Belarusian human rights activist Valentin Stefanovich told DW of threats against the opposition Tikhanovski and Babariko and the torture of detained political activists in Minsk.
The detention of a potential candidate in presidents of Belarus Victor Babariko, the criminal case against blogger Sergei Tikhanovski, threats against his children and wife, Svetlana Tikhanovski, planning to register an initiative group for the presidential elections 9 August – all these are features of the race 2020 in Belarus, who commented in an interview with DW Valentin Stefanovich of the Belarusian human rights centre “Viasna”.
DW: please Tell us what is the reason for a new criminal case opened against blogger Sergei Tikhanovski?
Valentin Stefanovich against Tikhanovski was a series of trials in Gomel. At the same time he was already in jail, and it continued to attract to administrative responsibility for organizing an unsanctioned mass events. He participated in the court hearings via Skype. That against it opened a criminal case under article 191 of the criminal code on obstruction of the elections, he told himself during one of such meetings.
Chairman of the Central election Commission (CEC) of Belarus Lidia Yermoshina few weeks ago during one of the meetings, the CEC has publicly said that the purpose of the pickets (which held the collection of signatures for registration of initiative groups of candidates for the post of head of state. – Ed.) – not collecting signatures, and criticism of the incumbent, very offensive and provoking, and that even her threats sounded. However, it quoted only one word “smack”. Tikhanovski used on their picket lines the slogan “No pasar?n – stop cockroach” and, therefore, urged all to come with the Slippers to kill the cockroach.
“Stop, cockroach” – all the famous works of Chukovsky about the cockroach, whom all were afraid, and then the Sparrow ate it. I personally do not believe that the slogans calling for violence. However, Lydia treats them as a threat of murder in his address.
Yarmoshyna also said that the initiative group Svetlana Tikhanovski behaved inappropriately and wanted using elections, to undermine the situation, which will lead to a change of government by violent means. But if you talk about change of government by force, then it’s a different article, not 191-I.
We believe that the pursuit Tikhanovski and Tikhanovski absolutely fit the outline of recent events. Svetlana Tikhanovski recently claimed the threats in his address: that it can land and take her minor children, who remain without supervision of parents.
In our country the practice of removal of children from families of so-called “asocial elements” or in the case where children are “at risk”, is very well developed. From the point of view of human rights defenders, it is very ambiguous.
So, if we talk about threats, for Tikhanovski and Babariko they are really real. I do not know how they are real for Lydia Yermoshina. However, I doubt very much that tikhanovski could with threats or in any other way affect the activity of the Central election Commission during the elections.
– Defenders take in this situation?
The situation, of course, very heavy. Literally a month and a half arrested over ninety people, including human rights defenders and journalists. On 17 June Belarusian Helsinki Committee and the organization turned to a series of thematic UN rapporteurs – on freedom of Assembly, protection of human rights defenders and on the independence of judges and lawyers, on the question of torture and the high Commissioner summarized the situation that we see right now in Belarus.
At the same time we pointed out the latest information on torture and ill-treatment of detained political activists and members of initiative groups, who are now in Minsk, in the center for isolation of offenders.
– What do you mean, speaking about torture?
– From people who are already free, we know that the detainees amounted to torture under the guise of fighting COVID-19, for example, is poured in the cells the water with chlorine, which naturally causes choking and breathing problems, take the mattresses…
Pavel Sevyarynets, one of the leaders of the Belarusian Christian democratic party, took away all personal items including hygiene items and mattress, it was isolated several times in the hole, took the Bible (he is a believer). There is information about the fact that he was also applied physical violence.
Repression during the elections is our national tradition. Each time during the election any of those who took part in them, sits in jail, with the exception, maybe, of 2015 year. But this year, repression began right from the start (of the campaign. – Ed.), and no end in sight. And we fear that the situation will become complicated.
Tikhanovski if the case goes to court, I think we are going to see a lot of interesting things. Do not rule out that someone admits that a coup d’état. When people are in prison, there may be anything at all. Moreover, under the pretext of fighting a pandemic of lawyers to detainees don’t allow.