Ahead of tomorrow’s Foreign Affairs Council meeting to be held by video link, demonstrations in protest against the violent actions of the authorities have mushroomed in Belarus. Schools, hospitals and state owned factories across the country have gone on strike. Street demonstrations have continued with women young and old wearing white and carrying flowers marching down Minsk’s main street Independence Avenue to lines of cars sounding their horns in solidarity. There has been such a massive and spontaneous upsurge of popular disgust at the terror inflicted by the authorities on Belarusian citizens, that it is difficult to see how the security authorities can contain it.
The European Federation of Journalists (EFJ) today reported that 65 journalists have been arrested in Belarus since Sunday and called on EU leaders to impose sanctions on Belarus.
The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet condemned the violent response of the Belarusian authorities to the peaceful demonstrations held across the country in the aftermath of the presidential election.
“Journalists covering the demonstrations have been harassed and in some cases attacked, and have had their equipment destroyed or confiscated, and more than 50 reporters and bloggers have been detained, with criminal investigations opened against some of them,” says the UN Human Rights Chief’s statement.
The High Representative of the EU for Foreign Affairs Josep Borrell issued a statement calling for “measures against those responsible for the observed violence, unjustified arrests, and falsification of election results”.
The US Secretary State Mike Pompeo also issued a forthright communiqué earlier this week condemning the violence against protesters, and slamming the elections as neither free nor fair.
“The Belarusian authorities practise censorship through terror,” says the EFJ General Secretary Ricardo Gutiérrez. “We call on the EU foreign ministers meeting tomorrow to punish those responsible for this repression of journalists.”
Philippe Lamberts and Ska Keller, leaders of the Greens/EFA Group in the European Parliament, have called for condemnation of electoral fraud and police violence, support for the release of political prisoners and new elections, targeted sanctions and entry bans on those responsible for the repression, and a safe haven to those who are no longer safe in Belarus.
Philippe Lamberts, Co-President of the Greens/EFA Group in the European Parliament, said: “The European Union must finally take a clear position and take action. We expect the EU Foreign Ministers and the EU High Representative to condemn clearly electoral fraud and police violence and to work for the release of political prisoners and for fair and free new elections. There must be an international investigation into police violence and those responsible must be brought to justice.“
Ska Keller, Co-President of the Greens/EFA Group in the European Parliament, commented: “Alexander Lukashenko has long since crossed the red line. The German Council Presidency and EU Foreign Ministers must show a clear stance against the repressive regime and make it clear that they do not recognise the election results, call on the Belarusian President to resign and decide on targeted sanctions and entry bans for those responsible for the repression. Arms exports to Belarus must be stopped immediately. The EU must offer a safe haven to those who are no longer safe in Belarus. The Foreign Ministers must send a clear message that the people of Belarus will not be left alone.“