SAR Italy's appeal to stop the violence against the academic community in Belarus
8 months since the presidential elections held in Belarus which saw the contested confirmation of president Lukashenko, the Italian section of Scholars at Risk (SAR Italy), in agreement with the Conference of Italian University Rectors (CRUI) has sent a petition addressed to the Belarusian authorities to express our deep concern regarding the attacks on the academic community in the country. According to different international sources, following the elections in August 2020 several peaceful demonstrations took place in Belarus calling for a real process of democratization in the country; these demonstrations were violently repressed by the Belarusian authorities. Many students and academics took part in these demonstrations, many of whom were subsequently stopped, detained, legally prosecuted, fired or expelled from the universities. The exercise of the rights to freedom of expression, association and assembly, which are protected by the Belarusian Constitution, in Articles 8, 33, 35 and 36, have been violated. These attacks against the university communities are incompatible with the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.
In light of these facts, SAR Italy calls for the immediate release of students and professors, political prisoners, journalists and activists arrested for having exercised their rights to the freedom of expression and association, and call on the authorities to cease using force on the demonstrators.
This initiative stems from the will of SAR Italy member institutions to protect and promote academic freedom as a fundamental value of higher education institutions. The careful monitoring of the situation in Belarus on the part of SAR Italy has been supported also by the association Supolka, one of the main voices of the Belarusian student community in Italy that has been active from the beginning in support of the peaceful protests in the country.
The petition is part of a series of joint activities between these organizations in Italy.
On occasion of the 9th April, the Association of Belarusians in Italy – Supolka – in collaboration with SAR Italy and the University of Padova, has organized a public seminar called Belarus 8 months after the elections: la libertà accademica nel mirino del regime, with the aim of opening a debate on the situation of the university community in the country. Belarusian and Italian scholars will take part in the event, experts on politics and human rights in Belarus and in the context of countries of the ex-Soviet Union.
The event can be followed live on Facebook at this link link.
For the coordination of Scholars at Risk Italia,
Francesca Helm, University of Padova. Co-chair, Scholars at Risk Italy; Claudia Padovani, University of Padova. Co-chair, Scholars at Risk Italy and SAR European Advocacy Committee for Academic Freedom; Ester Gallo, University of Trento. Co-chair, Scholars at Risk Italy and SAR International Advisory Committee.