Ales Bialiatski: No reasons to lift sanctions against Belarus, while there are political prisoners (video)
Ales Bialiatski, head of the Human Rights Center "Viasna" and FIDH Vice President, participated today, along with the UN Special Rapporteur on Belarus Miklos Haraszti, in a meeting of the European Parliament’s Subcommittee on Human Rights. The human rights defender urged the EU to continue putting pressure on the Belarusian authorities.
At the outset, Ales Bialiatski thanked the European Parliament for the support for civil society and political activists in Belarus and in particular for those who in recent years became victims of the system of repression: “Resolutions of the Parliament of the European Union, which among other things mentioned my name, are very important to limit the repression taking place in Belarus”.
The human rights activist reminded that he last spoke at the European Parliament in July 2011 and his speech was devoted to the critical situation in Belarus after the presidential election of 2010 (about 50 people were then in prison, including several presidential candidates), and then just two weeks after that he was in prison himself. “And the EU’s relatively tough position in relation to what was happening in Belarus, adoption of a package of primarily political sanctions against those who massively violated human rights in the country played its role because in August 2011 about 40 people were released”.
“I believe that the package of sanctions, which was adopted in 2011, remains valid as long as there are political prisoners in Belarus,” said Ales Bialiatski, separately noting that the authorities still hold one of the candidates for the presidency in 2010, Mikalai Statkevich. “In November, we will have another election campaign, while the Belarusian authorities have not solved the old problems. So I think that it makes no sense to lift the sanctions,” said the human rights activist.
Speaking about the current situation, Viasna leader noted the deterioration of human rights in the run-up to the presidential election, telling about the harassment of independent journalists and human rights activists, saying that the adoption of Decree No. 3 continued an assault on the social and economic rights of citizens, considering that the country’s human rights defenders view the decision as an wish to control society.
Ales Bialiatski called the trend the “re-Sovietization” of the country, noting that against this dark background there is “optimistic rhetoric” of the authorities in their relations with the European Union. “Some bows, promises, winks – an imitation of fence-mending. Obviously, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs was ordered to establish relations with the European Union at all costs – especially before the election, to mitigate evaluation of the presidential campaign, and secondly, in search of funds (since the economic assistance that Belarus received from Russia is not enough) to avoid economic collapse”.
“But will such assistance result in any reforms in Belarus or strengthen the regime? This issue concerns us most of all,” said Ales Bialiatski. “We believe that without the participation of civil society in this process, without control over the changes that occur in Belarus, these funds will certainly be used to strengthen the Belarusian regime.”
The human rights activist told the MEPs that with the strengthening of the position of Lukashenka it is Putin's position that is also strengthened because they are the closest allies. “And all the unions that Russia and Belarus have created are aimed at creating a counterweight to the European Union. Therefore, we propose in this situation not to believe the words of the Belarusian regime, to pay more attention to their actions, and in their contacts that have increased in recent years to raise questions of democratization, restructuring, deep changes, because otherwise these contacts will be for the benefit of the Belarusian regime, but not for the sake of changes in the Belarusian society,” said Bialatski.
He also stressed the importance of addressing the visa issue - to reduce visa cost - and eventually the introduction of a visa-free regime for Belarusians.
In conclusion of his speech, the human rights activist expressed hope that the strengthening of contacts with the official Minsk would in no way force value problems, human rights issues to recede into the background in the relations between the EU and Belarus.