ODIHR gravely concerned at situation in Belarus following presidential election
WARSAW, 10 August 2020 – Amidst intimidation and disproportionate police force against protesters in Belarus following reports of serious administrative misconduct during yesterday’s presidential election, the OSCE Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR) calls for dialogue and urges the authorities to refrain from violence and to honestly report detailed election results from all polling stations.
There is evidence of excessive use of force by police across Belarus in the face of overwhelmingly peaceful protests, which has resulted in a large number of injured people and arrests, including of independent election observers and journalists. Freedom of peaceful assembly as well as freedom of expression are basic human rights crucial for the development of democratic societies, and ODIHR calls for a prompt and effective investigation of any police brutality, as well as the release of all those detained for their participation in the ongoing protests.
ODIHR regrets that it was unable to observe yesterday’s presidential vote after the Belarusian authorities failed to issue a timely invitation to ODIHR to observe critical elements of the electoral process. The clear intimidation of political activists in the pre-election period, including the detention of prospective candidates, was criticized by ODIHR and other international organizations, as was the apparent lack of inclusiveness of candidate registration and formation of election commissions for this election.
ODIHR noted accounts on election night of voters waiting for details of the results to be published at polling stations, recalling issues taken up in previous ODIHR election observation reports in Belarus over the accuracy of the reporting of election results. Limitations to citizen election observation, including active prevention from observing and several reported cases of detentions on election day, raise serious concerns and directly contradict previous ODIHR recommendations.
All countries across the OSCE region have committed to hold genuinely democratic elections. OSCE countries have also committed to upholding the right to freedom of peaceful assembly both in law and practice.
ODIHR continues to follow events in Belarus and appeals for dialogue, while standing firmly with civil society and all those defending human rights. ODIHR is ready to assist the national authorities in undertaking the urgent reforms necessary to bring the country’s laws and practices in line with international democratic standards and human rights obligations.