“Human Rights Defenders for Free Elections” call to stop pressure on independent observers
Minsk - June 22, 2020
In response to the recent cases of persecution of observers of the campaign “Human Rights Defenders for Free Elections”, we state the following.
The campaign “Human Rights Defenders for Free Elections” aims to assess the electoral process in terms of Belarusian legislation and international standards for free and democratic elections, and to inform the Belarusian public and the international community about the election campaign and the results of observation. The campaign does not support any of the participants in the election.
Observers of the campaign “Human Rights Defenders for Free Elections” undertook not to be part of the election headquarters of individual candidates, not to provide them with any assistance aimed at their nomination or campaigning, not to show preference in their relations to candidates, to maintain strict impartiality in the performance of their duties and perform them in good faith, while remaining independent and impartial participants in the process.
However, certain actions against observers by the state create obstacles in their work, limit their opportunities and create an atmosphere of fear in the country.
In particular, on June 17, the Svietlahorsk District Court fined observer Alena Masliukova 810 rubles, accusing her of “picketing and being present in a group of citizens” who were collecting signatures for the nomination of a presidential candidate. Human rights activist Alena Masliukova is a long-term observer of the campaign “Human Rights Defenders for Free Elections”. She performs her observation functions at signature-collecting election pickets, including on May 31, when a group of citizens in Svietlahorsk organized a picket to collect signatures. On June 20, at 6 pm, Alena Masliukova was detained by three police officers and held in the Svietlahorsk police department for questioning until 10 pm.
On June 19, during an election picket in Babrujsk, police detained Siarzhuk Latsinski, a journalist and observer of the campaign “Human Rights Defenders for Free Elections”. He was placed in a detention center before the trial, and on June 22, he was taken to court, where he was sentenced to 10 days in jail under Art. 23.34 of the Code of Administrative Offenses.
At about 6.30 pm on June 21, Iryna Tratsiakova, an observer of the campaign “Human Rights Defenders for Free Elections”, was detained outside her house in Viciebsk. At the Pieršamajski district police department, the observer was charged under Art. 23.34 of the Code of Administrative Offenses. According to the police, Tratsiakova took part in an unauthorized mass event that took place on June 19 in Viciebsk, where she allegedly clapped her hands. The observer’s case will be heard at the Čyhunačny District Court on June 24.
Representatives of the campaign “Human Rights Defenders for Free Elections” state that all the observers who were charged with alleged participation in unauthorized mass events, in reality, attended the protests to carry out their legitimate election observation activities, including monitoring mass events taking place during the election.
According to the OSCE Guidelines on Freedom of Peaceful Assembly, law enforcement officials must distinguish between participants and non-participants (such as bystanders or observers).
The campaign “Human Rights Defenders for Free Elections” reminds the authorities of the need to ensure the conduct of the presidential election in an atmosphere of freedom and fairness, in which no administrative actions, violence or intimidation would deter candidates from freely expressing their views and assessments, and would not interfere with the voters’ meetings with them and discussing them or voting freely without fear of punishment, and that the presence of national observers can enhance the credibility of the electoral process for the country in which the elections are held.
Respect for the institution of national observation and non-interference with the work of observers in carrying out their activities during the elections is an obligation of the Republic of Belarus, which it has voluntarily accepted as a member of the OSCE.
We call to:
- immediately stop the administrative persecution of the independent observers of the campaign “Human Rights Defenders for Free Elections”: Alena Masliukova (Svietlahorsk), Siarzhuk Latsinski (Babrujsk), and Iryna Tratsiakova (Viciebsk);
- refrain from any form of pressure on independent observers.