MEPs ‘alarmed’ by lack of ‘tangible progress’ in Belarus’ human rights record
“The situation with regard to basic human rights and democracy in Belarus is far from showing signs of any tangible progress and change,” a group of MEPs said in a letter to Federica Mogherini, Vice-President of the European Commission and High Representative of the EU for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, and Johannes Hahn, European Commissioner for Neighborhood Policy and Enlargement Negotiations.
“More specifically, we are alarmed to see that the issue of thorough reform of election legislation in Belarus does not receive proper attention on the EU-Belarus agenda,” says the letter signed by thirty-five MEPs.
They stress that Belarus failed to demonstrate “signs of reciprocity, first and foremost, in the field of basic human rights and democracy” in response to the EU’s lifting of the restrictive measures in February 2016 and the “significantly increased opportunities for Belarus’ trade.”
The letter highlights the country’s key human rights issues of concern, including the holding of two political prisoners, Mikhail Zhamchuzhny and Dzmitry Paliyenka, “brutalities and repressions” used against peaceful protesters last spring, harassment against independent journalists with foreign accreditation, blocking of two leading independent internet portals, and refusals to provide legal registration to opposition political parties and NGOs.
“Last but certainly not least, it is extremely upsetting that Belarus continues to apply death penalty, despite countless pleas of the EU at all possible levels and occasions,” the MEPs note.
They also criticize the government’s reluctance to embark on a large-scale election reform ahead of the February 2018 local elections, which “prove as yet another demonstration of the sad fact that the Belarusian electoral process as such continues to be nothing more than the Soviet-type imitation, with systemic manipulations on absolutely all its stages.”
“This makes us to believe that the European Union must take a far more principled and determined position in demanding the Belarusian authorities to undertake, with no further delay, a truly fair and comprehensive reform of country’s election legislation and related procedures, along with the recommendations of the OSCE/ODIHR and the Venice Commission. We are strongly convinced that the quality of elections is exactly the issue which must become a clear-cut priority in the overall EU-Belarus agenda in months and years to come, inter alia, within the framework of the EU-Belarus Human Rights Dialogue. Last but certainly not least, we call to review the EU’s position in the ongoing negotiations on the EU-Belarus Partnership Priorities so as to ensure that possible progress in other areas of cooperation is made conditional depending on the issue of swift and thorough election legislation reform by the Belarusian side,” the MEPs say.