Picks of the week
On August 5, President Lukashenka signed a decree to officially announce the start of the parliamentary elections, which will be held on November 17.
Following the announcement, the Central Election Committee said the vote would have a few novelties. In particular, observers can finally take photos inside polling stations. However, they will only be allowed to do this from a “designated location,” which casts a shadow over the actual freedom to monitor the vote. The CEC also promised greater accessibility for persons with disabilities, a move welcomed by human rights defenders.
At the same time, independent observers continue to demand systemic reform of every electoral phase, most importantly the formation of election commissions, early voting, and the count of the ballots.
The health of political prisoner Mikhail Zhamchuzhny is deteriorating, as he continues to serve his 6 ½ year sentence in a penal colony in Horki, human rights defender Leanid Svetsik said.
According to Svetsik, he has received a letter from the prisoner who complains about lack of vitamins, which causes his gums to bleed and some of the healthy teeth to fall out. The prison doctors, however, have ignored Zhamchuzhny’s request for medication for over 8 months, the letter said.
Human rights defenders heard from Zhamchuzhny shortly after the prisoner was released from solitary confinement where he spent over two months.
“While in lock-up for more than two months, I did not receive a single letter or a newspaper. I was in a complete information vacuum,” Mikhail Zhamchuzhny wrote in his letter.
On August 6, death row prisoner Viktar Paulau was allowed to see his family for the first time since August 30, when he was sentenced to death by the Viciebsk Regional Court.
According to his sister Raisa, the convict was wearing an orange uniform. He was handcuffed to the table during their conversation, too.
“Before this case, I didn’t know that there was the death penalty in Belarus,” she said.
Paulau’s sister says that Viktar has sent an appeal to the Supreme Court. She hopes that the death sentence against her brother will be overturned.
The case is quite typical for Belarus, Andrei Paluda, coordinator of the campaign “Human Rights Defenders against the Death Penalty in Belarus,” said. The government imposes a death sentence for domestic crimes but does not want to know the reasons. These cases demonstrate that the purposes of criminal liability (correction and prevention) cannot be achieved in Belarus. By killing Paulau, the state refuses to answer the question of why the man, who has served time in prison, again commits a crime, instead of being “corrected” in prison.