Parliamentary elections: FIDH calls on the authorities not to repeat past mistakes

Press release
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Paris, 21 September 2012 — On 23 September 2012, Belarusians will elect the members of the House of Representatives. The elections will be held in a different climate from the 2010 presidential elections, of sad fame. Two opposition parties have recently withdrawn their candidates and have called for the boycott of the elections, in support of the political prisoners.

“In the present political context the climate of the Sunday elections will probably be calmer than in 2010, but one should not underestimate the authorities’ capacity for causing harm and repression. We should not forget what happened two years ago, and we must therefore remind the Government of its obligation to respect the civic rights of the people”, declared Soulhayr Belhassen, FIDH President.

During the 2010 presidential elections, seven out of the ten candidates were arrested a few hours after the results were announced. The regime accused them of “causing massive public disturbance”. One of these candidates, Mr. Statkovitch, is still in prison. The others have been released, but some of them have had to ask President Lukachenko to pardon them.

The parliamentary elections in Belarus are being held in a context of continuous repression of the political opposition, civil society and independent journalists. On 18 September 2012, during a demonstration calling for the boycott of the elections, activists and journalists, including international media representatives, were beaten and arrested.

There currently fourteen political prisoners in Belarus, and their conditions of detention and recourse to justice are causing deep concern. FIDH demands their immediate release.

The political opposition is not alone in incurring the wrath of the Government. Since December 2010 civil society as a whole has been harassed and subjected to ever increasing pressure.

This repression is epitomised by the arrest, on 4 August 2011, of Ales Bialiatski, FIDH Vice-President and Director of the “Viasna” Human Rights Center. He is presently serving a four and a half year prison sentence. The 25 September will see himl celebrate his 50th birthday behind bars.

“For Ales, the conditions of detention have always been very difficult, but over the last few weeks the authorities have made them even harsher. The number of visits his wife - the only person close to him allowed to see him in prison - is authorised to make has been reduced” added Ms. Belhassen.

Press contact: Arthur Manet +33 6 72 28 42 94 (in Paris)

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