The presidential election is taking place against the background of a sharp deterioration of the overall human rights situation in the country, in a situation of incessant repression against citizens, including direct participants in the electoral process, which contributes to an atmosphere of fear in society.
On June 20, the detained presidential nominee and former CEO of Belgazprombank Viktar Babaryka, who is currently held in the KGB pre-trial prison, faced formal charges in a criminal case, his lawyer Dzmitry Layeuski told interfax.by. The counsel, however, refused to elaborate on the charges, citing a non-disclosure obligation.
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.
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.
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.