Belarus: medical workers witness painful human toll of retaliation, pay high personal price


Belarusian health workers who have participated in anti-government protests or denounced official accounts of the deaths and injuries of protesters are facing brutal reprisals from the authorities, Amnesty International said in a statement today. new briefing. Despite chronic staff shortages, dozens of health workers have been sacked amid the government’s crackdown on critics, many of whom have been excluded from medical employment, while countless others have been threatened and prosecuted .

“Belarusian health workers have been at the forefront of the human rights crisis in the country, treating injured protesters and exposing the government’s attempts to minimize the bloodshed. Many have paid a heavy price for their integrity, losing their livelihoods and, in some cases, their human rights, ”said Bruce Millar, deputy director of campaigns for Eastern Europe and Central Asia. Amnesty International.

Belarusian health workers have been at the forefront of the country’s human rights crisis, treating injured protesters and exposing government attempts to minimize the bloodshed

Bruce Millar, Deputy Director of Amnesty International Campaigns for Eastern Europe and Central Asia

“A doctor has been tried for contradicting the government’s account of the death of a protester, while many doctors who joined peaceful protests have been forced to resign. The Belarusian authorities’ intolerance of peaceful dissent is eroding the healthcare system and the medical community, amid a global pandemic. “

Massive layoffs

Amnesty International tells the stories of four health workers, who described how layoffs and massive radiation have contributed to a catastrophic situation in many medical facilities, especially in provincial areas. Many identifying details, such as the last names of medical professionals, their cities of residence and even the names of the hospitals where they had worked, were omitted from the briefing for security reasons.

Bruce Millar said:

“The government does not care about people’s right to health and other human rights. The authorities’ response to any peaceful dissent is violence and brutal retaliation. Doctors and nurses are among those who have paid an incredible human price for their professionalism and for showing human compassion. “

Doctors and nurses are among those who have paid an incredible human price for their professionalism and for showing human compassion.

Bruce Millar, Deputy Director of Amnesty International Campaigns for Eastern Europe and Central Asia

Many of those who have faced reprisals are still trying to come to terms with the excessive use of force by the police they have witnessed over the past year.

Longtime medical nurse and activist Halina described what she saw in August 2020:

“I saw all these crippled people – with broken bones, jagged faces, swollen heads the size of a balloon. We were not allowed to write descriptions of injuries and were constantly threatened with reprisals, ”she told Amnesty International.

We were not allowed to write descriptions of injuries and were constantly threatened with retaliation

Halina, witness and former nurse

After joining the protests, “shoulder to shoulder with other doctors and nurses” Halina was briefly arrested in September 2020, then the hospital administration asked her to resign. She refused and two days later, on her way home from work, she was greeted by two men in civilian clothes who threatened to make her children disappear. Fearing for the safety of her family, Halina quit her job and was unable to find a new job.

“I was refused everywhere I went. Even when applying for the most basic jobs that no one wanted. There must be a red check mark next to my name, ”said Halina.

Sued for speaking

In November 2020, peaceful protester Raman Bandarenka died in hospital after being severely beaten in police custody. Authorities claimed that Bandarenka’s injuries were the result of a street brawl and that he was drunk at the time of his death. But an anesthesiologist who treated him, Artsyom Sarokin, contradicted this account and shared Bandarenka’s medical reports with journalist Katsyaryna Barysevich. Both were convicted of “disclosing medical secrets”; Sarokin was fined and given a suspended prison sentence, while Barysevich was fined and sentenced to six months in a penal colony.

“The government of Alyaksandr Lukashenka is systematically destroying the most valuable institutions of Belarusian society – from cultural organizations and student unions to journalists and the medical community. We call on world leaders, the international community and healthcare professionals around the world to stand up and speak out against the escalating repression of human rights in Belarus, ”said Bruce Millar.

Background

The briefing is part of Amnesty International’s #StandWithBelarus global solidarity campaign which was launched on January 27, 2021, with the release of a report revealing how Belarusian authorities have used the justice system as a repressive tool to punish survivors torture rather than the alleged perpetrators.

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