A few hours ago, I received a desperate email from a human rights activist in Belarus whose name I prefer to omit for security reasons. Last month, Belarus celebrated general elections in which the current President, Aleksandr G. Lukashenko, who has been in power in 1994, was reelected with about 80 percent of the vote. A human rights crisis began right after the election. On 21 December, 2 days after the voting, Human Rights Watch issued an statement saying:
“According to media reports, at least 600 opposition activists, including opposition leaders and 7 of the 11 presidential candidates, were arrested and remain in custody. Among them are several of Belarus’s leading human rights defenders. About 150 of those detained were speedily tried in administrative courts on December 20, and each sentenced to 10 to 15 days of administrative detention, mainly for “hooliganism”.”
“Five of the presidential candidates were injured during clashes with police. One of them, Vladimir Neklyaev, was taken to the hospital, having sustained serious head injuries. Witnesses had seen him being viciously beaten by men in special forces uniforms.”
“The people who described the events said that he was driven away from a hospital later that night by unknown men in civilian clothing, who wrapped him in a blanket and pushed him into a waiting car. His current medical condition and whereabouts remain unknown. Another presidential candidate, Vitaly Rymashevsky, was also reported to have been severely beaten.”
The person I received an email from spent 10 days in prison. Several European human rights organizations have recently constituted a Committee on International Control to monitor the human rights situation in the country and to lobby European institutions (OSCE, Council of Europe, European Union) and European governments to shed light on the country. The European Parliament is supposed to adopt tomorrow, 20 January, a resolution urging the EU to sanction Belarus. Seemingly, the US and the EU are considering the imposition of joint sanctions unless Belarus Government releases the prisoners.
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Let us hear the desperate call for action from Belarus.