Numerous observers detained on first days of early voting
At least 11 election observers have been detained in various parts of Belarus after the early voting phase was launched on Tuesday, August 4, according to “Human Rights Defenders for Free Elections” and media reports.
On the first day of early voting, Ivan Dubovik and Aleh Hirhenson were detained in Minsk, and Andrei Zastrelau in Mahilioŭ.
Dubovik is a member of Chestnye Lyudi, an observation initiative affiliated with the arrested presidential nominee Viktar Babaryka. The observer was reportedly detained after he filed a complaint with the precinct election commission. He was eventually sentenced to 10 days of detention on charges of "resisting arrest".
Inna Dabratvor was detained this morning after she was not allowed to enter a polling station in Minsk’s Zavodski district. The observer was taken to the police department and released without a charge a few hours later.
Yaraslau Nedasekin was arrested for refusing to leave a polling station in the town of Smilavičy near Minsk after he found that his name was no longer on the list of authorized observers. According to him, the list was tempered with.
Four observers were detained in Viciebsk. Andrei Keshaniuk and Halina Mahuchaya were charged with “disorderly conduct” after principal of the school housing the polling station told them to leave. Earlier, chairperson of the election commission allowed the observers to sit in the lobby.
Uladzimir Mikhalap, an observer working in Babrujsk, was detained for allegedly interfering with the work of the election commission. The observer argues that he was not allowed in the polling station and had to “observe” outside. As a result, the police arrived and took Mikhalap to serve 10 days of detention he received for attending a protest on June 19.
The persecution of independent observers was provoked by the CEC’s decision to limit the number of authorized monitors at the polling stations, allegedly as an anti-coronavirus measure. As a result of opaque procedures, most seats were taken by pro-government observers, described as fake by domestic monitors of “Human Rights Defenders for Free Elections”.
The observation initiative said as few as two persons out of 618 accredited observers were allowed to observe voting during the entire period of early voting and on Election Day, August 9. 34 more were entitled to brief periods, under a schedule drafted with an apparent bias in favor of loyal observers.
“The quotas of observers at polling stations introduced by CEC Resolution No. 115 made the election process completely inaccessible for independent observation and non-transparent to the public. This is a violation of one of the basic principles of democratic elections — the principle of publicity. Apparently, the resolution, which limited the number of observers, was not aimed at preventing the spread of the pandemic, but was intended to undermine independent monitoring, as many PEC members and pro-government observers are not following the recommendations of the Ministry of Health,” “Human Rights Defenders for Free Elections” said.