”The Government is in Full Control of Citizens’ Lives”

On the 11th of October President Lukashenka will run for a 5th term in office. Civil Rights Defenders spoke to three Belarusian human rights defenders to hear what they have to say about the election. They have all chosen to remain anonymous due to fear of reprisals from the regime.

”The Government is in Full Control of Citizens’ Lives”

“The presidential elections in Belarus does not differ much from the previous ones. The government is in full control of citizens’ lives. That is why in 2015 the voters are more apathetic than ever. Belarus is Putin’s world backyard. Putin’s doctrine did not envision any change here. Lukashenka has huge Russian subsidies at his disposal. But with oil prices halved, the economy is in free fall. Being in control of people’s lives does not necessarily mean being in control of their minds. The internet is free, and the social networks are thriving. People reach independent websites and eagerly share any good news in the hope that one day they will unite and have all their civil rights restored,” said one anonymous human rights defender from Belarus.

”The Regime Can Jail Opposition Activists Once Again”

Ahead of the elections, several political prisoners were pardoned and released from prison.

“It is good and positive that those courageous people are free from prison. But it is also a sign of Lukashenka truing to improve relations with the West on the backdrop of the Ukraine crisis and Moscow’s pressure on Belarus. He is also doing so in order to try to get recognition for his re-election. I do not expect any positive systemic changes though. After all the regime can jail opposition activists once again if things go wrong in the relations with the West,” said another anonymous human rights defender from Belarus.

”Arbitrary Arrests and Pressure on Activists is Continuing”

“It is difficult to expect any improvement in the field of human rights before or after the elections. The recent release of political prisoners, of course, is an important positive step, but, unfortunately, it is not a sign of systemic change for the better. Increasing repression is the more likely scenario after the elections. Remaining provisions in legislation ensure that many human rights activists and NGOs are outlawed in Belarus. Arbitrary arrests, pressure on activists and human rights defenders is still continuing,” said another anonymous human rights defender from Belarus.