Press release

Belarus: Freedom House Condemns Violence and Election Irregularities

The government suppressed independent and opposition voices ahead of the election, and cracked down on protesters after the results were announced.

In response to the disproportionate use of force against peaceful gatherings on the day of the Belarusian presidential election, the violation of international principles of fair and free elections, and countrywide internet disruptions on election day, Freedom House issued the following statement:

“We condemn President Lukashenka’s unlawful actions to ensure his success in Sunday’s presidential election through an unfair candidate registration process and the detention of candidates, allegations of election fraud, widespread internet disruptions on election day, and the violent crackdown on peaceful protesters demanding their right to a fair vote,” said Marc Behrendt, director of Europe and Eurasia programs at Freedom House. “All citizens, activists, and journalists detained should be released immediately, and Belarusian law enforcement and security services should immediately cease using violence against their fellow citizens. We urge the Belarusian authorities to enable a transparent investigation of these allegations and to take measures to ensure that the Belarusian people are assured their right to a fair election, including a new fair and transparent election in full accordance with OSCE obligations. Freedom House stands in solidarity with the Belarusian people who speak out fearlessly in defense of democratic values, and invites organizations and governments around the globe to express their support.”

Background:

On August 9, tens of thousands of Belarusian citizens across the country took to the streets to express their outrage at the conduct of that day’s presidential election. Riot police and army units responded violently to postelection protests in cities including the capital of Minsk. Authorities used stun grenades, rubber bullets, tear gas, and water cannons against peaceful protesters in Minsk, resulting in serious injuries. Around 3,000 people were detained nationwide, according to official reports.

The authorities also worked to suppress independent and opposition voices in the run-up to the election. Independent observers were detained throughout the week and were aggressively removed from polling stations on election day. Two members of opposition presidential candidate Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya’s team, including executive manager Maryya Maroz, were arrested the day before the contest. Dozens of domestic and foreign reporters were also detained, and some were deported, ahead of the poll. On election day itself, access to the internet and to social media platforms were disrupted throughout the country.

Belarus is rated Not Free in Freedom in the World 2020, Not Free in Freedom on the Net 2019, and is categorized as a Consolidated Authoritarian Regime in Nations in Transit 2020.