Top 5 Human Rights Violations in Belarus
Human Rights Violations in Belarus have constantly been highlighted since Alexander Lukashenko it’s first and only President took the oath on to the 20th of April 1994, over 26 years ago.
He assumed almost absolute power in 1995 through a referendum, which dismissed the Supreme Soviet of Belarus, the highest decision-making body in the country.
The Soviet-era strongman has ruled Belarus ever since with an iron fist and is accused of a series of human rights violations which led to him being referred to as “Europe’s Last Dictator”.
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1. LACK OF FREE AND FAIR ELECTIONS
The Belarusian Presidential elections have constantly been under the scanner with many in the West claiming that they were rigged & that it failed to meet the international standards for a free and fair democratic process.
In September 2016, based on the observations of several human rights activists The Organization for Security & Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) reported several election violations. The lack of equal access to state media for all candidates was the primary problem. The other violations included partiality of election commissions, the abuse of administrative resources in favor of the pro-government candidates, forcing voters to vote early, and the non-transparency of some election procedures for observers.
The recent elections held in August 2020 were also marred by the allegations of widespread electoral fraud. President Lukashenko was sworn in for the 6th term in a secret ceremony after he claimed to have won 80% of the votes. The re-election of Lukashenko has triggered countrywide protests ever since.
2. TARGETING OPPOSITION LEADERS
Key opposition figures like Yury Zacharanka and Viktar Hanchar disappeared after Lukashenko assumed power in 1994. According to some reports they were abducted and were probably killed.
The story of elections in Belarus has remained the same over the decades with opposition leaders either being barred from contesting, jailed on false charges, or being forced to leave the country.
The elections of August 2020 were no different with 2 candidates being denied ( Viktar Babaryka, Valery Tsepkalo ) and a 3rd being imprisoned ( Siarhei Tsikhanouski ). Svetlana Tikhanovskaya, the wife of Siarhei, then decided to take over her husband’s campaign. She was supported by two other women ( Maria Kolesnikova, and Veronika Tsepkalo ). However, widespread protests erupted across the country after the election results were announced in favor of the incumbent President. In an attempt to try and suppress these protests Kolesnikova was imprisoned while Svetlana and Veronika were forced to flee to neighboring Lithuania and Poland respectively.
3. MEDIA CENSORSHIP
Freedom of the press in Belarus is extremely restricted. State-owned channels are under the control of the government.
Foreign media and independent journalists are regularly intimidated for being critical of the government.
Journalists are harassed, detained, and forced to give up their information. Even websites have to be registered with the government or face blockage. The Internet is regularly turned off.
With increasing restrictions to press freedom many are shifting to radio to report the news to the people of Belarus.
4. CRACKDOWN ON PEACEFUL ASSEMBLY
The peaceful gatherings of citizens to protest against strongman Lukashenko has been dealt with very severely with the police detaining hundreds of people.
Several news agencies have also reported the use of water cannons, tear gas, and rubber bullets to try and disperse the swelling crowds.
The police have also started tracing individual protesters and arresting them from their homes.
5. CAPTURE OF THE JUDICIARY
The President exercises control over the Judiciary. The powers to appoint and transfer judges rest with the government.
The salaries and accommodation of the judges are in the hands of the executive. Thus they constantly find themselves under pressure to deliver verdicts in favor of the government.
Courts have also been found to delay or avoid cases related to electoral fraud or other human rights issues. Thus, justice to citizens is almost non-existent.