Human Rights Defenders for Free Elections

Праваабарончы цэнтр «Вясна» беларускі хельсінкскі камітэт

Violence, threats, detentions. Human rights activists complain to UN special rapporteurs

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.

According to the Human Rights Center "Viasna", between May 6 and June 16, Belarusian courts convicted 97 persons as part of a new wave of political persecution for expressing opinions, sentencing them to various terms of detention (a total of 1,246 days). Under the same charges of “illegal protesting”, 105 people received fines totaling about 90,000 rubles (more than USD 40,000).

Courts continue to impose terms of administrative detention of up to 15 days against peaceful protesters. Some activists have faced several consecutive sentences, and will be detained for more than 15 days (opposition leader Pavel Seviarynets is serving 75 days and politician Mikalai Statkevich — 30 days; critical YouTuber Uladzimir Tsyhanovich — 30 days).

The conditions of serving the sentences in the Minsk Center for the Confinement of Offenders, where most of the convicts are held, amount to cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment.

The human rights activists separately stress the recent threats received by the presidential nominee Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya, the persecution of members of her nomination group and signature collectors, as well as the pressure on the nominee Viktar Babaryka, police raids targeting his former co-workers, friends and members of his nomination group, as well as the arrest of 15 persons on charges of alleged tax fraud. Viasna and BHC view these actions as illegal and politically motivated pressure on presidential nominees, which is used to force them to quit the election.

The human rights activists ask the Special Rapporteurs to urge the government of Belarus to take immediate measures to fulfill its international human rights obligations enshrined in the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment and other treaties.

They also inform the Special Rapporteurs that they are preparing international complaints on behalf of individual victims of recent human rights violations.

The appeal has been sent to the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Belarus, the Special Rapporteur on the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and association, the Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of opinion and expression, the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders, the Special Rapporteur on torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment, and the Special Rapporteur on the independence of judges and lawyers.