Andrea Rigoni (ALDE, Italy), following his fact-finding visit to Minsk on 23-24 March 2017, called on the Belarusian authorities to stay focused on their path of dialogue with the Parliamentary Assembly and to immediately release all those who have been detained in connection with the March demonstrations and the annual 'Freedom Day' commemoration on 25th March.
According to media reports, since the beginning of March, over 100 journalists have been subject to increasing pressure, detentions, violence and administrative charges, some 700 people, including opposition leaders, have been arrested and many are expected to be sentenced in court.
"The use of administrative detentions and violence to intimidate opposition is alarming and particularly disturbing at this time of rapprochement between Belarus and our Assembly. Everything should be done to avoid that the people who have been held prior and during the demonstrations become political prisoners. Filling up prisons is not the solution to deal with criticism and dissent and only distance the country from the European standards of respect for freedom of expression, assembly and human rights".
In Minsk Mr Rigoni met with government representatives, including the President, the Minister of Foreign Affairs and the Speakers of both Chambers, as well as with civil society representatives, including opposition activists, journalists and NGOs. He intends to present a report to the Committee during the April part-session of the Assembly.