Human rights activists: “We want to perceive the statement of the authorities that the elections should go quietly as the absence of human rights violations”
July 1, a press-conference, dedicated to the start of the campaign for monitoring the presidential elections in Belarus was held at the office of the Human Rights Center “Viasna”. Given the importance of this process, representatives of two Belarusian human rights organizations - the Belarusian Helsinki Committee and the Human Rights Center "Viasna" – launch the public campaign "Human Rights Defenders for Free Elections".
The organizers make a primary emphasis on long-term monitoring, which provides for the observation of all stages of the election campaign and reporting each of them. 50 long-term observers, distributed throughout the country, will operate as a part of the campaign. Short-term election observation will be also held at 200 polling stations, starting from the beginning of the early voting.
At the press-conference, Belarusian Helsinki Committee and Human Rights Center “Viasna” also presented their joint statement on the occasion of the beginning of the campaign to monitor the presidential elections in the Republic of Belarus.
"Elections aren't just the succession of procedures for the nomination of candidates, canvassing and counting the poll, it is also a certain atmosphere, socio-political situation against the background of which all this is taking place. We separately pointed our observers at the need to watch various events that are linked to the elections in one way or another. We see the possibility of provocations from various sides, as well as numerous external factors, such as the situation in the Ukraine, the Russian-Ukrainian conflict and the role of Belarus in it. We believe that the election campaign is a challenge for the authorities and for our society. Therefore, all such things will be registered and assessed from the viewpoint of the Belarusian legislation and international standards,” commented the Chairperson of the Belarusian Helsinki Committee Aleh Hulak.
Taking into account the previous experience and monitoring of the situation in Belarus – the only thing which can be accurately registered as a result of the monitoring is the turnout. In addition, human rights activists also endeavour to watch the role of various socio-political forces, organizations and monitoring systems in the electoral process.
"We regard the government as activities for the benefit of citizens. That's why it is very important that the society should create a demand for high-quality services," argue the human rights defenders.
Deputy Head of the Human Rights Center "Viasna" Valiantsin Stefanovich focused his presentation around the common background against which the future elections are to be held:
"We, as human rights activists, estimate this background as unfavorable for the elections. Pitifully enough, we haven't seen any systemic positive developments in the sphere of human rights in Belarus at the end of the previous year and in the beginning of this year, especially at the level of legislation and practice. To this day, the country is holding six political prisoners. The latest release of a political prisoner that wasn't due to the completion of the prison term, but was a result of the political will of the authorities was the release of the Chair of the HRC “Viasna” Ales Bialiatski. Such freedoms as the right to peaceful assembly, association and expression are extremely limited. Of particular concern is the pressure on journalists working for independent and foreign media, as well as the campaign to control the media and amendments in legislation on the media. The increasing number of cases of blocking websites witnesses that the Ministry of Information exercises censorship. The previous election campaigns have always been marked with an increase of repressions in the country.”
Of importance for the campaign's activities is its human rights component. The organizers note they will asses both the procedures and the events which will take place during the elections.
"Of course, if we face with such negative phenomena as preventive detention of activists on the eve of the elections, the pressurization of the participants of the electoral process, the blocking of websites, violation of the rights of citizens during the elections – such trends will not be left out of our attention. We will also pay special attention to the violation of electoral rights of citizens, such as forcing to participate in early voting, which we have witnessed during previous election campaigns. We want to perceive the statement of the authorities that the elections should go quietly as the absence of human rights violations," said Valiantsin Stefanovich.