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The right to believe, to worship and witness
The right to change one’s belief or religion
The right to join together and express one’s belief

BELARUS: Religious freedom survey, October 2020

Before the UN Human Rights Council Universal Periodic Review (UPR) of Belarus on 2 November, Forum 18's freedom of religion and belief survey analysis notes continuing violations of this freedom and of interlinked freedoms. These have worsened amid widespread continuing protests against falsified results of the August 2020 presidential election, and against the regime's other serious violations of the human rights of the people it rules.

BELARUS: Another Catholic priest banned from serving

Belarus' senior state religious affairs official gave the Catholic bishop of Vitebsk one day's notice that he was annulling permission for Polish priest Jerzy Wilk to serve in his parish, giving no reason. Fr Wilk has served in Belarus since 2003. The State Border Committee told Archbishop Tadeusz Kondrusiewicz he was denied re-entry because his Belarusian passport was invalid. The Interior Ministry then said it was checking if he gained citizenship lawfully.

BELARUS: Catholic Church "cannot exist without its leader"

Border guards denied Archbishop Tadeusz Kondrusiewicz, head of Belarus' Catholic Church, re-entry to his own country on 31 August. President Aleksandr Lukashenko says he is on the shared Belarus/Russia entry ban list. No officials explained to Archbishop Kondrusiewicz – a Belarusian citizen – why he is barred. "The right of a citizen to enter the Republic of Belarus cannot be restricted," says the Law on Exit and Entry for Belarusian Citizens.

BELARUS: "Why should we pay the state .. to pray in our own church?"

Minsk's historical Catholic Red Church parish faces large financial demands from the state for building work it did not agree to and which it cannot afford. It is unclear why this parish is facing these demands, as no other religious community has faced them. City officials refused to explain to Forum 18 the large sums demanded. Catholics in Mogilev, Grodno and Bobruisk have failed to regain ownership of historical churches they use.

BELARUS: Makhalichev "basically free, but still not out of danger"

Vitebsk's Investigation Prison freed Russian Jehovah's Witness Nikolai Makhalichev on 7 April after Belarus' General Prosecutor's Office rejected Russia's extradition request. Russia wishes to punish him for exercising freedom of religion or belief there. Enira Bronitskaya of Human Constanta warns that Makhalichev is "not out of danger". If Belarus rejects his application for refugee status, he could be deported, either back to Russia or to a third country.

BELARUS: Jehovah's Witness fights extradition to Russia

Nikolai Makhalichev, a 35-year-old Russian Jehovah's Witness, is in Investigation Prison in the Belarusian city of Vitebsk as Belarus considers whether to accede to Russia's request for his extradition. Russia is investigating him on two criminal charges carrying up to ten and eight years' imprisonment to punish him for exercising freedom of religion or belief. Jehovah's Witness activity is legal in Belarus.

BELARUS: New possible fines for unapproved worship

On 18 July, criminal punishments for unregistered religious activities, including worship meetings, ended, but were replaced by summary fines of up to five weeks' average wage. "Some church members will be scared and stop coming to worship services or, God forbid, the authorities will impose a restraining order on the church's property," the leader of an unregistered Christian community commented.

BELARUS: "Unaffordable" police fees stop Greek Catholic pilgrimage

Under a Council of Ministers Decree, public events require fees to police, health workers and cleaners. The Interior Ministry later said fees would not apply to religious organisations' events at designated venues, such as churches and cemeteries. However, Greek Catholic leaders cancelled what would have been their 25th annual pilgrimage from Vitebsk to Polotsk in mid-July because of "unaffordable" police fees.

BELARUS: Officials bar priest's return, church's registration

Senior state religious affairs official Leonid Gulyako without explanation rejected pleas from parishioners and the bishop for Polish Catholic priest Pawel Knurek to be allowed to return to work in Belarus. Also, a Minsk Pentecostal Church has been denied registration for the sixth time.

BELARUS: Fined for singing, offering religious literature

Police stopped a Baptist husband and wife from singing and offering Christian literature outside Lepel's market. "We were detained like criminals and brought to the police station," Andrei Fokin stated. A court fined the couple one month's average wages each. Bailiffs are seeking to confiscate property and ban him from driving.

BELARUS: Order not to register new religious communities?

"We want to comply with the law and gather for religious meetings without fear of raids, fines or detentions," says Pastor Vyacheslav Novakovsky of Your Will Be Done Church. A Minsk official involved in the four registration rejections since 2017 told him of "an order from superiors not to register any new communities". She refused to explain this to Forum 18.

BELARUS: State official vetoes foreign Orthodox, Catholic priests

In early June the senior state religious affairs official rejected a request from the Catholic Bishop of Vitebsk for permission for a priest from Poland to replace another who is leaving. Leonid Gulyako has already in 2018 rejected another Polish Catholic priest and two Orthodox priests from Russia.