Repression in Belarus

Joint statement on 26 May 2011 by Mr Jacek Protasiewicz, Chairman of the EP Delegation for relations with Belarus and Ms Heidi Hautala, Chairwoman of the EP Subcommittee on Human Rights on the recent sentences of representatives of democratic opposition and civil society in Belarus including ex-Presidential candidates.

We would like to express our deep concern over the post-election developments in Belarus that demonstrate a drastic deterioration of human rights situation and serious breaches to foundations of democracy and the rule of law in this country. There has been systematic politically motivated action targeted against representatives of civil society and democratic opposition reflected in mass arrests, detentions and trials, reports of an alleged moral and physical torture and other ill treatment, reports of a continuous pressure and harassment of media as well as restrictions to freedom of assembly in this country.

It started with a record number of democratic opposition and civil society activists having been brought to trials on charges of allegedly organizing and participating in so called “mass riots” on 19 December 2010 and who thereafter were given sentences of diverse gravity. It has now reached the final stage whereby five ex-presidential candidates were tried and sentenced.

In this context we strongly condemn, among all, the sentences of three former presidential candidates from the democratic opposition Andrey Sannikaw, Mikalay Statkevich, Dzmitry Uss of five, six and five and a half years accordingly in a high security correctional institution and consider it as an ungrounded, extreme and inexplicably severe punishment. We are also concerned about the recent sentences of the other two ex-presidential candidates Uladzimir Nyeklyayew and Vital Rymashewski of a suspended two-year prison term with two years’ probation and to a suspended two-year prison term accordingly. We find all the persecuted in connection to the events of 19 December 2010 deprived of their right to basic freedoms, such as speech and assembly, and recognize them as political prisoners.

The significant differences in the degree of the severity of verdicts to all representatives of democratic opposition, including ex-presidential candidates, that have been pronounced since February 2011 on charges of organizing so called “mass riots” are incomprehensible and allow to suggest that all the litigations and sentences are far from being legitimate and just. Instead, the scope of punishments and court decisions seem to have a link with continuously changing political circumstances in and outside of Belarus, which is a clear proof of a politically motivated and instrumental judgement.

We deem all these unlawful and relentless actions as an atrocious abuse of human rights and express our solidarity with all those convicted as well as their friends and families. We call upon the Belarusian authorities to end the crackdown on the democratic opposition and civil society in Belarus, to review the verdicts in an impartial, transparent and justified manner and to consider all the appeals filed by the convicted according to international standards. Moreover, we strongly demand to immediately and unconditionally release all the political prisoners including the ex-presidential candidates Mr. Sannikaw, Mr. Uss and Mr. Statkevich.

We urge the EU Member States, especially those opposing at the last EU Foreign Affairs Council, and other countries to review their policies towards Belarus and to consider imposing economic sanctions against this country. It is a great shame that such undemocratic practice has been exercised in one of the closest neighbours of the European Union, which could well enjoy all the benefits of its cooperation with the West if it respected and shared basic democratic principles, common values, and human rights as all other democracies in the world do.