Праваабарончы цэнтр «Вясна»беларускі хельсінкскі камітэт

Monitoring of Post-Election Events

  • Human Rights Defenders for Free Elections
    Human Rights Defenders for Free Elections

Monitoring of Post-Election Events Following the Election to the Chamber of Representatives of the National Assembly of Belarus of the 5th Convocation

September-October 2012


International Reactions

On September 24, Antonio Milošoski, Head of the OSCE/ODIHR Election Observation Mission, said that the transparency of elections in Belarus could not be secured properly, since the observers did not have free access to vote count. The previous report by the ODIHR and the OSCE PA stressed that the “elections were not administered in an impartial manner and the complaints and appeals process did not guarantee effective remedy.” Apart from that, it noted that “despite some improvements, the legal framework does not adequately guarantee the conduct of elections in line with OSCE commitments and international standards.”[1]

On the same day, the parliamentary elections were criticized by Catherine Ashton, the European Union High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, and Štefan Füle, European Commissioner for Enlargement and European Neighbourhood Policy. They stressed that the elections “represent yet another missed opportunity to conduct elections in line with international standards in Belarus.” Reiterating the ODIHR’s assessment, the politicians said that “regrettably the elections took place against the background of an overall climate of repression and intimidation.”[2]

Later, European Parliament President Martin Schulz made a statement, saying that he deeply regrets that “parliamentary elections in Belarus have yet again failed to meet international standards of fair and transparent polls.” “In this situation the European Parliament will not be able to restore official ties with the Belarusian parliament,”[3] said Mr. Schulz. Similar reactions followed by the U.S. Department of State’s press office.

Sergey Lebedev, head of the CIS observation mission, said the elections were “democratic, transparent and open.”[4] He also said the flaws revealed at the elections did not affect the final result.


Statements on the Parliamentary Elections by Head of State and Chair of the Central Election Commission

President A. Lukashenka spoke on October 11 at the final joint session of both Chambers of the National Assembly of the 4th convocation. He mentioned several electoral issues, including the possibility of introducing mixed-member proportional voting, with both single-member constituencies and electoral lists. Aliaksandr Lukashenka welcomed the practice of the mixed election system in other countries, but said that party-list proportional representation could not be efficient enough without authoritative parties and adequate political culture.

The President also said the Belaya Rus pro-government pubic association could sooner or later become a centrist party, but said the transformation should not be forced. Lukashenka’s statement shows his reluctance to step up the transformation of Belaya Rus into a political party.

Apart from that, President Lukashenka expressed his hope that the new Parliament would start “some kind of modernization of the country’s political system”, which would “depend on both external conditions and, primarily, on the fact in which foreign policy system and configuration we will exist.” However, the President failed to specify what he meant by this modernization and how the new National Assembly was expected to solve the problem. As yet, there have been no specific actions of the President and government agencies to discuss a political reform (modernization).

At the same session of Parliament, Aliaksandr Lukashenka announced that the opposition’s campaign to boycott the elections “failed miserably.” According to the President, it “showed the weakness of the opposition, the so-called “fifth column”, which does not even want to simulate a struggle for power.”

The CEC Head Lidziya Yarmoshyna admitted in an interview with BelaPAN on October 17 the use of administrative resources by government agencies to ensure the necessary voter turnout. She said that the turnout of 74% was achieved by “the Herculean effort to attract voters to polling stations that were taken by local authorities and administrations, especially government agencies and educational institutions.”

Lidziya Yarmoshyna also opposed the mixed electoral system, arguing that the “majority constituencies will be prohibitively large, and the majority system just will not do its job, as the deputy could not reach every voter.” On the other hand, she noted that “55 seats for 15 parties is not enough, since the entrance barrier to Parliament will be too high. Accordingly, only one or two major parties can get there.” According to her, Belarus should use either majority or proportional electoral system. Moreover, Mrs. Yarmoshyna agreed that party lists would help to form a political party system.

