Violent Crackdown on Protests in Belarus: EU holds Emergency Summit

On Wednesday, 19 August 2020, EU leaders are holding an emergency summit on Belarus to discuss the possibility of sanctions for the crackdown of police violence on large-scale protests after the announcement of the outcome of this year’s presidential elections. According to the Central Election Commission, incumbent president Alexander Lukashenko won 80.23% of the vote, allowing him to enter into his sixth presidential term, while opposition candidate Svetlana Tsikhanouskaya received only 9.9%.

The election has been followed by subsequent days of large-scale protests on the streets of the Belarussian capital, Minsk. Significant military presence in the capital and around governmental facilities, as well as the partial shut-down of internet services, reflected the tense atmosphere during the election day. Riot police attempted to disperse protesters by beating and using flash-bang grenades. Since the election day, 09 August 2020, 7.000 people have been detained, hundreds were injured and two persons have died. In an attempt to appease the Belarussian population, some detained protesters were freed.

Opposition candidate Tsikhanouskaya rejects the electoral outcome announced by the Central Election Commission. Indeed, she stated that the “figures we got do not correspond to those that have been announced” and condemns the disproportional violence with which police and military respond to the peaceful protests during and following the election. After the election Tsikhanouskaya fled to Lithuania.

Incumbent president Lukashenko tightly holds onto his electoral victory, stating in a public announcement that no new elections will be held “until you kill me.” However, witnessing nine days of large-scale civil protests in the capital, he hinted to a possibility to hold new elections after the drafting of a new constitution.

Along with the international community, Gender Concerns International is gravely concerned about the state violence, excessive use of police force, and large-scale detentions following the presidential elections in Belarus. Major international organisations are calling upon Belarus to ensure respect for fundamental human rights as well as the publication of transparent election results, reflecting the choice of the Belarussian people. Gender Concerns International supports the human rights organisations in Belarus in their joint statement calling for an end of armed violence against civilians and release detainees.