Photo by Andrew Keymaster on Unsplash
The EU parliament is currently staging an exhibition on Belarusian political prisoners.
The exhibition ‘Belarusian martyrology – political prisoners in Belarus’ invites visitors to get acquainted with the life stories, portraits and voices of the people who chose democracy over dictatorship.
Belarusian artist Xisha Aniolowa started creating portraits of political prisoners in 2020. She has continued this work until now and her collection contains over 600 works.
Comment on the event came from Juozas Olekas, S&D MEP and chair of the European Parliament delegation for relations with Belarus.
The MEP said: “We commend the brave people of Belarus, who have resisted systematic repression by the Lukashenka regime for years now and still found the resolve to stand up to the regime’s complicity in the Russian war of aggression against Ukraine.
“The EU and its partners should initiate legal proceedings against all members of Lukashenka’s regime who are responsible for the massive and systematic human rights violations.”
“The Kalinouski Conference will bring together representatives of the democratic forces and civil society of Belarus that have been brutally repressed by the dictatorship. I hope it will serve as a forum for Belarusian democratic forces to strengthen their cooperation and to discuss the development of the country after the inevitable fall of Lukashenka’s regime. We, European partners, expect a strong commitment to common European values, human rights and the rule of law.
“We condemn the recent decision of Lukashenka’s regime to stop issuing new ID documents for Belarusians in the embassies and the consulates. We urge the EU member states to grant international recognition for the national passport of Belarus, which is to be issued by the United Transitional Cabinet of Belarus.”
Thijs Reuten, S&D shadow rapporteur for Belarus and negotiator of the resolution, added: “1,500 political prisoners, the last remainders of political opposition within the country squashed and more than 2,000 Ukrainian children abducted to Belarus – these gruesome facts show the sorrowful reality in Belarus. Like many Belarusians in and outside the country, we will not give up until Belarus is free and democratic.”
“The latest attempt to get many of Lukashenka’s cronies delisted from the sanctions list has been thwarted, but more must be done. In order to acknowledge the Lukashenka regime’s complicity in Russia’s war of aggression against Ukraine, the EU must impose comparable sanctions on Belarus as it has done on Russia. Such measures would also act as a deterrent against any attempts to bypass the sanctions.”
Belarusians want to hear that their country “will not be given to Putin as a consolation prize”, the exiled Belarusian opposition leader has told MEPs.
Addressing the plenary on 13 September, the leader of Belarus’ democratic forces Svietlana Tsikhanouskaya called on MEPs to support Belarus’ European perspective and urged Parliament to take its relationship with democratic Belarus to a new level.
She proposed the signing of a memorandum before the 2024 EP elections as the basis of cooperation between the European Parliament and democratic Belarus.
“Belarusians want to hear that our country will not be given to Putin as a consolation prize,” she said.
Ms Tsikhanouskaya said they would need help in their fight to bring democracy to Belarus.
“Lukashenka does not deserve a place in the international community, but a ticket to the international court in Hague,” she said.
Next year Belarusian democratic forces should start issuing their own passports that would confirm Belarusian citizenship, Ms Tsikhanouskaya announced, which will serve as a travel document for exiled Belarusians.
Soon she will ask EU governments to recognise this new travel document.
Parliament’s President Roberta Metsola said: “The people of Belarus must be able to live in freedom. Free from autocracy. Free from oppression. It is what they want. It is what they chose. It is what they deserve. We will continue to support Belarusian democratic forces and to play an active role in shaping the European Union’s response to the on-going political crisis in Belarus.”
She said, “It is critical that we further expand European Union sanctions against the regime and do not lose sight of what they have done.”
During a bilateral meeting, Metsola received the “Cross of good neighbourhood”, awarded to outstanding individuals who have significantly helped the cause of Belarusians, from Ms Tsikhanouskaya
On Wednesday, Parliament also adopted a new report on EU relations with Belarus, supporting the country’s democratic political parties in their declarations about the European aspirations of Belarusians.
MEPs call on the Belarusian regime to release all political prisoners and strongly condemn the Minsk regime’s role as an accomplice in Russia’s war of aggression against Ukraine.
They note, as the report states, “with great concern the rampant political, economic, military and cultural subordination of Belarus to Moscow, rendering the country a de-facto satellite state hosting tactical nuclear weapons under Russian command.”
In the report, MEPs also call for tougher EU sanctions against Belarus while, they said, “stressing that the recent arrival of Russian mercenary Wagner Group fighters creates new potential security risks for Ukraine as well as for Belarus’ EU neighbours and the wider EU”.