Weekly report: end of signature collection phase accompanied by further arrests
Observation of the presidential election is carried out by the Belarusian Helsinki Committee and the Human Rights Center “Viasna” in the framework of the campaign “Human Rights Defenders for Free Elections”.
- the presidential election is taking place against the background of a sharp deterioration of the overall human rights situation in the country, in a situation of incessant repression against citizens, including direct participants in the electoral process, which contributes to an atmosphere of fear in society;
- on June 18, it became known that officers of the Department for Financial Investigations of the State Control Committee detained a potential presidential candidate, one of the most prominent participants in this year’s election, Viktar Babaryka, and the head of his nomination group, Eduard Babaryka. Later it was reported that the Prosecutor General’s Office opened a criminal case under Parts 2 and 3 of Article 285 of the Criminal Code (creation of a criminal organization or participation in it). Both detainees are held in the KGB pre-trial detention center in Minsk. Earlier, police detained members of Babaryka’s nomination group Sviatlana Kupreyeva and Uladzimir Dudarau. The human rights community declared Viktar Babaryka and the detained members of his nomination group political prisoners and demanded their immediate release;
- on June 16, it became known that another criminal case was opened under Art. 191 of the Criminal Code (obstacles to the exercise of suffrage, the right to participate in a referendum, or the exercise of the right of legislative initiative by citizens, or the work of the Central Election Commission). It is known that the case was initiated after a complaint filed by CEC Chairwoman Lidziya Yarmoshyna;
- June 19 was the last day of the phase of collecting signatures in support of presidential nominations. Three nominees, Natallia Kisel, Aliaksandr Tabolich, and Yury Hubarevich, announced their withdrawal from the election;
- campaign observers continue to report the abuse of administrative resources in collecting signatures for the nomination of incumbent President Lukashenka, in particular collecting signatures with the direct participation of the administrations of organizations, enterprises and institutions in their territories, including during working hours;
- when holding street pickets to collect signatures for the nomination of Lukashenka, their organizers also discussed other issues that affect the interests of citizens. At the same time, these actions were not reprimanded by either law enforcement agencies or election commissions, which is evidence of selective approaches to street pickets by some candidates;
- campaign observers continue to face refusals by the TECs to observe signature verification procedures;
- considering the current situation in the country and the conditions of the election in general, experts of the campaign “Human Rights Defenders for Free Elections” believe that the background of this year’s election is incompatible with international standards of free and democratic elections based on equal competition.
The full observation report is available to download below.