PACE rapporteur on Belarus condemns new wave of repressions

Strasbourg, 05.07.2011 - The Council of Europe Parliamentary Assembly (PACE) rapporteur on the situation in Belarus, Andres Herkel (Estonia, EPP/CD), has condemned the new wave of violence against peaceful protesters, journalists and human rights defenders in Belarus.

“I am concerned about the rough dispersal of peaceful demonstrations in Minsk and other cities on July 3rd, Independence Day, with hundreds of protesters being brutally beaten and detained merely for clapping hands,” he said.

The Rapporteur recalled that the Parliamentary Assembly has repeatedly called freedom of assembly to be respected in Belarus particularly with regard to the excessive use of force by law enforcement personnel against demonstrators. Mr Herkel reiterated that there cannot be progress on dialogue with the Belarusian authorities without tangible and verifiable progress towards Council of Europe standards, including respect for the freedoms of assembly and association as essential preconditions for democracy .

”I am also alarmed about the blocking of access to popular social networking sites in Belarus”, he said.

Mr Herkel called on the Belarusian authorities to free all persons arrested in connection with the demonstrations on 3 of July and to put an immediate end to the continuing crackdown on the political opposition and civil society. Recalling furthermore that many opposition leaders and activists had received lengthy prison sentences or were awaiting trial in the aftermath of the events of 19 December, he called for these persons to be released and for all politically motivated trials to be stopped.