The Chair of the Central Election Commission reported that she presented to the President a set of proposals for amending the electoral law. In particular, she suggests introducing extra opportunities to nominate candidates from public organizations with more than a thousand members; providing an opportunity to form election funds starting from the nomination of a candidate so that the candidate could have legal funds for paying fees to members of the initiative group. Mrs. Yarmoshyna also considers it necessary to remove campaigning for the boycott of the election from the concept of election campaigning. It should be noted that during the current parliamentary elections the Central Election Commission actually did it.

On October 16, Aliaksandr Lukashenka held a press conference for the media of the Russian regions. Among other things, it addressed a number of issues related to the elections. The President again spoke critically of proportional representation, citing the lack of development of the party system in Belarus. He also noted the biased nature of the ODIHR report on the results of the parliamentary elections in Belarus.


Social Background

In general, the election campaign failed to change the human rights situation in the country, the conditions for the political parties and civil society organizations. Persons convicted for political reasons are still in prison; their conditions of imprisonment have not improved.

On October 9, the Economic Court of Minsk dissolved the Belarusian human rights and educational institution “Platforma”, which focuses on protecting human rights in prisons.

On October 22, the NISEPI NGO announced the results of another survey. The results suggested that the actual voter turnout was 66.4%, while 9.6% of respondents boycotted the elections.

The findings triggered a wave of negative comments from members of the opposition in the independent media, as they completely contradicted the rhetoric of the boycott supporters, as well as demonstrated the inefficiency of their campaign. In addition, the results of the poll witnessed a growth in the number of supporters of independent candidates and candidates from the opposition as compared to the parliamentary elections of 2008.       


Monitoring of Post-Election Events Following the Election to the Chamber of Representatives of the National Assembly of Belarus of the 5th Convocation

November 2012


The European Union extended its sanctions against Belarus until October 31, 2013. 243 Belarusian officials, including President Aliaksandr Lukashenka are currently under the EU visa and economic sanctions. The EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Catherine Ashton said that the EU welcomes the joining of eight European countries, non EU member states (Albania, Iceland, Liechtenstein, Macedonia, Norway, Serbia, Croatia, and Montenegro) the sanctions against Belarus.

On November 24 Belarus marked one year after sentencing of human rights defender, chairman of the Human Rights Centre “Viasna” Ales Bialiatski, who was sentenced to 4.5 years of imprisonment in a colony with reinforced regime. The Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders, the joint programme of the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH) and the World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT) expressed extreme concern about the fate of Ales Bialiatski, harassment of activists of the Human Rights Centre "Viasna" and other human rights defenders of the country.[5]

On November 26, the authorities confiscated the office and property of the Human Rights Centre "Viasna". The human rights organization “Amnesty International” named it a blatant violation of the international obligations of Belarus in the field of human rights.[6]

On November 29, 33 human rights organizations, members of the International Platform “Civil Solidarity”, called on the Belarusian authorities to drop all charges against human rights defender Ales Bialiatski and release him immediately.

The Committee on Freedom of Association of the International Labour Organization (ILO) reported on the deteriorating situation with trade union rights in Belarus.

On November 27, the religious community of the Full Gospel Church “New Life” was ordered by the Economic Court of Minsk to vacate the building by December 5. Minsk city authorities have been trying to evict the “New Life” church for about seven years. In 2005, the city executive officials deprived the religious community of its right to free and perpetual use of the land; in 2009 it was deprived of its right of ownership of the church building. However, the court ruling was not executed due to a hunger strike organized by the believers, which lasted for about a month. In 2010, the Economic Court of Minsk imposed on the community sanctions of 258 million for the “pollution of the environment.”

Following a request for eviction, the believers launched a 24-hour praying action to retain the premises. On December 4, 2012, the court proceedings against the church “New Life” initiated at the request of Housing and utilities administration of Maskouski district of Minsk were discontinued.

