(updated 18 August)
We strongly condemn the raid this month on the offices of our sister union in Belarus. The Union of Belarusian Writers’ (UBW) offices in Minsk was raided by government officials on 14 July.
According to reports from the European Writers’ Council, the Combating Organised Crime and Corruption Directorate of the Belarusian Ministry of the Interior last week conducted what it calls a nationwide ‘radical cleansing’ operation against independent groups of writers, journalists, cultural workers, and human rights organisations, including the UBW and PEN Belarus.
We have written to Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab MP to call on the UK Government to apply further diplomatic pressure on Belarus to end violence and repression across the country.
The writers’ groups were among 21 unions and civil society organisations to face crackdowns by the Belarusian Government, including the Association of Belarusian Journalists, the independent academic research centre BEROC, and Viasna, the human rights organisation defending political prisoners.
Viasna’s founder and Chair Ales Bialiatski, writer and laureate of the 2020 Alternative Nobel Award, was detained with UBW Chair, Barys Piatrovich. Piatrovich is prohibited from leaving the country and subject to a non-disclosure agreement.
According to PEN International, 590 authors, artists and cultural workers were attacked and subjected to psychological and physical violence in Belarusian prisons in 2020. This violence and repression has now been extended to civil society groups across Belarus.
The SoA stands with all Belarusian writers, artists and other cultural workers, and we join the European Writers Council, Belarus PEN and PEN International in condemning the ongoing violence and repression in the country – including the news that the Belarusian Justice Ministry intends to close down PEN Belarus.
We continue to lobby the UK Government to take action.
Stand in solidarity with PEN Belarus:
Update: 18 August 2021
English PEN has reported that its counterpart, PEN Belarus, was formally dissolved by the Supreme Court of Belarus on 9 August.
PEN Belarus has faced violation and repression for its work in monitoring and sharing information about the very grave situation on the ground.
Further information about the dissolution of PEN Belarus can be found on PEN International’s website. We continue to work closely with colleagues at English PEN, the European Writers’ Council and others.