Belarus: PACE calls for the immediate release of detainees and maintains its suspension of special guest status

Strasbourg, 27.01.2011 – Dismayed by the unprecedented wave of violence and persecution which followed the announcement of the results of the presidential election in Belarus in December 2010, the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) today called on the Belarus authorities to “release immediately” all opposition candidates, journalists and human rights activists detained on political grounds and to put an end to all acts of harassment and intimidation.

At the end of an emergency debate, and in line with the proposals put forward by the rapporteur, Sinikka Hurskainen (Finland, SOC), the members of the Assembly called for a transparent investigation into “the abusive and disproportionate use of force” by the police against the demonstrators. They also urged the authorities to stop expelling students from universities and dismissing people from their workplace on account of their participation in the protests.

In view of the “current additional serious setbacks”, the Assembly reaffirmed its decision to put on hold its activities involving high-level contacts with the Belarusian authorities. It further called on the Bureau of the Assembly not to lift the suspension of special guest status for the Parliament of Belarus until a moratorium on the execution of the death penalty has been decreed and until there is substantial, tangible and verifiable progress in terms of respect for the democratic values and principles upheld by the Council of Europe.

The Assembly considered that any sanctions relating to contacts with those responsible for these events should not lead to “further isolation of the Belarusian people”, but called on member states to sign up to the EU’s sanctions against the country’s senior officials. Accordingly, it resolved to strengthen dialogue with the democratic forces in the country, civil society, opposition groups, the free media and human rights activists.