UN experts have demanded Belarus to refrain from violence against peaceful protesters ahead of 9 August presidential elections. They urged the government to abandon its policy of arbitrary arrests, violence and intimidation against civil society activists.
The independent experts said that since 18 June alone, at least 200 political activists, human rights defenders, journalists, bloggers and other members of civil society have been arrested during peaceful demonstrations across the country.
The protests aimed at showing solidarity with nearly 500 other activists detained since May while exercising their right to give and gather signatures for nominating presidential candidates.
“We strongly condemn the Government’s continuous policy of mass arrests of members of the civil society who are peacefully exercising their fundamental rights,” the experts said. “We firmly condemn policies and actions that restrict Belarusians’ right to freedom of peaceful assembly and freedom of opinion and expression.”
They are particularly concerned that the approach of the government towards peaceful protesters and journalists trying to perform their work is becoming more violent and abusive.
“We would like to reiterate that restrictions to human rights, and notably civil and political rights, are particularly serious when done in the lead-up to elections. Ahead of the election campaign, we urge the Government to immediately stop cracking down on peaceful protesters and other members of civil society, including journalists and bloggers.”
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The experts also stressed that “a pluralistic environment in which all people can safely and freely exercise their right to seek and disseminate information, and their rights to freedom of expression, peaceful assembly and association is essential to ensure the integrity of the ongoing electoral process, and the legitimacy of its outcome.”