prisoners, fully investigate all violations of human rights and run a fair and transparent election.