The United Kingdom is following closely developments in Belarus, in particular as the country prepares for the presidential election in August, Nicola Murray, Deputy Head of Delegation, said when delivering a statement to the OSCE Permanent Council on July, 2.
According to her, the UK expressed concern over the arrest and detention of over 100 people, including independent journalists, social media actors, human rights defenders and peaceful protestors, in late May. However, to date, over 400 people have been detained or arrested, with many facing administrative penalties, such as fines, and some facing criminal charges. Those detained include a number of journalists and media workers who were attempting to report on public gatherings, Nicola Murray stressed.
“As the Representative on Freedom of the Media said in his statement of 20 June, ‘journalists play a crucial role in covering events of public interest, particularly those related to elections’. We echo his call to ensure that journalists are able to do their work, to cover and report on public gatherings without fear of being detained,” the statement by the UK Delegation reads.
Thirty years ago, OSCE participating states solemnly declared that free elections are essential to the full expression of the inherent dignity and of the equal and inalienable rights of all human beings, the UK top official recalled:
“The UK is therefore concerned by the detention of Viktar Babaryka, one of the potential presidential candidates, and his son Eduard Babaryka, his campaign manager, on 19 June. We also note with concern the investigation by the Ministry of Internal Affairs into the alleged involvement of another presidential candidate, Valery Tsapkala, in ‘illegal activities’. We call on the Belarusian authorities to release Mr Babaryka and his son from pre-trial detention and to respect the rule of law, including the right to a fair trial. We also call on the Belarusian authorities to release members of the opposition and civil society who have been subject to arbitrary arrest and detention.”
Nicola Murray also urged the Belarusian officials to to ensure that international observers, including from ODIHR and other organisations, are able to observe the upcoming elections.
The 2020 presidential election is scheduled for August, 9. This year’s campaign is gaining momentum: lots of Belarusians spent hours in queques to sign for the nomination of a person or persons who revealed their presidential ambitions. Indeed, the people’s active involvement is indicative of their fatigue with the 26-year rule of Alyaksandr Lukashenka. However, many Belarusian citizens, including presidential hopefuls, journalists and politicians, are being subjected to the unprecedented pressure from the authorities.
belsat.eu, via gov.uk