Great public attention was drawn to the case of police-related violence against an elderly night watchman. Mr. Sarochyk, parking lot security employee, said that on November 14 he was badly beaten by the policemen of Leninski district police department of Minsk in order to confess to the crimes he did not commit. The human rights defenders of the “Platforma” NGO have been assisting Mr. Sarochyk in seeking legal investigation of the report.


Ongoing appeals against violations of electoral rights

The campaign “Human Rights Defenders for Free Elections” stresses the ongoing wave of appeals against violations committed during the recent election campaign. Analysis of the cases gives reason to conclude that the efficiency of appeals is extremely low. All appeals filed in connection with the facts of violations of election laws were dismissed.

The Office of the Investigative Committee of Vitsebsk region refused to institute criminal proceedings on the application of observer Pavel Levinau representing the Belarusian Helsinki Committee, submitted following a reported rigging of election results during vote counting at polling station No. 58 of the Vitsebsk-based constituency No. 18. Pavel Levinau reported unaccounted ballots that were received by the voters, but failed to be thrown in the ballot box (these ballots are available from the applicant). The ruling was appealed with the Prosecutor of Pershamaiski district of Vitsebsk.

A statement by the BHC observer Uladzimir Krauchanka on a number of violations during the vote counting at polling station No. 12 of the Mahiliou-based constituency No. 84 submitted to the Prosecutor’s Office of Mahiliou region was forwarded to the chairman of the constituency election commission. Considering this, it should be noted that the powers of the chairman of the district election commission, although continued until the recognition of the elected deputies by the House of Representatives, do not in reality allow taking any meaningful actions on violations. The prosecuting authorities, who have by far more serious authority to react to violations of electoral legislation both during and after the election, abstained from investigating the allegations.

Even more controversial decision was issued by Pershamaiski District Prosecutor's Office of Vitsebsk on Pavel Levinau’s report of violations of electoral legislation at polling station No. 57 of Vitsebsk constituency No. 18. Prosecutor Ramanouski ruled to send the application for review to the Chair of the constituency election commission. However, by that time the powers of the elected deputies had been confirmed and the said commission had ceased its operations.

Another denial was issued to observer Natallia Samakhvalava of the Belarusian Helsinki Committee, who applied for initiating a criminal case on charges of forging documents and incorrect counting of votes by the chairman of commission No. 22 of Mahiliou constituency No. 86. The statement argued that the actual number of early voters was two times less than the number of voters mentioned in the final report. Analyzing the decision not to institute criminal proceedings issued by inspector Hrebianiuk of Kastrychnitski police department of Mahiliou, it can be concluded that, just like in the vast majority of complaints of violations of the electoral law, the investigation was extremely formal. During the investigation, only the chairman of the commission and his deputy were interviewed. Other circumstances were not investigated (the police failed to interview other observers accredited at the election commission, as well as the persons who voted according to the official information of the election commission; written materials were not studied).

There was an instance of the use of international instruments for the protection of violated rights. Vasil Paliakou, leader of Homel regional office of the United Civil Party, and a UCP member Uladzimir Niapomniashchykh complained to the UN Human Rights Committee. The reason was failure of a number of courts to consider their complaints of the use of political censorship during election campaigning by TV and Radio Company “Homel”. Speeches of the candidates, which included appeals to voters not to take part in the elections, were not aired. The candidates’ appeals were dismissed by courts, since the Belarusian legislation does not allow complaining to the court in such cases.

In their communication submitted to the UN Human Rights Committee, the former candidates point to a violation of their right to freedom of expression, the right to participate in fair elections, the right to non-discrimination on the grounds of political beliefs, the right to access to justice, and ask to recommend to the Government of Belarus to amend its national legislation.

