PRESIDENTIAL ELECTION: STATEMENT OF HUMAN RIGHTS CENTER VIASNA
The campaign on preparation and holding of the election of president of the Republic of Belarus on 19 March 2006 took place in the atmosphere of fear and ceaseless repressions against the Belarusian civil society, public and political activists.
The Belarusian authorities chose the worst scenario for the election.
Activists of electoral headquarters of democratic candidates faced unprecedented pressurization. During the preparation to and the holding of the electoral campaign the Belarusian authorities brought 16 criminal cases against 21 public and political activists, representatives of headquarters of democratic candidates, NGOs and youth movements. 8 of them are in jail.
The authorities used various means to hinder the electoral meetings of the democratic candidates. Athwart the norms of the electoral legislation, the number of such meetings was strictly limited by the authorities, their organizers and participants were arrested and tried.
For instance, on 9 March Minsk Maskouski Borough Court sentenced to 15 days of jail Vintsuk Viachorka, deputy head of the headquarters of the candidate to the presidential position of the Republic of Belarus Aliaksandr Milinkevich, proxy of Mr Milinkevich and chair of the BPF Party. Mr Viachorka was accused of violation of article 167.1 of the Code of Administrative Violations - organization of unauthorized assembly.
Several days before the election of president of the Republic of Belarus the wave of arrests of activists of the headquarters of democratic candidates covered the country. The detainees were given absurd charges - ‘petty hooliganism’ or ‘disobedience to the legal police orders. Before the Election Day a considerable part of the chairs of regional and district headquarters of the democratic candidates were imprisoned.
For instance, the authorities sentenced to different terms of arrest the heads of the regional headquarters of the candidate to the presidential position of the Republic of Belarus Aliaksandr Milinkevich - Ryhor Kostuseu and Uladzimir Shantsau in Mahiliou, Uladzimir Katsora in Homel, Khrystafor Zhaliapau in Vitsebsk, Iury Hubarevich in Brest. All in all, about 100 persons were imprisoned for short terms.
Throughout the electoral campaigns the democratic candidates to the presidential position and the activists of the electoral campaign faced open threats that criminal cases be brought against them. They were charged of ‘organization of mass riot’, ‘malignant hooliganism’ and ‘destabilization of the public situation in the country’. Moreover, on 16 March the top-rank country’s officials: the KGB chair, the Procurator General and the Minister of Interior made an absurd statement about preparation of coup d’etat in Belarus by the opposition. KGB brought a criminal case under article 209 of the Criminal Code ‘threat of terrorist act’ and the participants of the peaceful action of 19 March were in advance called terrorists. In this case the state terror manifested in the threats to imprison the action participants to 8-25 years of jail and even execute them.
Despite the OSCE’s observations concerning the people’s liberties and access to objective information that have been voiced during the latest years, before the election the Belarusian authorities rapidly limited the possibility of the Belarusian society to receive independent information. For instance, since 2004 20 non-state newspapers have been closed, and since 2006 16 newspapers faced printing, retail and subscription bans and restrictions on the territory of Belarus. On the Election Day several independent information web-sites were blocked.
During the election there were registered frequent detentions and confiscations of the print-runs of the officially registered democratic newspapers that provided objective information about the electoral process. Workers of the law machinery and other state organs hindered the distribution of information about the democratic candidates to the election and the citizens who distributed such information were detained by the police and tried. In Vitsebsk region the police detained three print-runs of Narodnaia volia and Minsk police confiscated the large print-run of the newspaper Tovarishch with alternative information about the electoral campaign.
It’s worth mentioning that the electoral commissions almost completely consisted of representatives of the state organs and enterprises and during the days of early voting students, workers of state enterprises, policemen and soldiers were openly forced to vote. They had no possibility to receive objective information about the election results. To sum it up, the Belarusian authorities have created all possible conditions for manipulation of the Belarusian authorities.
Human Rights Center Viasna states that the election of president of the Republic of Belarus took place against the background of massive repressions of public and political activists, absence of objective information and the establishment of a fearful atmosphere. That’s why Human Rights Center Viasna states the election fails to meet the basic principles: freedom, democracy and transparency and its results by no means reflect the real will of the Belarusian people. The participation of A.Lukashenka in the election was illegitimate and his further stay at the position of president of the Republic of Belarus is illegal.
We call on the Belarusian citizens to consider the results of the presidential election of 19 March 2006 void and use all legal means to get them abolished.
We urge the international community to condemn the ‘election farce’ that was conducted by the Belarusian authorities and abstain from any kind of contacts with usurpers of power in Belarus.