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President condemns recent reprisals against civil society and human rights defenders in Belarus

The President of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE), Rik Daems, has strongly condemned recent reprisals against civil society and human rights defenders in Belarus.

Recalling Assembly Resolution 2372 (2021), the President called on the authorities to fully respect the rights to freedom of association, assembly and expression, as well as all other human rights guaranteed by the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, to which Belarus is a party.

“In recent weeks, the situation with respect to fundamental human rights in Belarus has become of increasing concern to me and also, in a wider context, to the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe,” the President said.

“The lengthy and completely unfounded prison sentences for two opposition leaders, Maria Kalesnikava – the winner of the Assembly’s Václav Havel Human Rights Prize this year – and Maksim Znak, shocked most people in Europe,” he said.

“Unfortunately, this is not the only example of political prosecution in Belarus. At least 30 human rights defenders, some of whom co-operated with the Council of Europe, remain in pre-trial detention, and several others face criminal prosecution or other forms of harassment. Others are already in exile.”

“I am particularly concerned about the continued pre-trial detention of seven members of the NGO Viasna, which documented human rights violations committed by the authorities following the presidential elections in August 2020. These seven people include three Viasna leaders, amongst whom are Ales Bialiatski, another winner of the Václav Havel Human Rights Prize. These and many others are rightly considered political prisoners.”

“In addition, since July, a considerable number of NGOs have been dissolved, including three NGOs working for the defence of human rights - the Belarusian Helsinki Committee, the Legal Initiative and the ‘Chain’ (Zyvano),” the President concluded.