Belarus: PACE Political Affairs Committee condemns the prosecution of political opponents

Strasbourg, 31.05.2011 – “Given the ongoing harassment and political trials of civil society and political opponents, and continuing the restrictions of freedom of speech and association, the human rights situation in Belarus is deteriorating and remains a matter of serious concern,” said Sinikka Hurskainen (Finland, SOC), PACE's outgoing rapporteur on Belarus, speaking today.

At the meeting of the PACE Political Affairs Committee, Mrs Hurskainen presented information about the most recent politically-motivated trials and the crackdown on human rights defenders and non-state media in Belarus. “With such harsh prison sentences, threats to shut down independent newspapers and the prosecution of human rights organisations, the Belarusian authorities persistently fail to respect Council of Europe standards of democracy, human rights and the rule of law,” she declared.

The Political Affairs Committee strongly condemned the ongoing prosecution of political opponents by the Belarusian authorities and called for the release of all political prisoners. During PACE Summer session (20-24 June 2011), the committee is to hold an exchange of views on the situation in Belarus with representatives of civil society and democratic opposition, paying special attention to the politically motivated trials and the parliamentary elections in 2012 in this country.

The Political Affairs Committee, taking into account “the present deplorable situation” of non-registered organisations in Belarus, decided to request the European Commission for Democracy through Law (Venice Commission) to provide an assessment of the compatibility with universal human rights standards of Article 193-1 of the Criminal Code vis-à-vis the rights of non-registered associations in Belarus.