The European Parliament and the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly commented on detention of activists during pickets to collect signatures for potential presidential candidates.
The joint statement by the Chair of the delegation for relations with Belarus, Mep Robert Biedroń, and the European Parliament’s standing rapporteur on Belarus, Mep Petras Auštrevičius reads:
“We are deeply worried by the persistent discriminatory approach to the composition of the territorial election commissions, as the number of opposition parties’ nominees admitted to these commissions has significantly dropped compared to previous elections.”
The Belarussian blogger Sergey #Tikhanovsky, who was dettened during the collection of signatures during Predidential campaign in Grodno this Friday. Despite all gross violations of freedoms and basic rights the #EU is ready for new relations with #Belarus! pic.twitter.com/HeHoMNyMQw
— Petras Austrevicius (@petras_petras) May 30, 2020
The agency denounced a nationwide crackdown on peaceful protesters and civil society activists in Belarus. It particularly pointed out that “dozens have been arrested across the country while they were attending meetings of video blogger Siarhiej Cichanouski or protesting his recent detention”
The representatives also expressed their concern about the CEC’s decision to reject, on technical grounds, the registrations filled by some prominent opposition figures. They also recalled that past elections in the country have been marred by malpractices and shortcomings.
“As this year’s electoral process will take place in a very peculiar context, with the attention of the international community still grabbed by the Covid-19 pandemic, we call on the Belarusian authorities to create at last the conditions for a real level-playing field between the candidates.”
— Petras Austrevicius (@petras_petras) June 1, 2020
Besides, the officials urged to address the long-standing recommendations related to the blatantly unbalanced composition of territorial election commissions, administrative chicaneries during the candidacy registration process and the lack of transparency during the counting process.
The leaders of the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly’s human rights committee “are concerned that the detention of prominent political activists not only inhibits the work of potential campaigns, but has a chilling effect on society.”
Chair Kyriakos Hadjiyianni, Vice-Chair Michael Link, and Rapporteur and Kari Henriksen, released the statement: “With an important election just two months away, it is crucial that the authorities in Belarus do all they can to enable a thorough and open campaign environment. (…)
We therefore call on the authorities to exercise utmost restraint in the run-up to the important 9 August presidential election, and hope for a more free environment than we have previously witnessed.”
What happened in Grodno
Recall that on 29 May, Grodno police officers detained blogger of the popular YouTube channel, Sergey Tikhanovsky and several others during a picket to collect citizens’ signatures in support of the nomination of Svetlana Tikhanovskaya as a presidential candidate.
Eyewitnesses of the events speak of provocative actions, the police speak of an attack on its officers. A criminal case was opened regarding violence against internal affairs personnel under Art. 364 of the Criminal Code of the Republic of Belarus.
As part of the criminal case, nine people were detained. Among them are Sergey Tikhanovsky, Evgeny Roznichenko, Dmitry Furmanov, Vladimir Naumik, Vergil Ushak, Alexander Aranovich, Sergey Kolmykov, Vasily Bobrovsky and Artem Sakov.