A year has passed since August 9, 2020, when Belarus held a presidential election that officially gave Alexander Lukashenko, who had been in power since 1994, another term in office. Tens of thousands of Belarusians considered the election rigged and took to the streets in mass peaceful protests.
Over the last year, according to the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH) and Viasna, a Belarusian organisation documenting torture, at least 35,000 peaceful protesters have been detained, there have been 4,691 documented criminal court cases, 608 political prisoners and about 1,800 reports of torture. Hundreds of human rights activists have been persecuted and thousands have had to flee the country.
What is it like to be a judge in Belarus? Judges for Judges had a chance to speak to one of the few judges that decided to leave their function. Mr. J* worked as judge in a regional court in Belarus until October 2020. In August 2020, judge J refused to hear cases against citizens who had been arrested on the streets during the protests against the outcome of the Belarus presidential election. He felt morally obliged to resign and was later forced to leave the country for fear of reprisals.
*J is for Judge: for security reasons his name is not mentioned here.