UPDATE 10 August 2021:
On 9 August 2021, PEN Belarus was formally dissolved following a ruling by the Supreme Court of Belarus.
In the year since the disputed election of August 2020, our PEN Belarus colleagues have worked hard to monitor and share developments on the ground, in spite of the very real risks they faced as a result.
We join colleagues around the world in condemning the decision to close down our sister centre, and continue to stand with all our brave Belarusian colleagues.
English PEN joins PEN International and colleagues around the world in protesting the news that the Belarusian Justice Ministry intends to close down PEN Belarus.
Philippe Sands, President of English PEN, said:
‘We are appalled by the ongoing attempts to stifle freedom of expression in Belarus, and are deeply concerned by the news that the Ministry of Justice is now attempting to shut down our sister centre PEN Belarus. For over 30 years – and increasingly in the wake of the disputed election nearly a year ago – our colleagues in Belarus have worked tirelessly to foster freedom of expression and to support writers and artists across the country. It is essential that the international community now takes a stand to show them, and the many other civil society organisations increasingly under attack in Belarus, that they are not alone. We stand in full solidarity with PEN Belarus and its members.’
Jennifer Clement, President of PEN International, said:
‘For years the Belarusian PEN Centre has spoken out against the loss of freedom of expression around the world and one of its members, Nobel Prize winner Svetlana Alexievich, is a PEN Vice President. To see the Belarus Ministry of Justice turn on its own brave citizens is an act of censorship and injustice. The global PEN community stands with the writers and people of Belarus who demand democracy and basic human rights.’
On 22 July, the Belarusian Justice Minister sent a letter to PEN Belarus informing them of their intention to liquidate the organisation. The move comes in the wake of intensive raids against journalists and human rights activists across the country. In a recent report, PEN Belarus detailed 621 cases of human rights and cultural rights violations between January and June 2021.
PEN calls on the Belarusian authorities to urgently end their crackdown on independent voices, to immediately and unconditionally release all those being held for peacefully expressing their views, and to end raids, detentions, harassment, and attacks on all those exercising their rights to freedom of expression and association.
Stand in solidarity with PEN Belarus:
- Sign PEN America’s petition ‘I Support PEN Belarus.’
- Send a message of solidarity through our PENWrites campaign.
- Follow PEN Belarus on Twitter @pen_belarus
- Spread the word and show your support for #PENBelarus.
For more information about PEN’s work on Belarus click here.