On November 19, it became known that the observer of the campaign "Human Rights Defenders for Free Elections" Siarhei Housha received a response to his complaint of coercion to vote early used against the students of Baranavichy State University. The response from the Department of the Interior of Baranavichy city executive committee signed by the Department’s deputy chief Colonel Aliaksandr Trafimau was received two months after the complaint was submitted to the CEC. The Central Commission sent the complaint to the Prosecutor General, who in turn redirected it to the police department of Brest regional executive committee. As a result, the complaint reached the district department of internal affairs, who said that in the course of its consideration no objective evidence of coercion of Baranavichy State University students to vote early in the parliamentary elections had been received.

Of special concern is the case of former candidate in the Brest-based constituency No. 1 Aliaksandr Melnik, who was seeking prosecution of those responsible for violations of the electoral law at polling station No. 39. Brest city executive committee refused to initiate administrative proceedings following his statement. However, an administrative case was eventually opened under Art. 10.26 of the Code for Administrative Procedures following an appeal against the decision lodged with the Prosecutor’s Office. Later, Brest city executive committee ordered its termination. Aliaksandr Melnik appealed the decision, including, by lodging a complaint with Leninski District Court of Brest. However, the complaints were not considered on the merits, as, according to the government agencies, Mr. Melnik was not a victim, and therefore, was not entitled to appealing in administrative proceedings.

The procedures for appealing violations of electoral rights are inefficient and do not guarantee their proper restoration.


Monitoring of Post-Election Events Following the Election to the Chamber of Representatives of the National Assembly of Belarus of the 5th Convocation 

December 2012


International policy

On December 14, the OSCE/ODIHR observation mission released its final report on the parliamentary elections in Belarus.[7] The report states that, despite some improvements in the Electoral Code of the Republic of Belarus, many of the OSCE commitments and standards were not met.

In early December, the final report was presented by the election observation campaign “Human Rights Defenders for Free Elections”, an independent initiative of the Human Rights Centre “Viasna” and the Belarusian Helsinki Committee. It points to serious violations of Belarusian electoral legislation and international standards of free and fair elections, stressing a worsening of electoral practices. The report also provides a number of recommendations to improve the electoral legislation and practice.[8]

On 13 December, the EU presented in Strasbourg its annual report on the situation of human rights and democracy in the world in 2011; it emphasized that Belarus is the only country that does not take full part in the initiative “Eastern Partnership” and its parliamentary structure “Euronest”, especially after the presidential elections of December 2010 and the subsequent brutal dispersal of the opposition protest. It also said that the European Parliament is deeply concerned about the lack of democracy, rule of law, fundamental freedoms and human rights violations in Belarus. The report calls for the EU member states to maintain a consistent and coherent policy towards Belarus, to continue to put pressure on the Belarusian regime, including through sanctions, and support civil society in Belarus.

On December 7, the EurAsEC Anti-Crisis Fund Council approved the next tranche of 440 million U.S. dollars at a meeting in Minsk. At the same time, it became known that the IMF refused to Belarus in the opening of a new credit programme. The IMF points to the need for a consistent policy aimed at macroeconomic stability and structural reforms of the Belarusian economy.

On December 5, Belarus took over the presidency in the Commonwealth of Independent States for 2013. Uzbekistan and Ukraine abstained from taking over in 2013.


Domestic Policy

On December 3, the Central Election Commission submitted to the President a series of proposals for amending the electoral law. In particular, the Central Commission suggests expanding opportunities for the nomination of candidates for the House of Representatives through the provision of the right to public associations of more than a thousand members; removing from the Electoral Code the provisions dealing with the boycott of elections; increasing the size of personal electoral funds of candidates for Parliament and the presidency; refusal to provide candidates with budget funds for the production of campaign leaflets.

Independent experts believe that the proposals of the Central Election Commission indicate the imitation of reforms, not the real modernization. The necessary changes in the electoral law, which is primarily spoken by independent observers and the opposition, are as follows: to legislate such a procedure of counting votes, in which not only the chairman of the election commission, but at least all members of this committee would know the results of the voting; to guarantee the representation of political parties in election commissions; to ensure the rights of observers to the extent that they actually saw what was written on the ballot; to re-order early voting, so that the voter who is unable to vote on the election day, should submit a statement. None of these provisions was mentioned by the Central Election Commission.

