From: Alice Taylor
Venice Commission President Calls for Release of Protestors in Belarus

The President of the Venice Commission, Gianni Buquicchio has called on the authorities in Belarus to release local observers and protesters and to allow the unimpeded exercise of the right to assembly, association and expression.

Adherence to these international standards for elections, as stated in the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, also signed by Belarus, is key to the interest of the people and the stability of the country, says the statement of President Buquicchio.

Authorities in Belarus have announced that 6,000 people have been arrested in three days of protests sparked by the Belarussian presidential election. Many have spoken of torture at the hands of the security services and Amnesty International spoke of accounts of “widespread torture.”

The results of last Sunday’s Presidential election were called into question after the incumbent President Alexander Lukashenko declared he won with 80.1% of the vote. Opposition leader Sviatlana Tikhanovskaya insists that the votes were not properly counted and she had won in the region of 60-70% of the votes. She was held for seven hours by police before being forced into exile in Latvia.

Lukashenko has won every presidential election since 1994. Considered the leader of an authoritarian regime, elections are not free and fair, the media is not free, and opponents are repressed. The US has periodically imposed sanctions on Lukashenko and other Belarusian officials for human rights violations.

Many journalists have also been targeted by the regime. Amnesty International noted reports of media workers being arrested, beaten, targeted with rubber bullets and having their footage deleted and equipment destroyed.