Lukashenko is fighting his own population – he must stop

The Norwegian Helsinki Committee condemns the obvious violations leading up to the elections and the violations taking place on election night itself, and urge that the sanctions against Lukashenko’s regime must be intensified.

Lukashenko watched his own citizens take to the streets all over Belarus to protest the results of yesterday’s presidential elections, and 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 international community must immediately condemn the falsifications and the violence and introduce harder sanctions against Lukashenko and his regime.

According to official numbers, President Lukashenko got over 80 percent of the votes. This is 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 protests show that his legitimacy as leader is almost non-existent.

Read more about Belarus here. 

The opposition candidate on protests and election result

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. In addition, one young man passed away after having been run over by a military vehicle.

We have already won, says Svetlana Tikhonovskaya none the lessthe 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 elections and to release the political prisoners held by the regime.

Two men carrying a heavily hurt man with blood dripping everywhere. Picture taken during a protest in Minsk against Lukashenko and his regime.
Photo: / RFE/RL
Independent elections observations were brutally attacked. Despite this, citizens have ensured important photos of voting protocols and ballot boxes. These show Tikhonovskaya getting more votes than Lukashenko in several polling stations. In 20 of them, the commission succeeded in submitting the genuine results to the central election commission. This was met with applause from citizens outside. 

The NHC on Belarus and Lukashenko

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.

Our own Inna Sangadzhiyeva shares her thoughts on Lukashenko and his fight against his own people. Portrait.
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.  

Update 12.08.20: Together with more than fifty human rights groups, we have written to the UN’s Special Rapporteurs on freedom of expression, freedom of assembly and association, and human rights in Belarus over disruptions to the internet that took place during the presidential elections on 9 August 2020. Read the full letter detailing the full extent of the disruptions here.

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.

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Inna Sangadzhieva

Director for Europe and Central AsiaEmail: [email protected]Phone: +47 97 69 94 58
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