Human Rights Defenders for Free Elections

Праваабарончы цэнтр «Вясна» беларускі хельсінкскі камітэт

CIS and SCO missions accredited to observe the constitution referendum in Belarus. OSCE mission not invited

The Central Election Commission (CEC) accredited representatives of the Commonwealth of Independent States’ (CIS) Observer Mission. CEC chairman Ihar Karpenka personally handed them certificates of international observers. The CEC also sent invitations to observe the referendum in Belarus to the central election bodies of Russia, Azerbaijan, Armenia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, and some other countries. OSCE observers were not invited.

Belarus is a member of the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE), so it was the OSCE missions that carried out international monitoring and assessed the compliance of the electoral process with OSCE commitments and other international obligations and standards for holding democratic elections, as well as with the provisions of national legislation.

The last time OSCE observers were in Belarus was in 2019 for the parliamentary elections. At the time, the OSCE mission, in addition to noting the inconsistency of the elections with important international standards for democratic elections, also developed a set of recommendations to “further enhance the conduct of elections in Belarus and to support efforts to bring them fully in line with OSCE commitments and other international obligations and standards for democratic elections.”

In its recommendations, the OSCE mission spoke of the need to revise existent electoral legislation and bring it into line with international standards to ensure that the state adheres to the principles of freedom of association, assembly, and freedom of expression and expression. Additionally, it was recommended that media legislation be revised to ensure full protection of the principle of freedom of expression and equal access to information for journalists and to abolish criminal liability for libel and insult. Finally, attention was drawn to the state's responsibility to ensure that citizens can exercise their civil and political rights without fear of punishment or intimidation. These recommendations have never been implemented and are still relevant.

It was not possible to send international observers from the OSCE to the 2020 presidential election because Belarusian officials were too late to send an invitation for observation, without which the OSCE cannot begin preparing an observation mission.

This time international observers were not invited at all. The new head of the CEC Ihar Karpenka says that CIS observers and those from the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) member countries will be alternatives to the OSCE observers. Meanwhile, it is already known that the former head of the State Control Committee of Belarus Leanid Anfimau was appointed as the headquarters office head of the CIS monitoring mission.

The SCO mission observed the 2019 parliamentary elections in Belarus and recognized them as transparent and democratic. In 2021, the SCO mission also observed parliamentary elections in the Kyrgyz Republic, presidential elections in Uzbekistan, and Russian legislative election. All of them also were recognized by the mission transparent and in line with universally recognized principles of democratic elections. Normally, the SCO election monitoring mission does not make a public report on the monitoring results.

Approximately the same results are usually reported by the CIS missions. The elections observed by it are recognized as transparent and democratic, the recorded violations are merely technical, minor ones, insignificant for the overall election result. The CIS mission traditionally participates in all CIS presidential, parliamentary, and local elections of the CIS countries. According to the CIS mission, the 2019 parliamentary elections and the 2020 presidential elections in Belarus were also held without any significant violations.

Therefore, in the absence of international observers from the OSCE, the alternatives proposed by the Belarusian authorities can hardly provide an assessment of the referendum in terms of compliance with national legislation and international standards.

"Human Rights Defenders for Free Elections"