Clashes between protesters and riot police broke out in Minsk in 2020.
Around 35,000 people were arrested for protesting after the disputed reelection of Lukashenko – including many human rights defenders.
Belarusian lawyer Victoria Fedorova. She represents the International Committee for Investigation of Torture in Belarus in the Steering Committee of the International Accountability Platform for Belarus (IAPB), which collect, verify and preserve evidence of gross human rights violations constituting crimes under international law allegedly committed by Belarusian authorities and others in the run-up to the 2020 election and its aftermath.
Asked about the main challenges in 2024, she replies:
»We have colleagues who are still in prison. One colleague has been in prison for 10 years. While most were imprisoned during the 2020 protests. For security reasons, I also had to leave my home country«, says Victoria Fedorova.
Global affairs have also shifted the focus since the 2020 election and protests, she explains:
»We are no longer at the top of the international community’s agenda. There is war in Ukraine and Gaza. And that has shifted the focus away from Belarus«.
Although Victoria Fedorova is currently in exile, she hasn’t lost hope.
»Since 2020, we have collected approximately 3500 statements from victims and other pieces of evidence of alleged torture committed by the regime. Even though I am not in Belarus, the digital development has made it possible for us to document even though we are not physically in the country«, says Victoria Fedorova and describes, that there are specific guidelines for collecting evidence of gross human rights violations constituting crimes under international law. Evidence is processed by a professional team, where images and interviews are stored under extremely sensitive conditions and in encrypted media. Victoria also highlights the importance of prioritizing security and wellbeing of the victims and people collecting cases in Belarus.
»The world situation has changed since 2020, but we get up every day and fight for human rights and accountability in Belarus. My colleagues in prison give me hope. We fight for them and the victims of torture. We believe that justice will come and those responsible will be held accountable«, says Victoria Fedorova.