Belarus

Weekly report: mass arrests and detentions of opposition activists

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”.

SUMMARY

  • during the period of the report, the registered nomination groups continued to collect signatures to support the nomination of candidates for President of the Republic of Belarus. Among the potential candidates, the greatest attention of voters and the media, as before, was drawn by Viktar Babaryka, Valery Tsapkala, and Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya;
  • a particularly negative reaction of the authorities, including the head of state, was caused by the signature-collecting pickets held by the nomination group of Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya, or rather by the team of blogger and head of this nomination group Siarhei Tsikhanouski;
  • mass arrests and detentions of opposition activists, including members of Tsikhanouskaya’s nomination group, took place in different cities of the country during the week. They were accused of participating in unauthorized mass events, namely pickets to collect signatures, which took place in places not prohibited by the decisions of local executive bodies. Experts of the campaign “Human Rights Defenders for Free Elections” note that the pickets were held in accordance with Art. 61 of the Electoral Code and observed the ban on the distribution of printed and other campaign materials;
  • blogger Siarhei Tsikhanouski and seven other people (including four members of Tsikhanouskaya’s nomination group) have been held in the pre-trial detention center in Minsk as suspects in a criminal case of alleged violence against a police officer, after they were arrested at an election picket in Hrodna on May 29. Active investigative actions are taking place within the case: interrogation of witnesses, searches in private and office premises of both Siarhei Tsikhanouski and his supporters. The criminal case has been widely covered in the government-owned media;
  • on June 4, the head of state made another negative statement against his opponents. The speech was broadcast on state TV channels;
  • the collection of signatures for the nomination of the incumbent President has been accompanied by numerous reports of abuse of administrative resources: including direct participation of administrations of organizations, enterprises and institutions (including health and education organizations), and collection of signatures in the workplace, including during working hours;
  • the CEC rejected the complaint filed by the nomination group of Viktar Babaryka who reported violations of election laws during the collection of signatures by Lukashenka’s nomination group. At the same time, experts of the campaign “Human Rights Defenders for Free Elections” note the formal nature of its consideration and the selective approaches of the CEC to interpret some rules of electoral law in favor of one of the potential candidates: the rules prohibiting participation of administrations in collecting signatures (para. 10 Art. 61 of the Electoral Code);
  • experts of the campaign “Human Rights Defenders for Free Elections” note a radically different approach of the CEC to the possibility of campaigning before the registration of candidates during this year’s election as compared to previous presidential and parliamentary elections. The CEC should develop uniform rules for all candidates, regardless of their political views and power, in order to prevent discriminatory approaches in the assessment of election campaigning by different actors.
  • in general, representatives of the campaign “Human Rights Defenders for Free Elections” note the continuing trend of increasing repression during the election period, including against the direct participants in the election, and the escalation of tensions and an atmosphere of fear in society.

 

The full observation report is available to download below.

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