Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Freedom for Belarus

There is one communist left-over in Europe.

A message from the International Democrat Union:

As people in the rest of Europe and many other parts of the world enjoy some relaxing days between the Christmas holidays and the new Year festivities, the circumstances for the representatives of the opposition in Belarus is quite a different one.

Until election day in Belarus on December 19 there seemed to be some grounds for cautious optimism. Although the state controlled media made sure that coverage was heavily tilted towards the incumbent president, more freedom of expression had been allowed than any time since president Lukashenko grabbed power in 1994. Independent opinion polls before the presidential election also showed that the incumbent for the first time would have to face one of the opposition candidates in a run-off election with, since there was no way Lukashenko could score above 50% in the first round.

The December 19 election had been preceded by a thaw in the relations between the Belarusian regime and EU - not least helped by Lukashenko's increasingly strained relations with Moscow. The developments in Belarus seemed gradually to be going in the right direction.

On election day it became apparent to all that Europe’s last dictator hadn’t suddenly become a democrat. Lukashenko seems to have realized he could not win in the first round without cheating. Whereas the voting process itself seemed calm and orderly, the counting certainly was not. Reports by independent observers from the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) described the counting process as “bad” or “very bad” in nearly half the polling stations they could observe. It became clear that many election precincts never really counted, but followed orders from above to deliver a predetermined result.

From then on things went from ugly to worse. As the democratic opposition gathered in the centre of Minsk to protest against another stolen election, the regime struck with brutal force. Peaceful protesters were jailed and opposition leaders thrown in KGB cells, some also attacked, brutalized and arrested even before they could join the manifestation for democracy.

To quote the Foreign Ministers of Sweden, Poland, the Czech Republic and Germany (article in the International Herald Tribune, released on 23 December):

“Europe has not seen anything like this in years. The combination of vote-rigging and outright repression makes what Milosevic tried to do in Serbia in 2000 pale in comparison. What we have seen brings back memories of the introduction of martial law in Poland in 1981.”

For the full article, see this link: http://www.nytimes.com/2010/12/24/opinion/24iht-edbildt24.html?_r=4&scp=2&sq=carl+bildt&st=Search

Presidential candidate Uladzimir Niakliayeu was attacked viciously by regime-controlled thugs on election day, even before the democracy rally, and had to be rushed to a hospital for medical treatment. Later in the evening he was abducted from his hospital bed by the KGB and held in complete isolation for a week, unlawfully kept from contact even with his lawyer. Also his close co-worker Andrei Dzmitryeu, international secretary of the United Civil Party (an IDU associate member, along with the Belarusan Popular Front), was detained and kept in isolation for a week, and denied access to legal representation. Both remain detained, along with scores of other representatives of the democratic opposition.

Here is a list of current political detainees or under house arrest in Belarus. If determined “guilty” by the regime they are now facing absurd sentences of between 5 – 15 years of prison based on drummed up charges:

1. Uladzimir Niakliayeu - presidential candidate
2. Andrei Sannikau - presidential candidate
3. Vital Rymasheuski - presidential candidate
4. Ryhor Kastusiou - presidential candidate (house arrest)
5. Mikalai Statkevich - presidential candidate
6. Ales Mikhalevich - presidential candidate
7. Pavel Seviarynets - head of Vital Rymasheuski's election HQ
8. Aliaksandr Atroshchankau - Press-Secretary of Sannikau's election HQ
9. Dzmitry Bandarenka - coordinator of the "European Belarus" campaign
10. Iryna Khalip - journalist, Andrei Sannikau's wife
11. Natallia Radzina - journalist, editor of the charter97.org web-site
12. Anatol Liabedzka - United Citizen’s Party Chair
13. Anastasia Palazhanka - "Young Front" Vice-Chair
14. Andrei Dzmitryeu - head of Uladzimir Nyaklyaeu's election HQ
15. Aliaksandr Fiaduta - political analyst, one of the coordinators of Uladzimir Niakliayeu's election HQ
16. Aliaksandr Klaskouski - former police officer
17. Uladzimir Kobets - head of Anderj Sannikau's election HQ (detained, not arrested yet)
18. Dmitry Us, presidential candidate (house arrest)
19. Siarhei Vazniak, Uladzimir Niakliayeu's election agent
20. Aliaksandr Arastovich, Mikalai Statkevich's election agent
21. Anatol Paulau, Yaraslau Ramanchuk's election agent
22. Aleh Korban, United Citizen's party.

Three more democracy activist from "Young Front", Zmitser Dashkevich, Eduard Lobau, Dzianis Lazar, were detained ahead of the election day rally, and are facing criminal charges for "disorderly conduct". If found guilty, they may be sentenced to 3 – 10 years in prison.

The IDU calls upon member parties to support the democratic forces in Belarus, and act to the best of their abilities against the oppressive and brutal dictatorship of President Lukashenko. The support may be given in many forms; by government actions where applicable, by raising the issue in your parliament or making urgent statements on the situation in Belarus, demanding the immediate release of all political prisoners and democracy.

Further actions should be demanded by parliaments and governments immediately after the Christmas and New Year recess.

Lukashenko’s attack on basic freedoms in the heart of Europe must not pass unanswered.

Eirik Moen
Secretary General
International Democrat Union

No comments:

Post a Comment