Changes to the electoral law can be adopted ahead of the next election of deputies of local councils, which will be held no later than March 23, 2014.

President Lukashenka released on December 7, 2012 Decree No. 9 “On additional measures to develop the timber industry”, legitimizing elements of forced labor in Belarus. The decree was sharply criticized by independent trade unions and the opposition, who claimed that it violated the rules of the Belarusian and international law. It should be noted that today independent trade unions are not represented in Belarus’ woodworking industry. In July 2012, numerous employees of the company “Pinskdrev” were said to leave the official Federation of Trade Unions of Belarus.

There is a growing ideological work in the security services. On 4 December, it was announced that as part of the reform of the Ministry of Internal Affairs a new headquarters of ideological work would be created to replace the existing ideological department of the Main Personnel Management Directorate. On December 10, at a meeting with the First Secretary of the Central Committee of the Belarusian Republican Youth Union (BRSM), Aliaksandr Lukashenka said that a reference by the Belarusian Republican Youth Union had to be taken into account for employment in law enforcement agencies. The President said that BRSM and “Belaya Rus were the reserve of personnel for the law enforcement system.

On 12-13 December, Minsk hosted the international conference on improving the mechanism of protection of victims of human trafficking and assisting them, organized by the Ministry of Internal Affairs and the International Organization for Migration’s Office (IOM) in Belarus.


Civil Society

On December 7, the human rights organization “Amnesty International” launched a global campaign in support of political prisoner, leader of Human Rights Centre “Viasna” Ales Bialiatski. It should be noted that the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention released a decision, which stated that the detention of the Belarusian human rights defender and vice-president of the International Federation for Human Rights Ales Bialiatski was arbitrary, “being in contravention of article 20, paragraph 1, of the Universal Declaration on Human Rights [UDHR] and article 22 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR).”[9]

On December 4, in the Minsk office of the United Civil Party, representatives of democratic parties and organizations signed a memorandum on the implementation of the National Gender Platform (NGP). NGP is a strategy paper prepared by the experts of NGOs and political parties, addressed to both civil society and the government of Belarus in order to increase the impact of decision-making on the implementation of gender policies. Liudmila Petsina, Chair of the NGO “Women’s Independent Democratic Movement”, noted that NGP is based on the main provisions of such international instruments as the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW), the Beijing Platform for Action, the UN Millennium Declaration, as well as specific recommendations of the CEDAW’s Committee developed specifically for the Republic of Belarus.

On December 8, Minsk hosted a founding congress of the “Lambda” NGO. The purpose of the assembly was to register an organization for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community activists (LGBT). LGBT activists repeatedly tried to register the organization, but these attempts were unsuccessful. Therefore, the Belarusian movement for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender rights exist only in the form of informal projects.

On December 3, it became known that the Foreign Ministry once again rejected the possibility of issuing entry visas to two members of the association “Batskaushchyna” – Yauhen Vapa, Chairman of the Board of “Radio Racyja”, chief editor of “Niva”, newspaper of the Belarusian minority in Poland, and Lena Hlahouskaya, chair of the Belarusian cultural community in Gdansk “Khatka”.


Harassment of Activists

In the anniversary of dispersal of the peaceful protest in Minsk in 2010, a Belarusian court sentenced Mikalai Dzemidzenka, deputy chairman of the international organization “Young Front” (Czech Republic), to five days of arrest. Another activist of “Young Front” Kasia Halitskaya was forced to sign a commitment prohibiting participation in any unauthorized events on December 19. Employees of Tsentralny District Police Department of Minsk seized from the activist old campaign materials.

The authorities banned 63 pickets out of 91 events scheduled by the United Civil Party for December 19. The party intends to appeal the bans, including by submitting complaints to the UN Human Rights Committee.

