IN THE SPOTLIGHT
Steering Committee Welcomes Political Prisoners' Release in Belarus, Urges Authorities to Improve Human Rights Record
The EaP CSF Steering Committee (SC) welcomes the decision of the Belarusian authorities to release six political prisoners – Mikalai Statkevich, Ihar Alinevich, Mikalai Dziadok, Euheny Vaskovich, Arytsom Prakapenka and Yury Rubtsou.
The Steering Committee calls on the Belarusian government to rehabilitate these and other former political prisoners and to fully restore their civil and political rights. The SC also thanks those European Union and member state officials who have in the past months worked hard for the release of these prisoners and call on the EU to maintain a principled approach in its policy vis-à-vis Belarus.
This decision is an important and positive step by the Belarusian authorities in meeting the demands of civil society and international community, and towards improving relations with the European Union.
This step should be followed by further efforts towards an improvement of the human rights situation in the country and general conditions for civil society activities through respecting the international human rights commitments and abolishing restrictive regulations.
The SC is particularly concerned about the possibility of the incarceration of new political prisoners in Belarus - Vadzim Zharomski and Maksim Piakarski, youth activists who are currently held in custody and whose detention is politically motivated. They face a prison sentence for drawing patriotic graffiti which is a disproportionate punishment for a minor violation. The Steering Committee urges the investigating authorities to ensure maximum transparency including a public hearing of the “Graffiti Case”, and call for the release of Vadzim Zharomski and Maksim Piakarski pending the hearing.
The EaP CSF Steering Committee also urges the Belarusian authorities to ensure that the forthcoming presidential election in Belarus is conducted in accordance with international standards for free and fair elections and to provide domestic and international observation missions, including those of the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), the Council of Europe Parliamentary Assembly (PACE) and the European Parliament, with the full access to all the election procedures.
The Steering Committee urges the authorities of other Eastern Partnership countries to free all political prisoners in their countries immediately.