Solidarity with civil society in Belarus

4 August is an international day of solidarity with the civil society of Belarus. This day matters, because of the daily pressure against civil society in Belarus.

When a coalition of international civil society organisations, at the initiative of the International Youth Human Rights Movement of Voronezh (Russian Federation), launched the idea of an international solidarity day with civil society in Belarus, the country was coming out of the 2010 presidential election cycle, which symbolically ended with the arrest of the country’s leading human rights defender Ales Bialiatski.

The 4 August is key to Belarus, because of Ales Bialiatski’s arrest on this day in 2011. The day is now a symbol of President Alyaksandr Lukashenka’s repeated practice of arbitrary arrest of voices criticising his way of governing the country.

Presidential power instead of rule of law

When speaking about civil society in Belarus, one cannot only think about organised civil society. In the country, at any given time, anybody can be subject to President Lukashenka’s arbitrary rules. The United Nations Special Rapporteur on Belarus, Miklós Haraszti, calledthe country’s political system one of centralised Presidential power, instead of the rule of law or the basic principle of separation of powers: “The structural character of the fact that widespread human rights violations remain unaddressed is underlined by the centralization of the legislative and executive powers in the office of the President. Presidential decrees are used as the main, and in fact, supreme legislative mechanism in the country.”

This 4 August is important this year because President Lukashenka is seen as a peacemaker, not the leader of systemic and systematic human rights violations. His palaces in Minsk have indeed hosted the talks between Russia and Ukraine on the situation in Eastern Ukraine.

Presidential election in October 2015


President Alyaksandr Lukashenka


More importantly, this 4 August is the last one before the next presidential election in Belarus, to be held on 11 October 2015.

President Lukashenka was elected in July 1994 in the country’s first presidential election, after the adoption in March 1994 of Belarus’ new constitution changing it into a presidential republic. Alyaksandr Lukashenka was elected President with 80.1 per cent of the vote in the second round (44.8 per cent in the first round). The 1994 elections were “widely viewed as the most free and fair elections to have been held in the history of independent Belarus” accordingto the Special Rapporteur on Belarus in his report to the UN General Assembly in October 2013.

Since 1994, Belarus did not see any election be free and fair and two referendums turned power over to the President, who today fully and arbitrarily uses the power, even overturning constitutional rights with his presidential decrees.

In fact, presidential elections were not only unfair; they were also repeatedly the days on which repression increased in Belarus. It is indeed since 1994 each presidential election that brought Belarus to a new stage of repression. In other words, as the Special Rapporteur on Belarus wrote to the Human Rights Council in June 2015, “with the incumbent president having been in office for nearly 20 years and the absence of an opposition in Parliament, there has been a pattern of mass-scale pressure on and harassment against civil society actors in Belarus amounting to recurring violence, specifically during or in the immediate aftermath of presidential and parliamentary elections and the announcement of their preordained outcomes.”

“Atmospheric totalitarianism”

The 4 August 2015 is important to underline the latent and permanent of the human rights violations in Belarus, the lack of rule of law and the arbitrary use of power to punish those criticising the system. In fact, Belarus lives in an “atmospheric totalitarianism” (an expression used by Ádám Takács to describe the Hungarian totalitarianism from the 1960s to the 1980s).

In such a system, one knows exactly what happens if expressing an opinion critical to the authorities’ believes or against certain public policies. Ales Bialiatski paid the price of his work for human rights with prison. Many others paid the same price for believing in free and fair electoral processes and building political parties, campaigns and strong candidates to run against Alyaksandr Lukashenka.

Today, 4 August 2015, hence stands as a symbolic date underlining the continued oppressive nature of the Belarusian system, led by a President putting his country aside of the international community.

News of Belarus

Tough sentences announced to Brest antifascists

A verdict was delivered today in the case of Brest antifascists acused of participation in a group fight with neonazis which happened on May 8, 2013.

Antifascists were tried under the art. 339.3 (malicious group hooliganism) and 147.2 (malicious bodily harm). The case was qualified as malicious due to the fact of pepper spray usage in the fight.

Dzmitry Stsyashenka got 5 years of penal colony with reinforced regime (339.3) and 500 euro of damages to be paid to the injured nazis.

Exclusive: European Union moves to suspend sanctions on Belarus

The European Union is likely to lift some sanctions on Belarus, including its travel ban on President Alexander Lukashenko, after he freed a group of political prisoners last month, diplomatic sources say.

An arms embargo against the former Soviet republic would remain. But in an overture to the man the West calls Europe's "last dictator", diplomats are looking at suspending visa bans and asset freezes on most of around 200 people under sanctions for rights abuses, some since disputed elections in 2004.