#Belarus: European Parliament condemns mass arrests

The European Parliament condemns the “crackdown on peaceful protesters” in mass demonstrations by thousands of citizens across Belarus, in particular on Freedom Day (25 March), when security forces violently attacked and beat protesters and arrested hundreds of people, including domestic and foreign journalists reporting on the events. The protests were directed against the adoption of a Presidential Decree introducing a so-called “social-parasite tax”, designed to penalise unemployment with fees and forced labour.

MEPs express concern over the latest developments and a “new wave of repression” in Belarus, which includes raids on civil society organisations and “preventive” arrests of opposition members before protests. They see a “clear need for a broader democratisation process in the country” and call on the Belarusian authorities to release everyone detained in the course of the protests, to stop the harassment of independent media and civil society and to allow public organisations to function fully.

Parliament further recalls that the EU lifted most of the restrictive measures against Belarusian officials in February 2016 “as a gesture of goodwill to encourage Belarus to improve its human rights, democracy and rule of law record”, and warns that in the event of failure to carry out thorough and impartial investigations into all allegations in connection with the recent demonstrations, the EU may impose new restrictive measures.

ALDE MEP, Petras Auštrevičius (Liberal Movement of Lithuania), who negotiated the resolution on behalf of our Group, said: “Since the EU lifted its sanctions on Belarus, Lukashenko has failed to show any goodwill in return and the situation in the country has deteriorated. Elections in September were rigged, not a single political prisoner has been rehabilitated, the UN Special Rapporteur has been continuously ignored and the use of the death penalty continues. On top of that, the nuclear power plant in Ostrovets infringes security standards and it’s just 50 kilometres away from Vilnius. It is regrettable to see the EU’s policy on Belarus looking like a self-repeating failure.”

MEP, Pavel Telička (ANO, Czech Republic), added: “The crackdown on peaceful protesters and the repressions in the run-up to and during the demonstrations in the past weeks are absolutely intolerable and demonstrates once again the authoritarian nature of the regime. For many in the country, the burden of dictatorship has become unbearable. Belarusians want a peaceful change and we must ensure that authorities end the harassment of civil society and independent media outlets for political reasons and allow the full and free legal functioning of public organisations.”

Bogdan Zdrojewski MEP, the EPP Group’s lead negotiator on the Resolution on Belarus “We call for the immediate release of all peaceful protesters and warn that in the event of repeated harsh reactions towards media representatives, democratic opposition and citizens, the EU may consider reintroducing targeted sanctions which would undermine the progress reached in relations with Belarus. The Belarusian authorities respond inadequately to peaceful demonstrations. The reaction to the demonstration during the Belarusian Freedom Day on 25 March is incomprehensible.”

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Category: A Frontpage, Belarus, EU, EU, Politics, World

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