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A Danwatch investigation

EU-funded surveillance equipment supplied to Belarusian security forces

31. January 2019
Journalist: Mikita Matsiushchankau / Research: Johanne Rübner Hansen (Danwatch) / Photo: International Organization for Migration

Redaktør: Louise Voller

In cooperation with OCCRP

This investigation was financially supported with a grant from the IJ4EU fund.

  • Despite EU embargoes to limit human rights abuses and internal repression in Belarus, the EU is funding surveillance equipment for Belarusian authorities that are instrumental in the crackdown of the political opposition and critics of the regime in the country known as “Europe’s last dictatorship”.
  • A probe into hundreds of EU and IOM tenders and awarded contracts, including technical specifications for the bidders, shows that the EU has financed video surveillance cameras, communication equipment, patrol vehicles and seismic sensors worth €2 million, for the benefit of the Belarusian State Border Committee.
  • Despite EU embargoes to limit human rights abuses and internal repression in Belarus, the EU is funding surveillance equipment for Belarusian authorities that are instrumental in the crackdown of the political opposition and critics of the regime in the country known as “Europe’s last dictatorship”.
  • At least 23 such cases have been documented over the past six years. In interviews, trade unionists and political activists who have been subjected to regular border stops, say that they regard the activity as a form of repression in response to their work or political views.
  • The phenomenon has been documented by human rights organisations. In its 2017 human rights report for Belarus, the US Department of State declares that: “Security forces continued to target prominent opposition and civil society leaders with arbitrary searches and interrogations at border crossings and airports”.
  • Belarusian border authorities have also endangered Chechen refugees by returning them to Russian authorities and denying them access to seek international protection in Belarus, a practice that violates the non-refoulement principle in international law.
  • One Chechen asylum seeker who was fleeing torture, was stopped at a Belarusian border point equipped by the EU. Footage shows that his request for asylum was denied by the Belarusian border authorities, and that he was subsequently returned to Chechnya. This is a violation of international law.
  • Due to the human rights situation in Belarus, the EU has embargoed the export, supply and funding of equipment that may be used for internal repression. According to experts, the EU is at risk of violating its own embargo through the funding of infrared video surveillance cameras.
  • According to the State Border Committee of the Republic of Belarus, “the border guard officers operated within the framework of the law, in accordance with established procedures that are within their competence”.

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