On July 1, UN experts demanded that Belarus refrain from violence against peaceful protesters ahead of 9 August presidential elections. They also urged the authorities to abandon its policy of arbitrary arrests, violence and intimidation against civil society activists.
According to them, since 18 June alone, at least 200 political activists, human rights defenders, journalists, bloggers and other members of civil society have been arrested during peaceful demonstrations across the country. The protests aimed at showing solidarity with nearly 500 other activists detained since May while exercising their right to give and gather signatures for nominating presidential candidates.
“We strongly condemn the government’s continuous policy of mass arrests of members of the civil society who are peacefully exercising their fundamental rights. We firmly condemn policies and actions that restrict Belarusians’ right to freedom of peaceful assembly and freedom of opinion and expression,” the statement reads.
The experts are concerned that the approach of the Belarusian government towards peaceful protesters and journalists trying to perform their work is becoming more and more violent and abusive.
“Ahead of the election campaign, we urge the government to immediately stop cracking down on peaceful protesters and other members of civil society, including journalists and bloggers,” the UN representatives stressed.
A pluralistic environment in which all people can safely and freely exercise their right to seek and disseminate information, and their rights to freedom of expression, peaceful assembly and association is essential to ensure the integrity of the ongoing electoral process, and the legitimacy of its outcome, the experts added.
The appeal was signed by Anaïs Marin, Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Belarus; Clement Nyaletsossi Voule, Special Rapporteur on the right to peaceful assembly and association; Mary Lawlor, Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders; David Kaye, Special Rapporteur on the freedom of opinion and expression; Diego García-Sayán, Special Rapporteur on the Independence of Judges and Lawyers.