(New York, NY) — PEN America today reiterated its call condemning the continuous harassment and oppression of peaceful protesters in Belarus, including numerous colleagues at PEN Belarus who have been arrested and detained. In particular, PEN America calls for a halt to the pressure campaign against the president of PEN Belarus and Nobel-Prize winning author Svetlana Alexievich, who belongs to the opposition Coordinating Council. To date, she is the only member of the council who has remained in the country without being detained or expelled, partly due to the support of numerous European diplomats. 

“All that stands between Svetlana Alexievich and arrest is international pressure and the physical bodies of European diplomats,” said vice president of PEN America’s board of trustees and acclaimed journalist Masha Gessen. “This is unconscionable. Svetlana is a 72-year-old woman with a chronic illness; her only ‘crime’ is continuing to stand with her people. But this is true of the literally thousands of people who have been detained in Belarus in the last six weeks; many of them were tortured. Most of them, unlike Alexievich, are not recognized as international treasures, but the Belarusian dictatorship must know that the eyes of the world are on them.”

PEN America has condemned the arrest of numerous staff and colleagues at PEN Belarus. The organization’s secretary, poet and translator Hanna Komar, and poet, and translator Uladzimir Liankievich, who serves as project manager, were detained during a demonstration on September 8 and spent nine and six days in prison, respectively. Translator Siarzh Miadzvedzeu has been released but is now awaiting trial. While most political prisoners are usually released after a maximum of 15 days, the government’s aggression against peaceful protesters and political opposition figures continue to  terrorize Belarusian society.  Other detainees include bloggers, writers, artists, and journalists who have used their right to freedom of expression and association to openly criticize the government.

Last Friday, the United Nations Human Rights Council passed a resolution expressing grave concern about reported human rights violations in Belarus, including torture and arbitrary detention, and called on the government of Belarus to uphold its international obligations to respect human rights and engage in dialogue with the political opposition. PEN America supports the resolution and condemns the continuous harassment and oppression of peaceful protesters. PEN America stands with the courageous Belarusian society and calls for the immediate end of repression in the country.