Belarusian opposition leader Svyatlana Tsikhanouskaya has condemned ongoing mass searches of homes of journalists and rights defenders across the country.
At least 25 homes of journalists, rights activists, and their relatives in Minsk and other towns and cities were searched by police and security service officers on February 16. The offices of the Vyasna (Spring) human rights center in Minsk and the headquarters of the Association of Belarusian Journalists were also searched.
Tsikhanouskaya issued a statement on Telegram, saying that those who are looking for “criminals” among journalists and rights defenders should look for criminals among themselves.
“This is the real crisis. In its attempt to cling to power, the regime is repressing those who are defending human rights. As long as this continues, all Belarusians are in danger,” Tsikhanouskaya’s statement says, adding, “Belarusians know how to solve this crisis.”
“With such measures [Belarusian President Alyaksandr] Lukashenka is gathering material for his own trial in an international court together with his associates. We have already forwarded information to the European Union and the United Nations Human Rights Council, asking them to undertake corresponding measures,” Tsikhanouskaya continued.
Tsikhanouskaya, who ran for president after her husband was jailed while trying to mount a candidacy of his own, left the country for Lithuania shortly after the election due to security concerns.
Lukashenka’s declaration of victory in the August 9, 2020 presidential poll has sparked continuous protests that have seen tens of thousands take to the streets demanding that the longtime strongman leave power.
Security officials have cracked down hard on the demonstrators, arresting thousands and pushing most top opposition figures out of the country.
Several protesters have been killed in the violence and some rights organizations say there is credible evidence of torture being used against some of those detained.
Lukashenka has denied any wrongdoing and refuses to negotiate with the opposition on stepping down and holding new elections.
The United States, European Union, Canada, and other countries have refused to recognize Lukashenka, 66, as the legitimate leader of Belarus and have slapped him and other senior Belarusian officials with sanctions in response to the “falsification” of the vote and postelection crackdown.