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FANvoices | Belarus

Belarus: the world should unite in their support

by Dr. Pavel Repyeuski, Alpbach 2001 alumnus

Many are understandably concerned with what is happening in Belarus following the presidential elections on 09 August 2020—the situation there is not surprising, albeit is very worrying. After 26 years in power president Lukashenka is struggling to let go.

These were not the first Belarusian elections (we have them every 5 years), yet these were the ones which so vividly highlighted the need for change. Belarus election system is not open or fair. For many years the government used its administrative resource and will to supress any opposition movements and the election system is designed to back the ‘re-election’ of the current president. The votes can be easily manipulated, the bulletins swapped, election committees’ reports faked, and independent observers are blocked. Opposition candidates are either in prison or exiled. These latest elections were not different in that respect. What was different about the August 2020 is the sheer amount of people who queued to cast their votes for the change of the regime. An independent exit poll suggested a clear victory of the opposition candidate Svetlana Tikhanovskaya, yet the official results declared a landslide victory of the current president.

The glaring evidence of the rigged elections drew many Belarus citizens to the streets. The protests following the election day were peaceful but were violently dispersed. Thousands were arrested, including random passers-by. The police used stun grenades, and rubber bullets against unarmed protesters. Those in police custody were humiliated, beaten up, tortured, denied food, water, legal representation and some were, indeed, killed.

Belarus protests continue up to day—people are risking their lives demanding cease of violence, release of political prisoners, fair and just elections. There is plentiful evidence that government’s conduct violates not only national Belarusian law, but also the international law on human rights.

Unfortunately, the reaction of the international community to events in Belarus has been slow and inefficient. Allowing an authoritarian and dictatorship regime in the middle of Europe compromises not only safety, but also integrity of the international community. There were some notable statements of condemnation of what is happening in the country, but much more needs to be done. The world leaders and international organisations such as the European Union, Council of Europe and the United Nations should use all possible diplomatic and economic means to put pressure on Belarus authorities. Personal criminal and economic sanctions should be imposed on everyone involved in violation of human rights in Belarus, and political pressure should be applied to those states which still support the regime.

We need to help the Belarusian people who are peacefully pushing for change in any way we can. Only together we can hope to put these atrocities to end.

 


Dr. Pavel Repyeuski

Senior Lecturer in Law, Leeds Law School, Leeds Beckett University