CORRECTION: We reported in an earlier version of this article that one person had died. This turns out not to be the case. The person in question was hit by a truck and taken to hospital but fortunately recovered from the injuries.
As several thousand citizens took to the streets all over Belarus to protest the results of yesterday’s presidential elections, Lukashenko responded with disproportional use of force. More than three thousand protesters have been arrested and several injured during the night of protests.
–We do not recognize the results of yesterday’s unfree elections, says Bjørn Engesland, Secretary General of the Norwegian Helsinki Committee. – The human rights violations are so grave that the international community must not limit itself to the immediate condemnation of the falsifications and the violence, but instantly introduce harder sanctions against Lukashenko and his regime, says Engesland.
According to official numbers, incumbent president Lukashenko got over 80 percent of the votes also in this election, the sixth since he came to power in 1994. The brutal treatment of opposition candidates, independent journalists and observers was also this time around no exception. The transgressions secured him a formal victory yet again, but the numerous protests show clearly that his legitimacy as leader is almost non-existent.
The authorities used tear gas, stun grenades, water cannons and rubber bullets against the peaceful demonstrators. Internet was disconnected for the whole of election day. According to the Belarusian ministry of interior, over 3000 persons were arrested, many of them brutally, and one young man passed away after having been run over by a military vehicle.
–We have already won, says Svetlana Tikhonovskaya none the less, the opposition candidate who formally got 10 percent of the votes in yesterday’s election.
She is referring to the fact that the Belarusians have taken to the streets for weeks in peaceful demonstrations, they lined up in thousands to vote for Tikhonovskaya, and continued protests throughout the night despite the regime’s violent attacks. She promises to continue the fight for free and fair elections in Belarus and to release the more than 25 political prisoners held by the regime.
Despite the brutal attack on independent election observation, citizens have ensured photos of original voting protocols and full ballot boxes that show Tikhonovskaya got more votes than Lukashenko in several polling stations. In 20 of them, the commission even succeeded in submitting the genuine results to the central election commission, to which they were met with applause from citizens outside.
The NHC has followed the situation in Belarus closely for several years and cooperated with brave activist and journalists who despite all difficulties have kept on with their work. They now need international support and recognition more than ever. – We have also seen how Lukashenko has succeeded in manoeuvring his way around sanctions and international condemnation. Not long ago several sanctions against him and his regime were lifted.
The international community must push for an effective investigation to determine who is responsible for the various violations so that they will get their legitimate, proportional punishment.
Inna Sangadzhiyeva, senior advisor in the NHC.
Simultaneously, any negotiations on for example Norwegian business investments in the country should be put on hold with immediate effect.
– We owe that to the brave Belarusians who defy a brutal power machinery in order to defend their right to express their opinion and participate in free and fair elections, says Sangadzhiyeva.