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Watchdog Says Belarus Health Workers Pay 'Heavy Price' For Political Crisis

Many health-care workers treated injured protesters.
Many health-care workers treated injured protesters.

Amnesty International says Belarusian health workers who participated in anti-government demonstrations or spoke out against official accounts are facing "brutal reprisals."

Health workers in Belarus have been at the "front line of the country's human rights crisis" stemming from mass protests against the results of its presidential election in August 2020, the London-based human rights watchdog said in a June 17 briefing.

The group said that “dozens of health workers have been dismissed amid the government’s crackdown on critics, with many barred from medical employment, while countless others have faced threats and prosecution.”

Health workers have paid a "heavy price," including the loss of their livelihoods and human rights, for treating injured protesters and exposing the government's attempts to downplay the bloodshed caused by its violent crackdown on dissent, said Bruce Millar, Amnesty's deputy director of campaigns for the Eastern Europe and Central Asia Regional Office.

Crisis In Belarus

Read our coverage as Belarusian strongman Alyaksandr Lukashenka continues his brutal crackdown on NGOs, activists, and independent media following the August 2020 presidential election.

The crackdown has contributed to a "catastrophic situation" at medical facilities around the country, Millar said.

"The Belarusian authorities’ intolerance of peaceful dissent is eroding the health-care system and the medical community, amid a global pandemic," he said. "Doctors and nurses are among those who have paid an incredible human price for their professionalism and for showing human compassion.”

Rights groups recorded the arrests of thousands of protesters following the nationwide anti-government protests that erupted after strongman Alyaksandr Lukashenka was declared the winner of the August 9 election. As of the end of 2020, the Vyasna Human Rights center had documented the testimonies of 1,000 people who had been tortured while in custody.

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