The Belarusian authorities must end their crackdown on political opposition, activists and critics, and fully respect, protect, promote and fulfil the human rights of everyone in the lead up to presidential election on 9 August, Amnesty International said today. In a statement Belarus: Growing Crackdown on Human Rights ahead of Presidential Election, the organization documented a wave of reprisals against political opponents, activists, critics and independent media.
“There is no safe environment for political debate in Belarus, and there is a growing crackdown on human rights in the context of the forthcoming election. The wave of activism currently taking place in Belarus is unlike anything the authorities have faced for years, and they have responded by brutally crushing peaceful protests and dissent and punishing opposition leaders,” said Marie Struthers, Amnesty International’s Eastern Europe and Central Asia Director.
“Opposition candidates along with their supporters are smeared, targeted and incarcerated under trumped-up charges, with women particularly targeted. One opposition activist was threatened with having her children taken into state custody; another was threatened with gang rape in a police station.”
Two aspiring politicians, Syarhei Tsikhanouski and Viktar Babaryka, were thrown behind bars, alongside their associates, and face unfounded and politically motivated criminal proceedings. Hundreds of peaceful protesters, including their supporters, have been arbitrarily arrested and heavily fined or held in “administrative detention.”
Amnesty International believes Syarhei Tsikhanouski, Viktar Babaryka, his son Eduard Babaryka arrested alongside with him, and dozens of peaceful protesters and activists detained at solidarity rallies are prisoners of conscience, prosecuted solely for the peaceful exercise of their human rights and expression of their political opinions.
“In Belarus, opposition politicians and supporters are treated as criminals simply for exercising human rights and taking part in the political and elections processes,” said Marie Struthers.
“These actions are a calculated move to harass and intimidate the opposition, activists and critics ahead of elections. The Belarusian authorities must stop their attacks, harassment and intimidation of all those named above, and ensure full respect for the human rights of everyone, including opposition leaders, before, during and after the elections.”
All those detained under criminal or administrative proceedings solely for peacefully exercising their human rights must be immediately and unconditionally released.
Syarhei Tsikhanouski, a well-known blogger and aspiring presidential candidate, was arrested on 29 May and charged with “organization and preparation for a grave breach of public order” (§1 Art. 342 of the Criminal Code of Belarus). He faces up to three years in prison if found guilty and has already been barred from running.
Another presidential contender, Viktar Babaryka, a former banker, was arrested on 18 June, together with his son and campaign chief Eduard Babaryka. While Eduard Babaryka is facing charges of tax evasion (Art. 243 of the Criminal Code of Belarus), the nature of the charges against his father remain unknown. The investigating authorities have banned their lawyers from sharing any information about the case publicly.
© Amnesty International 2020