Belarus: PEN Centres world-wide call for an end to the abuse of fundamental rights of those who speak out against repression

The Statement of PEN International

Over the six months since the rigged election of August 2020, thousands of people have taken to the streets of Belarus in peaceful protest. Hundreds have been detained, many more have been beaten by police and others have lost their livelihoods for taking part. Writers, artists, musicians, and performers have played an important role in the protests, using their art as cultural resistance to the oppression. They have staged theatrical and street performances, held public readings, written poetry, or simply lent their public support to and taken part in the protests.

For this, they have suffered terrible consequences. Between August and December 2020, according to a recent PEN Belarus report, over 590 writers and artists have been persecuted, with over 230 detained and many suffering beatings and torture. Others have been attacked in the streets by police and pro-government supporters, leading in one case to a tragic death, that of artist Roman Bondarenko. Others have found themselves forced to resign or dismissed from their jobs, losing contracts, and having performances and readings cancelled because of their engagement in the opposition protests. Their persecution continues today.

The scale of the repression against the cultural sector, alongside that of many others from across civil society and the media who also took part in mass protests, is unprecedented in the recent history of Belarus. PEN International and its member Centres are dismayed to see the perpetuation of the oppression of writers and artists who stand up for the rights to freedom of expression and peaceful protest.

We call on the Belarusian authorities for an immediate halt to the abuse of fundamental rights of all those who speak out. We also appeal to governments worldwide to strongly condemn and demand an end to attacks against writers, artists, and cultural workers in clear retaliation for their attempts to raise their concerns and combat injustice.

  1. PEN International
  2. PEN America
  3. PEN Austria
  4. PEN Bangladesh
  5. PEN Belarus
  6. PEN Belgium – Flanders
  7. PEN Belgium – French Speaking
  8. Croatian PEN
  9. Cuban Writers in Exile PEN Centre
  10. Czech PEN
  11. English PEN
  12. PEN Esperanto
  13. Estonian PEN
  14. Danish PEN
  15. German PEN
  16. PEN Georgia
  17. Ghana PEN Centre
  18. Independent Chinese PEN Centre
  19. Iranian PEN Centre in Exile
  20. Irish PEN/PEN na hÉireann
  21. PEN Latvia
  22. PEN Lebanon
  23. PEN Club Liechtenstein
  24. Lithuanian PEN
  25. PEN Melbourne
  26. PEN Moscow
  27. NZSA Te Puni Kaituhi o Aoteroa (PEN New Zealand)
  28. PEN Norway
  29. PEN Nederland
  30. PEN Perth
  31. Polish PEN Club
  32. PEN Portugal
  33. PEN Québec
  34. Romanian PEN Centre
  35. Russian PEN
  36. San Miguel PEN
  37. Serbian PEN Centre
  38. St-Petersburg PEN
  39. Suisse Romand PEN Centre
  40. Swedish PEN
  41. Trieste PEN
  42. PEN Turkey
  43. PEN Ukraine
  44. PEN Venezuela
  45. Vietnamese Abroad PEN Centre
  46. PEN Zimbabwe