On 19 December, police detained civic activist Nina Bahinskaya in Minsk’s Kastrychnitskaya Square. Aliaksei Kishchuk and Stanislau Laurenau, members of the organizing committee of the party “Belarusian Christian Democracy” (BCD), were detained in Vitsebsk. No sanctions were used against them.

The authorities of Baranavichy unreasonably refused permission to hold a picket timed to coincide with the International Human Rights Day on December 10. The bid for the event was filed by human rights activist Siarhei Housha and the leader of the city’s “For Freedom” office Viktar Syrytsa.

The KGB still uses the practice of introducing preventive supervision over civil activists. Attempts to appeal the measures in court bring no results. On December 18, Leninski District Court of Mahiliou dismissed the complaint by Aleh Aksionau, coordinator of the organizing committee of the party “Belarusian Christian Democracy”. The preventive measures used against the activist were motivated by the fact that Aleh Aksionau was acting on behalf of an unregistered organization.

The headline-making case of using violence by the policemen of Leninski district police department against elderly night watchman Vasil Sarochyk was continued. As a result of the investigation, four officials of Leninski district police department of Minsk were named suspects under Par. 3. Art. 426 of the Criminal Code (“abuse of power or authority committed by officials, clearly beyond the powers and authority granted to the service”). However, on December 30 the official representative of the Investigative Committee of Minsk said that the criminal case was terminated. He noted that the actions of the policemen constituted violations of criminal procedure, and they were brought to disciplinary liability.

On December 4, a court toughened the punishment of prisoner Mikalai Dziadok, sentenced to four and a half years in a penal colony for participation in the actions of anarchists, sending him to prison. Mikalai Dziadok has 22 reprimands. According to the commission’s decision, Mikalai Dziadok “failed to mend his way and continued to have a devastating effect” on other inmates. The measures by the administration of the colony against him are due to the fact that Mikalai refused to sign a petition for clemency to the President and continued to protest his innocence.

On December 13, the detention center in Baranavichy hosted a meeting of the commission to consider the release on parole of political prisoner Vasil Parfiankou. As a result, the commission ruled to deny him parole on the grounds that he “did not mend his way.” Human rights defenders stress that he had received reprimands by of the prison administration for minor flaws.

On December 5, Minsk police arrested artist Ales Pushkin for holding an unsanctioned rally. During the action, the artist marched to the Supreme Court building with a portrait of the activist of anti-Soviet resistance Rastsislau Lapitski. Ales Pushkin was sentenced to 12 days in prison.

On December 26, civic activist Anastasia Palazhanka and leader of the international public organization “Young Front” (Czech Republic) Dzmitry Dashkevich got married in Hrodna prison. The ceremony could take place after years of appeals by Anastasia Palazhanka to different agencies to return the passport of Dzmitry Dashkevich.

On December 27, Navapolatsk BCD activist Ilya Bahdanau was interviewed by the KGB Vitsebsk regional office in the case of Andrei Haidukou, who was arrested on suspicion of collaborating with foreign intelligence services. As a result, Ilya Bahdanau was named a suspect in this case.

On December 28, the prosecuting authorities issued a warning for journalism to Dzianis Dashkevich. He was notified informed that in case the www.vrogacheve.ru website featured information containing inaccurate data about the political and economic situation in the country, or libeling the authorities, Dzianis Dashkevich could be prosecuted under three articles of the Criminal Code.

[1] http://naviny.by/rubrics/english/2012/12/15/ic_articles_259_180222

[2] http://belapan.com/archive/2012/09/25/576834/

[3] http://www.europarl.europa.eu/the-president/en/press/press_release_speeches/press_release/2012/2012-september/press_release-2012-september-13.html

[4] http://news.belta.by/en/news/politics?id=698705

[5] http://spring96.org/en/news/59291

[6] http://www.amnesty.org/en/news/belarus-evicts-leading-human-rights-organization-2012-11-26

[7] http://www.osce.org/odihr/elections/98148

[8] http://spring96.org/en/news/59911

[9] http://spring96.org/en/news/60173


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