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The improved accessibility of voting procedures recently announced by the electoral authorities does not solve numerous issues related to other parts of the elections, Siarhei Drazdouski, director of the Office for the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, said in response to the CEC’s plans to aid people with a visual impairment and wheelchair users vote at the upcoming parliamentary elections set for November 17.
“The elections are not just about voting. We’ve had talks with the CEC so that the law could be supplemented with a number of rules governing the way in which people with disabilities could compete in election campaigning. And also the way they can participate in the electoral process, including work in the election commissions, which is virtually impossible today,” the activist said.
Viasna activists have written to Dubravka Šimonović, UN Special Rapporteur on Violence against Women, its causes and consequences, to complain about a case when a minor girl was subjected to degrading treatment during an interrogation at a juvenile inspection in Minsk.
The teenager, whose name is not disclosed for security reasons, was questioned over alleged possession of opioid medication. Faced with a flagrant disregard of procedural rights, the girl refused to unlock her smartphone. As a result, the police officer threatened her with reprisals and eventually used violence to get hold of the device.
The suspect was tested for drugs and released 22 later. The police officers were never held liable for the abuse.
“Such cases have unfortunately become systemic in Belarus, as persons in police custody are regularly reporting violations of their rights and ill-treatment,” Aliaksei Loika, Viasna activist said.
Members of Viasna’s office in Mahilioŭ have urged the Prosecutor General’s office to investigate the dire conditions of imprisonment in the city’s prison No. 4 and the pre-trial detention center.
The human rights defenders are particularly outraged by the use of so-called “resnichki” (“eyelashes”, metal strips welded to the bars outside the window at an angle of 45 degrees, which prevent sunlight from penetrating the cell). Belarus is the last country in Europe to use the inhumane device, which often leads to visual impairment.
The metal blinds violate both national and international standards, Viasna activists say. This is especially true for people held in pre-trial detention since they are not yet convicted and may be eventually acquitted in court.