In the lead-up to and following the presidential election in Belarus on December 19, reports indicate that the rights of civil society have been severely limited and violated. According to the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH), on December 19, Belarus Helsinki Committee (BHC) Chairman, Mr. Aleg Hulak. was arrested by riot police as he left a peaceful post-election demonstration at Nezavisimosti Square in Minsk. He was then taken to Akrestina police detention center. His exact whereabouts are currently unknown.
Also according to FIDH and the Viasna Human Rights Center, on December 20, 15 persons in plain clothes raided the Minsk-based Viasna Center and arrested 10 staff members. Those arrested were at the Center analyzing data that had been collected the day before from 600 election monitors across the country for the "Human Rights Defenders for Free Elections" monitoring project run jointly by Viasna and the BHC. During their interrogation at the police station, the staff members were asked to write down where they had been during the election, and whether or not they had participated in demonstrations. All 10 Viasna Center staff have since been released.
Finally, according to the Belarusian Association of Journalists, independent Web sites were blocked during the election while numerous journalists were attacked and detained by riot police. It is estimated that over 600 journalists and activists are now being detained.
On November 28-29, 2010, in Astana, Kazakhstan, over 150 civil society organizations participated in the Parallel OSCE Civil Society Conference where they developed an "Outcome Document" that addresses freedom of expression and freedom of assembly, among other issues. The document calls on OSCE Participating States, including Belarus, to "do more to protect journalists and civic and political activists from physical attacks, harassment and intimidation," and to "ensure the provision of security and safety to participants of peaceful assemblies." The World Movement urges all OSCE Participating States to advance such protections in Belarus.
Moreover, in its "Defending Civil Society" report, the World Movement addresses freedom of expression and the right to communication, and articulates six principles for protecting civil society. The third principle states that "Freedom of expression protects not only ideas regarded as inoffensive or a matter of indifference but also those that offend, shock or disturb, since pluralism is essential in a democratic society." The fourth principle also states that "Individuals and NGOs have the right to use the Internet and Web-based technologies to communicate more effectively."
For more information on violations during and after the presidential election in Belarus, go to: www.wmd.org/networking/central-and-eastern-europe-eurasia/spotlight/eastern-europe#elect
For more information on the Parallel OSCE Civil Society Conference and Outcome Document (in English), go to: www.wmd.org/networking/central-and-eastern-europe-eurasia/spotlight/central-asia#kazconf
For more information on the Parallel OSCE Civil Society Conference and Outcome Document (in Russian), go to: site
For more information on the Defending Civil Society project, go to: www.wmd.org/projects/defending-civil-society