Statement on the Current Events in BelarusPublished: Aug 10, 2020 Reading time: 2 minutes
Mass protests broke out across Belarus after state exit polls showed Alexander Lukashenko, Europe’s longest-lasting dictator, was set to win the August 9 election by a landslide, securing a sixth consecutive term.
Days ahead of the presidential vote, security forces arrested hundreds of protesters and journalists, including staff members of the united opposition candidate Svetlana Tikhanovskaya.
Restrictions for independent observers and detention of activists and reporters continued throughout Sunday amid reports of vote falsification.
Alexander Lukashenko has been in power since 1994. In 1996, he organized a flawed referendum that expanded presidential prerogatives, eliminated the independent judiciary, and allowed him to stay in power indefinitely.
Prominent local watchdog Viasna reports that over 200 people have been detained after riot police were deployed last night on the streets of major cities. Government sources put the number of detainees as high as 3,000.
Water cannons, stun grenades and rubber bullets were used against peaceful protesters, injuring dozens. One person was reported dead after a police van drove into a crowd of demonstrators. Since Sunday morning, there has been no stable Internet or cell connection inside the country, which prevents the flow of independent information from the cities.
“We call on the Belarusian authorities to release all people detained in the election protests and investigate the use of excessive force by the police. Peaceful protest is a fundamental right and must be immediately restored,” says Simon Panek, Director of People in Need.
“We also join the appeal of our colleagues from more than 20 international human rights organizations to restore the Internet and cell connection in the country and ensure safe work of the journalists,” Mr. Panek adds.
Courtesy photo: Jędrzej Nowicki/Agencja Gazeta for Gazeta Wyborcza