OSCE report: Belarus vote was ‘not transparent, free or fair’

A report looking into the election and the subsequent crackdown has called for a rerun ‘due to irregularities at all stages of the process’.

Law enforcement officers stand behind barbed wire during an opposition demonstration to protest against presidential election results, in Minsk, Belarus [File: Vasily Fedosenko/Reuters]

“Massive” rights abuses and torture in Belarus have been condemned by an election-monitoring organisation with calls for a rerun of the country’s August presidential polls in which President Alexander Lukashenko claimed victory.

A report looking into the election and subsequent crackdown by authorities, published by the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) on Thursday, said human rights abuses “were found to be massive and systematic and proven beyond doubt”.

The vote was “not transparent, free or fair” and it recommended the result to be annulled “due to irregularities at all stages of the process”, urging Belarus to “organise new genuine presidential elections based on international standards”.

Lukashenko claimed victory in the election but tens of thousands of opposition protesters have since taken to the streets in a wave of protests.

The 66-year-old leader, backed by Russia, has refused to step down despite the mass gatherings demanding he resign and hand power to main opposition candidate Svetlana Tikhanovskaya, who has taken refuge in neighbouring Lithuania.

Belarusian opposition supporters, mostly pensioners, attend a rally to reject the presidential election results and demand that President Alexander Lukashenko steps down in Minsk, Belarus [File: Reuters]

The report was produced at the request of 17 countries, including France, the United Kingdom and the United States.

It is based on 700 submissions of evidence but the rapporteur, who produced the report, however, was not able to travel to Belarus as Minsk refused to cooperate with the inquiry.

UK Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab said the report’s finding was “a damning indictment of Lukashenko’s regime”.

The US ambassador to OSCE, James Gilmore, said it was “shocking that the Belarusian security services would treat their fellow citizens in such an unacceptable manner, and even more shocking that such lawlessness and brutality is occurring with total impunity”.

The report said, “Some 1,500 persons were arrested before the election and more than 10,000 after the election in the repression against peaceful protests.”

Among the cases of abuse cited is one of a couple who went to a police station to search for their son and were detained, beaten and forced to undress.

The report says women have been “tortured by way of beating and threats of sexual violence”.

Belarus’s main opposition candidate Svetlana Tikhanovskaya has taken refuge in neighbouring Lithuania [File: Ritzau Scanpix/Reuters]
Source: News Agencies