Human Rights Defenders for Free Elections

Праваабарончы цэнтр «Вясна» беларускі хельсінкскі камітэт

OSCE/ODIHR alarmed by increasing threats to human rights in Belarus following presidential election

WARSAW, 19 August 2020 – Following the large-scale arrests of peaceful protestors in Belarus together with disturbing reports of violent physical abuse, the OSCE Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR) calls for the immediate release of all those who have been unlawfully detained and a prompt and impartial investigation into alleged human rights abuses.

ODIHR is greatly alarmed by the arbitrary arrests and allegations of torture and other forms of ill-treatment at the hands of the Belarusian authorities, with detainees held incommunicado and denied access to medical treatment and legal advice. ODIHR is particularly concerned over reported instances of sexual and gender-based violence, including threats of rape, and emphasizes that the prohibition of torture and other ill-treatment is absolute. ODIHR calls on the authorities to immediately cease all practices that amount to torture. Any perpetrators of human rights violations must be brought to justice and victims provided with appropriate redress.

At the same time, ODIHR deeply regrets the lack of effective response to the credible reports of widespread irregularities and maladministration during the presidential election on 9 August. The authorities of Belarus are urged to take immediate steps to address the lack of impartiality of the election administration at all levels, which previous ODIHR election observations have found to be under government control. Any instance of malpractice should be thoroughly investigated, and effective remedy for all violations must be ensured. To prevent future misconduct in this area, ODIHR reiterates a longstanding recommendation to Belarus to reform the appointment procedures of all election commissions, with the aim of increasing their independence, impartiality and effectiveness.

While reminding Belarus of the need to come in line with its human rights commitments, ODIHR reiterates the need for dialogue. Like all countries of the OSCE region, Belarus has committed to upholding the right to freedom of peaceful assembly, as well as ensuring the safety of human rights defenders and journalists and their ability to work without police interference.

ODIHR is closely watching the unfolding events in Belarus from all the areas covered by its mandate. With its decades of experience and expertise in observing elections and monitoring human rights in countries throughout the OSCE, ODIHR looks forward to playing a role in strengthening democracy and human rights in Belarus for the benefit of everyone living there.