Joint statement of BSA, BNYC RADA and Belarusian Independent Bologna Committee regarding the forced public «repentance video» of a BSU Law student

Joint statement of BSA, BNYC RADA and Belarusian Independent Bologna Committee regarding the forced public «repentance video» of a BSU Law student

We, the Belarusian Students’ Association and Belarusian national youth council RADA, strongly condemn the recent incident at the Faculty of Law of Belarusian State University, where a student was coerced into filming in «a repentance video». This act not only represents a violation of the student’s rights and freedoms but also constitutes a flagrant breach of academic freedom.

Academic freedom is a fundamental principle that underpins the pursuit of knowledge, critical thinking, and open dialogue within educational institutions, along with the clear border between the academic and public life of students and teachers. It encompasses the rights of students, faculty, and staff to freely express their thoughts, opinions, and research findings without fear of retribution or coercion. The violation of academic freedom not only affects the individual student involved but also has far-reaching consequences for the entire academic community and the advancement of knowledge in Belarus. Such incidents undermine intellectual diversity, hinder critical thinking, and stifle innovation and progress.

In the case at hand, the student was forced to film in a repentance video, thereby infringing upon his right to express his viewpoints freely. By imposing this coercive measure, Belarusian State University has compromised the academic freedom of the student, denying him the right to engage in open discussion and exploration of ideas and has implemented humiliating punishment methods.

The coercion and imposition of a repentance video upon the student not only infringe upon his right to express his thoughts and opinions freely but also disregard his dignity and autonomy. Such actions go against the principles of fairness, compassion, and respect that should guide educational institutions. Similar methods are widely used by Belarusian police in regard to those who have committed crimes against the current political regime, and with this example we see how deep has state ideology and persecution of political opponents seeped into the Academy. 

Moreover, we emphasize that this coercive measure violates internationally recognized human rights standards, including the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. These instruments protect the rights to freedom of thought, conscience, expression, and due process, all of which were violated in this incident.

We call upon Belarusian State University to take immediate action to rectify this situation. We demand that the university:

  • Publicly acknowledges and apologizes for the violation of the student’s rights and the distress caused by the imposition of the repentance video.
  • Revokes any punitive measures imposed on the student as a result of the coerced repentance video.
  • Reviews and revises university policies and procedures to ensure they align with internationally recognized human rights standards and protect the rights and freedoms of all members of the university community.

Additionally, we call upon international organizations and academic institutions to support Belarusian civil society and work with Belarusian students individually. The current situation in Belarus demands solidarity and collaboration to protect the rights and freedoms of students and scholars.

We urge international partners to:

  • Collaborate with Belarusian civil society organizations to support and protect the rights of students and academics facing repression and restrictions on academic freedom.
  • Provide scholarships, exchange programs, and academic support to Belarusian students, allowing them to continue their studies in an environment that upholds academic freedom and respects their rights.
  • Advocate for the release of detained students and academics in Belarus who have been unjustly targeted for expressing their views and engaging in peaceful activism.
  • Allocate resources to support and strengthen independent student organizations and initiatives in Belarus, providing them with the necessary tools, training, and guidance to advocate for academic freedom and human rights within their institutions.
  • Engage in diplomatic efforts and international pressure to encourage the Belarusian government to respect and protect academic freedom, human rights, and the autonomy of educational institutions.
  • Facilitate academic exchanges and collaborations between Belarusian students, scholars, and their international counterparts, promoting cross-cultural understanding and knowledge sharing while creating networks of support and solidarity.
  • Monitor and document human rights violations and infringements on academic freedom in Belarus, raising awareness at the international level and urging governments and relevant stakeholders to take decisive actions in response.