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Silently Protesting Belarus

July 5, 2011

The Belarusian government has adopted  a new definition of the word “hooliganism.” See it has nothing to do with football (soccer) riots or violence–unless you count the violence carried out by authorities and police force. No, to the government, “hooliganism” means to protest peacefully and in silence against a repressive government.

According to one witness:

“People were just standing there and before they knew it, the police officers started picking some of them up by their arms and legs and throwing them into buses. I saw law enforcement officials spraying teargas into cameras of journalists who attempted to film the events. One man near me, who had teargas sprayed right into his face, screamed and a security officer responded: ‘Calm down, it’s just pepper spray.'”

So how is Belarus’ government responding to the “violence” brought on by these “hooligans?” It’s quite simple, it directs real violence against these peaceful protestors by locking them up in jail, beating them and conjuring up fake trials.

Violence is a familiar weapon the government–as any government–has at its disposal. However, Human Rights Watch has reminded us, as well as Belarus’ government, that stopping its citizens from engaging in peaceful protest is a violation of article 21 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and a violation of article 35 of Belarus’ constitution. Lawyered!

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