“Our House” ICCI (International Center for Civil Initiatives) prepared an overview of the repressions against journalists, activists, human rights defenders, bloggers, independent media, presidential candidates, and their headquarters during the presidential elections for the period from May 1 to August 5, 2020.
The period of early voting in the presidential elections began in Belarus on 4 August. On this day, the current head of state A. Lukashenko made an appeal to the people, where he announced information about criminal offenses (murders) committed by high-ranking officials, including Viktor Sheiman (assistant to the president for Special Commissions).
You can see tanks and other military equipment on the streets and in the rivers of Belarus. Some tanks managed to commit accidents involving civilian vehicles. State television constantly shows footage of training sessions of Belarusian security forces (police, army, etc.), that are preparing to disperse peaceful protests, including shooting people, using concussion grenades, and water cannons. The situation starts to remind us of the war.
According to the 22 July decree of the chairman of the CEC – Lidia Yermoshina, due to the epidemiological situation, more than 5 observers cannot be present at the polling station. In almost all areas of Belarus, the top five accredited observers included persons from organizations controlled by the current regime. Thus, the majority of independent observers cannot follow the voting process; observation is carried out from the streets and corridors. Observers report massive violations. Independent observation is blocked.
At the moment (August 5, 2020, 10:00) human rights defenders of “Our House” are aware of 1,345 cases of reprisals against civilians in Belarus, including physical violence, abductions, and threats to seize children. Total amount of collected fines made 270,783 rubles (10,0029 b.v.) or 94,349.4 euros. The number of days of arrest received by activists, bloggers, and journalists amounted to 2,930 days, i.e. more than 8 years in total.
Of these, at least 19 people (including at least 1 minor) were detained for coming to the scheduled campaign picket of Svetlana Tikhanovskaya in Slutsk on 4 August. The headquarters of the candidate was forced to cancel the event because municipal special equipment was brought to the place of the picket for some “emergency repair work.” People who wanted to support Tikhanovskaya and gathered at the site of the picket were brutally detained and placed in the van.
It should be noted that the picket in Slutsk is not the only one that Svetlana Tikhanovskaya’s headquarters were forced to cancel. Some “unforeseen situations” began to take place at the final period of the pre-election race in various cities, where it was planned to conduct campaigning events for the popular presidential candidate among Belarusians. Thus, on August 4, pipes burst at the site of the Stroitel Stadium in Soligorsk. Tikhanovskaya’s headquarters was informed that the conduction of the event was impossible, and it was canceled.
On August 3, Tikhanovskaya’s headquarters canceled a planned campaign picket in Stolbtsy. The reason was the emergency excavation work at the entrance to the Yunost Stadium, where the event was planned to take place. On August 2, Svetlana Tikhanovskaya was unable to attend a rally in Bereza due to reports of possible provocations. The presidential candidate talked to the assembled people through a speakerphone. It also failed to hold most of the planned meetings with representatives of the headquarters in small towns (Myadel, Maryina Gorka, Cherven, etc.)
9 women received 143 days of administrative arrest, 23 women received 25 days of arrest before the trial, 62 women were penalized with heavy fines of 40,176 rubles or 13,988 euros. In total, 183 women were repressed.
35 bloggers were subjected to reprisals, 20 of them received a total of 472 days of administrative arrest and fines amounting to 10,341 rubles or 3,603.1 euro in total. Criminal cases have been initiated against 11 bloggers or a check is being carried out under the Criminal Procedure Code.
In total, it is known about the initiation of criminal cases (or checks under the Criminal Procedure Code) against 59 people. Of these, criminal cases were initiated against 5 women (a blogger, a member of the “Army is with the People” Telegram-channel, a journalist and two members of Viktor Babariko’s initiative group) and 3 journalists (one woman and two men).
16 media resources received warnings/requests from the Ministry of Information of the Republic of Belarus or other state bodies, mainly for violation of the Law On Mass Media (“dissemination of information that could harm the national interests of Belarus”) or in connection with the need to remove information related to elections from the resources.
63 journalists were repressed, including 17 women. 6 journalists received 81 days of administrative arrest. The total number of fines received by journalists is 9,585 rubles or 3,339.7 euros.
1 journalist went on a hunger strike to protest. 1 journalist was taken to intensive care with a heart attack that he got after the trial.
11 minors were detained, it is known that at least one of them was physically abused during the arrest.