“Lukashenka is destroying Belarus’ independence in order to hold on to power at any cost,” said David Kramer, Director of the Freedom House. “We condemn the continued neglect of fundamental civil liberties in Belarus and call for increased pressure from the West, including sanctions on state enterprises"
On the one-year anniversary of the violent crackdown and mass arrests in Belarus following fraudulent presidential elections, Freedom House remains gravely concerned with continued human rights abuses in the country and calls for increased pressure from the West against the Lukashenka regime and stronger solidarity with pro-democratic actors in Belarus.
“Alyaksandr Lukashenka, Europe’s last dictator, has carried out an extensive harassment and discreditation campaign against his critics through such means as torture, specious law-suits, draconian amendments to the national legislation, and media manipulation, against the backdrop of the mounting economic crisis,” said David J. Kramer, president of Freedom House. “Not only does Lukashenka’s flagrant disregard for fundamental freedoms pose a threat to his people, but his economic policies also endanger his people’s welfareand Belarus’s independence.”
On December 19, 2010, Lukashenka claimed victory in his fourth term as president in an election which neither the United States nor the European Union recognized as legitimate. While tens of thousands of Belarusian citizens took to the streets in protest of the official outcome, Belarusian security services arrested approximately 700 protesters, including seven of the presidential candidates.
Since then, despite economic sanctions imposed by the US and EU and a travel ban issued against top officials and judges who participated in the violent actions and politically motivated trials against the protesters, independent journalists continue to be routinely threatened with liability charges. Prisoners are tortured; critical voices such as human rights activist Ales Byalytaski, leader of the Viasna Human Rights Center, face maximum jail sentences on trumped-up charges; and participants in unsanctioned actions face the ire of the authorities who have detained nearly 2,000 and sentenced more than 500 people during spontaneous protests and “clapping-assemblies” over the summer.
Meanwhile, the country faces its most acute economic crisis and Lukashenka’s support among the population has sunk to an all-time low of 20%.
“Lukashenka is destroying Belarus’ independence in order to hold on to power at any cost,” continued Kramer. “We condemn the continued neglect of fundamental civil liberties in Belarus and call for increased pressure from the West, including sanctions on state enterprises such as BelTechExport, Belaruskali, Beltransgaz, and the Mozyr Oil Refinery. We also renew the call for the immediate and unconditional release and rehabilitation of all political prisoners. The West must stand united with those seeking a democratic future for Belarus.”
Identified by Freedom House as one of the world’s worst human rights abusers, Belarus is rated Not Free in Freedom in the World 2011, Freedom House’s annual global assessment of political rights and civil liberties and Not Free in Freedom of the Press 2011.
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