Uladzimir Labkovich: Deprivation of observers’ accreditation is a weapon created by election system
The Belarusian Helsinki Committee in the framework of the campaign "Human Rights Defenders for Free Elections" asked the Central Election Commission (CEC) to clarify Part 9, Art. 13 of the Electoral Code, which reads as follows: "the Commission, in which the observer is accredited, has the right to deprive him of his accreditation in the case of violation of the electoral laws of the Republic of Belarus.” The appeal points out that after the meeting of July 1, 2015 the Central Election Commission, which adopted its Decision No. 20 and approved the Regulations on the procedure for delegating observers during the preparation and holding of presidential elections, the CEC Chair Lidziya Yarmoshyna voiced her vision of the consequences of deprivation of observers’ accreditation by election commissions: in case of a violation of the election legislation by the observer he loses accreditation until the end of the election and cannot be re-accredited as an observer in the same commission.
In the view of human rights defenders, deprivation of accreditation does not mean inability to be re-accredited by other means, and the statement by the CEC head does not conform to the Electoral Code. Based on the law, "Human Rights Defenders for Free Elections" concludes that in the described cases, the observer loses accreditation in a particular direction, which does not deprive him of the right to be accredited as an observer in the same commission in a different direction, including by another entity. In addition, the human rights activists believe that the legal interpretation, which was voiced at a meeting of the CEC, creates the basis for undue restriction on the opportunities for observation and can be arbitrarily used by election commissions to eliminate unwanted observers from polling stations or commission meetings.
Lidziya Yarmoshyna, in turn, replied to these concerns that the views of human rights defenders have no foundation and are not based on the rules of the Election Code. She also says that Part 9, Art. 13 was introduced in 2013 with respect to the electoral practices in order to prevent systematic violations of law by some observers. The CEC Chair notes that previously an opportunity was provided to remove an observer for only one time. After that, some observers abused the inability to be removed from commission meetings for the entire period and indulged in regular violations. That is why the Election Code was amended with rules providing for the accreditation of observers for the entire election period, and depriving them of the accreditation as a measure of responsibility for the violation, says the official.
“The guarantee against the abuse of the right to remove unwanted observers is the procedure stipulated by the law of the collegial decision-making by the commission and the right to appeal,” says the response.
Commenting on the CEC reply, the coordinator of the campaign "Human Rights Defenders for Free Elections" Uladzimir Labkovich stresses:
"In fact, the reply suggests that the Central Election Commission has gone beyond its powers and started interpreting electoral legislation. The removal of the observer is provided by Part 9, Article 13 of the Electoral Code, but the law does not say that the deprivation of accreditation makes it impossible to receive a new one, for example, from another entity. Withdrawal of accreditation for the entire election period is not suggested by either the Electoral Code or any of the regulations and guidelines issued by the CEC. This is an undisguised private thought of the commission members. It is clear that this was done in order to control the observers and have unlimited opportunity to deny them accreditation at any time and in unlimited quantities. This is a weapon which is created by the electoral system to prevent observers from efficiently carrying out their functions.”