Picks of the week
During the week, courts in various parts of Belarus continued to convict participants in peaceful assemblies held in early and mid-May.
Trials were held in Viciebsk, Maladziečna, Navapolack, Brest, Lida, Hrodna, Žlobin, and Minsk. Most protesters were fined or sentenced to short prison terms for demonstrating in support of critical vlogger Siarhei Tsikhanouski. Others were convicted of joining environmental pickets in Brest.
In Brest, human rights defender Raman Kisliak was fined 810 rubles on charges of illegal protesting on April 12 and May 3. Kisliak was arrested on May 10 after observing a weekly environmental protest. The activist’s whereabouts were unknown for two days and his trial started on May 12. The hearing, however, was put off till May 14, and then again postponed to be resumed on May 26. Kisliak was released on May 14.
Another human rights defender, Viasna’s activist in Mahilioŭ, Aliaksandr Burakou complained about poor detention conditions after he served 10 days in prison on trumped-up charges.
The activists says that despite a recent renovation, his stay in the facility amounted to torture.
“The temperature does not comply with the current sanitary norms. I had to wear my winter jacket around the clock, and covered myself with a mattress during the night so that I could fall asleep,” Burakou said.
Aliaksandr Lukashenka’s campaign team reported collecting 200,000 signatures to support his presidential nomination, just four days after the group was cleared by the Central Election Commission.
Domestic observers say the record performance is due to nationwide abuse of administrative resource in favor of the incumbent.
The findings are confirmed by dozens of messages received from people complaining of being forced to sign for the nomination of Lukashenka. Government employees and students are said to be threatened with dismissals or expulsion from universities.
Schoolteachers in Minsk were ordered to secretly use the personal data of students’ parents to the meet the quota of 100 signatures per educator.
“If you fail, there will be consequences, no bonus, or even dismissals,” says a Telegram channel called “Belarus Golovnogo Mozga”.
Similarly, managers of state-owned enterprises campaign for Lukashenka’s nomination during working hours.
Deputy director of trolleybus depot No. 4 in Minsk “strongly recommended” his employees to sign for Lukashenka, according to a post on Telegram. “Campaigning is held during working hours,” it said.
Election observers stress that the use of administrative resources in collecting signatures, as well as pressure, coercion and encouragement in collecting signatures for a certain candidate is a violation of current legislation punishable by administrative and criminal sentences.
Uladzimir Labkovich, coordinator of the campaign “Human Rights Defenders for Free Elections”, said in a comment to TUT.BY that the facts of violations should not be silenced. In his opinion, it is publicity that can mitigate the negative consequences for the people who expose government-perpetrated abuses.