After a clearly rigged election on 9 August, incumbent president for 26 years Alexander Lukashenko was announced winner with over 80 percent of the votes, while his main competitor, Svetlana Tikhanovskaya reportedly only received little over 10 percent. Independent monitoring throughout the country disputed this result, suggesting that Tikhanovskaya had in reality won the elections.
Belarus must disclose the location of over 90 disappeared demonstrators
On Sunday and the days that followed, tens of thousands of people protested — both in the night and during the day, and both in Minsk as well as in smaller towns and even villages. Especially in Minsk, clashes erupted when riot police attempted to violently disperse the protests. At least two protesters died and several others were badly wounded. Protesters, journalists, monitors, and passers-by were arrested by the thousands and subjected to gruesome beatings and torture, as also Amnesty International has confirmed. Many of them have been released since Friday — allowing them to share their stories about the horrors inside prisons — but many more remain in detention or prison, including the political prisoners already arrested before election day. Over 90 participants in demonstrations can still not be located. Their families and friends remain in the dark about what happened to them since their arrest.
Even though Tikhanovskaya was left no choice but to leave the country, protests continued and she has continued to call for ways to move the country beyond the current stalemate. In the meantime, in Belarus itself, protests have continued to spread throughout the week, despite the partial internet shutdown of the first three days after the elections. Nights filled with police violence were followed by days in which women protested against the state repression and ever more large companies went on strike against the election. Saturday’s funeral of killed protester Alyaksandr Taraykouski again turned into a massive protest against the current regime and Sunday saw Belarus’ largest protest in history. Even though police violence has abated, still people are being arrested when returning from protests.
In line with our Belarusian partners, the human rights organisation Viasna, we are urging for de-escalation of the conflict; cessation of repression and violence; and release of all persons detained during the election and in the post-election period related to participation in the elections and protests as preconditions for further dialogue both inside the country and abroad.
Arrest of Ukrainian human rights monitors
Among the arrestees were our close partners in Ukraine, Yevhenii Vasyliev and Konstantin Reutski coordinator and executive director of our partner organisation Vostok SOS, who were violently and arbitrarily detained on 12 August while monitoring the human rights situation at the demonstrations. They were released on 14 August and have returned to Ukraine.
At this moment, Belarus needs international solidarity more than ever. Libereco has in the weeks before the election, when both protests and repression were already on the rise, reached out to members of national parliaments and the European Parliament to ask their support for specific political prisoners in Belarus, of which there were over 20 before election day. Nine parliamentarians from Germany, Poland and Switzerland committed to “adopt” a political prisoner through a symbolic godparenthood.
Libereco will continue to mobilise political support for political prisoners and detainees in Belarus as well as continue to contribute to the distribution of English language information about the developments in the country as we have done in the past week through our telegram channel as well as social media. We are calling upon politicians in Europe and elsewhere as well as all those who are following the protests in this extraordinary week, to keep on showing solidarity with Belarus and to continue shining a spotlight on the country and not to recognize Lukashenko’s announced victory — following the example the EU has set on Friday with the decision to re-impose sanctions.
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