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Belarus must uphold international obligations and respect fundamental freedoms in wake of disputed election, OSCE PA President says

By August 13, 2020 No Comments

COPENHAGEN, 13 August 2020 – Disturbed by reports of excessive force following Sunday’s presidential election in Belarus, including the use of rubber bullets, water cannons, stun grenades and mass arrests, OSCE Parliamentary Assembly President George Tsereteli called today for authorities in Minsk to halt the repressive tactics and fully uphold international human rights standards. He also stressed that protests should be nonviolent.

Recalling Belarus’s international commitments, Tsereteli stressed that repression and persecution of opponents are not acceptable and against the principles of the OSCE. What is needed now is de-escalation and dialogue, he stated, pointing out that the post-election events could be an indicator that something is fundamentally wrong and that deep-rooted structural reforms may be needed.

“As a participating State of the OSCE, Belarus has freely agreed to certain commitments in the human dimension – including the right to peaceful assembly, freedom of expression, freedom from arbitrary arrest or detention, and the right to effective remedies. I call on the authorities to ensure that these rights and freedoms are respected, and that those arbitrarily detained in recent days are released without delay,” said President Tsereteli.

The PA President pointed to reports of ill-treatment during detention as a cause for grave concern, as well as assaults on members of the media and the authorities’ decision to shut down the country’s internet and block social media sites. “Physically assaulting journalists, blocking access to information and mistreating detainees are serious violations of international obligations,” Tsereteli said. “I’m deeply concerned by reports of the loss of life, including an individual who reportedly died in custody.”

He continued: “Elections are based on trust and although the OSCE PA was not able to observe Sunday’s vote due to COVID-19, we have followed the situation closely. We have raised concerns over the detention of political activists in the lead-up to the election, as well as Belarus’s failure to extend a timely invitation to observe. With the results of the recent election in dispute, the government must offer concrete steps that can create a basis for rebuilding trust. Ideally, these steps should create the necessary conditions to make dialogue between the government and the opposition in and outside parliament possible.”

Tsereteli noted that together with OSCE PA Secretary General Roberto Montella, he held an online meeting with the leadership of the OSCE PA’s Belarusian Delegation on 26 June, which focused on, among other issues, the 9 August presidential election. “Belarus is an important member of the Parliamentary Assembly,” Tsereteli said, pointing out that it hosted the Annual Session three years ago. “At the 2017 Annual Session in Minsk we debated how to consolidate democracy in Belarus and I look forward to continuing that discussion and implementation with our partners.”

The leaders of the OSCE PA’s human rights committee – Chair Kyriakos Hadjiyianni (Cyprus), Vice-Chair Michael Link (Germany), and Rapporteur Kari Henriksen (Norway) – have also been following the situation and remain actively engaged, the President stressed.

Read original press release here.