Presidential nominee Viktar Babaryka and his son and campaign chief Eduard were detained this morning by the Department of Financial Investigations of the State Control Committee. The two men were reportedly detained after they arrived at the Central Election Commission building to submit part of the signatures collected to support Babaryka’s presidential nomination.
The Belarusian Helsinki Committee and the Human Rights Center "Viasna" have written to the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights and a number of UN thematic rapporteurs asking them to take all appropriate measures to assist in improving the current human rights situation in Belarus and also in securing fair and democratic elections.
Popular YouTuber and election campaigner Siarhei Tsikhanouski is facing a new charge of “interfering with elections” (Art. 191 of the Criminal Code), according to a reliable source. The charge carries a range of possible penalties, including imprisonment.
Representatives of the country’s leading human rights organizations, including Viasna, have named Andrei Novikau, volunteer of Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya’s nomination team, another political prisoner after on June 12 he faced official charges of “disturbing public order” during an election picket on May 29 in Hrodna.
Siarhei Tsikhanouski, a known vlogger and campaign chief of his wife Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya’s nomination group, has been officially charged under Part 1, Art. 342 of the Criminal Code (organizing group actions that grossly violate public order and are associated with obvious disobedience to the lawful demands of the authorities or have caused disruption of the activities of public transport, enterprises, institutions or organizations, or active participation in such actions in the absence of signs of a more serious crime).
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.
Following reports of the detention of numerous political activists engaged in activities related to the upcoming presidential election in Belarus, the leaders of the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly's human rights committee, Chair Kyriakos Hadjiyianni (Cyprus), Vice-Chair Michael Link (Germany), and Rapporteur and Kari Henriksen (Norway), released a statement.
"We are deeply concerned about the continued failure of the Belarusian authorities to improve the election environment and their manifest lack of intention to create conditions for a genuine level-playing field between the candidates," said a joint statement by the chair of the European Parliament's delegation for relations with Belarus, MEP Robert Biedroń, and the EP's standing rapporteur on Belarus, MEP Petras Auštrevičius.
As compared to the previous presidential election, this year’s campaign, despite the COVID-19 crisis, is characterized by widespread media and street activity of individual candidates. The deterioration of the socio-economic situation in the country and the authorities’ controversial policies in response to the pandemic became a catalyst for public discontent and led to a certain increase in election-related protests.
Robert Biedroń and Petras Auštrevičius urge the responsible authorities to "ensure a safe environment for the Presidential election by providing protective personal equipment for election personnel, adjusting the voting facilities to guarantee health and safety of participating citizens and ensuring undisturbed work of the election observers.”
A peculiarity of this year’s election is the context of the coronavirus pandemic, which affected the process of nominating representatives of parties and public associations and the procedure for holding meetings of the bodies that formed the TECs.