Belarusian authorities tighten political activity rules before the election

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April 22, 2016 18:11

On May 8, U.S. Ambassador to OSCE Mr. Kelly expressed serious concern over the increased number of arrests in Belarus. Earlier Belarusian human rights activists appealed to the UN to urgently respond to an unprecedented wave of arbitrary arrests in Belarus. Since the beginning of June about 40 people were detained in Belarus on various grounds.

Such a harsh reaction of the authorities on the eve of not yet officially announced parliamentary campaign aims to tighten the rules of conduct in public places for the opposition. Most likely, the government pursues two goals. Firstly, street arrests meant to suppress a potential renewal of social networks protests, which were actively used by “Social Networks Revolution” opposition youth movement in the summer of 2011 and demonstrated inability of the city police to react adequately.

Secondly, it is likely that numerous and seemingly uncoordinated detentions of civil and political activists, journalists and academic community representatives have a common base. The majority of the Belarusian opposition already denies the democratic nature of the upcoming parliamentary elections and is preparing to boycott in various forms. The authorities in their turn also demonstrate that they will use any opportunity to prevent such actions.

The probable logic of the Belarusian law enforcement agencies is that in response to the boycott of the parliamentary elections by the opposition, the government will boycott the opposition, i.e. will put it in a very narrow legal framework for mass street actions. Earlier, the Belarusian parliament has prudently amended relevant laws with tougher measures.

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Belarusian authorities step up pressure on opposition before street protests
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Image: "Новы Час"

During searches of social and "green" activists and anarchists, law enforcement has seized computers, mobile phones and publications. The authorities have also exerted additional pressure on supporters of unauthorized street protests and independent lawyers, who represented defendants in the White Legion case. The security services have stepped up the persecution of opponents before the street protests announced by the opposition. Apparently, the Belarusian authorities aspire that participants in street protests would reduce in number and that the low interest of the population to socio-political agenda before the local election campaign would retain.