Senior MEPs condemn violence and torture in Belarus and demand ‘new and free’ elections

European Parliament group leaders call for EU to appoint ‘special representative’ for Belarus to support peaceful transition of power.
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By Martin Banks

Martin Banks is a senior reporter at the Parliament Magazine

21 Aug 2020

European Parliament political group leaders have joined forces to call for “new and free” elections in Belarus and have strongly condemned the violence and torture “perpetrated against peaceful protesters.”

The statement signed by all the mainstream group leaders including Manfred Weber, who heads the EPP, Socialist leader Iratxe García Pérez and Dacian Cioloş, president of Renew Europe, goes much further than a virtual summit of EU leaders on Wednesday which fell short of calling for new elections.

Greens/EFA group co leaders Ska Keller and Philippe Lamberts, along with Ryszard Legutko and Raffaele Fitto, co-Presidents of the ECR grouping, have also put their names to the strongly worded statement.

The MEPs reject Belarusian leader Alexander Lukashenko’s re-election in a disputed vote on August 9 and condemn the long time leader for alleged election fraud and the abuse of protesters.

Lukashenko, who has led the country since 1994, has accused the opposition of "an attempt to seize power" and has since ordered police to quell protests in Minsk. "There should no longer be any disorder in Minsk of any kind,” he said.

The “common” statement, signed by the seven senior deputies, reads, “We applaud the Belarusian people for their courage and determination and strongly support their desire for democratic change and freedom.

"The 9 August presidential elections were neither free, nor fair, and credible reports point to a victory of [Belarus opposition leader] Svetlana Tikhanovskaya. We therefore do not recognise Alexander Lukashenko as the re-elected president and consider him a persona non grata in the EU. We join the Belarusian people in their demand for new and free elections, under the supervision of independent observers.”

"The EU can and must do more to further the cause of democracy and freedom in Belarus, including by strengthening assistance to Belarusian civil society and immediately ceasing any financial support to the government and state-controlled projects. We suggest the relaunch of targeted EU assistance programmes to help repressed people in Belarus and their families” European Parliament political group leaders

The MEPs go on, "We strongly condemn the arrests and appalling acts of violence and torture perpetrated against peaceful protesters, and call for a full investigation of these crimes, which cannot go unpunished. In this regard, we remind Lukashenko of his responsibility.”

“We strongly condemn the suppression of internet and media, road blockades, and intimidation of journalists in order to stop the flow of information about the situation in the country. We call for the immediate release of all those arbitrarily detained and political prisoners who have been detained before and during the election campaign.”

The group leaders, in the statement, added, "We welcome the decision of EU foreign affairs ministers to blacklist all those responsible for violence and the falsified presidential elections. We urge the sanctions list to be compiled as soon as possible, so people who committed these crimes are banned from visiting the EU and their assets are frozen.

"The EU can and must do more to further the cause of democracy and freedom in Belarus, including by strengthening assistance to Belarusian civil society and immediately ceasing any financial support to the government and state-controlled projects. We suggest the relaunch of targeted EU assistance programmes to help repressed people in Belarus and their families.”

The statement says the EU should “equally take strong and unequivocal action by reassessing its relations with the current regime in Belarus, in line with EU values and principles, and reconsider its cooperation with Minsk, including within the Eastern Partnership. The EU should prepare a comprehensive review of its policy towards Belarus, taking into account different scenarios and developments in the country, that also includes a substantially increased role for the EU (politically, technically, financially). “

The MEPs says they “regret” that access to Belarus was denied by the Lukashenko regime to two MEPs, Petras Austrevicius and Robert Biedron, who were travelling in a private capacity to Minsk to support the people in Belarus.

"We call on the EU to support a peaceful transition of power, and engage in a dialogue with the Belarusian opposition and civil society with a view to launch a new electoral process, under the supervision of a new Electoral Commission, a body that can be trusted by all the parties. It is the right of the people of Belarus to elect their own political representatives" European Parliament political group leaders

“We propose”, says the leaders, “that EU appoints a special representative for Belarus in order to support the process of a peaceful transition of power in accordance with the will of Belarusian people.”

Manfred Weber and the other group leaders also called on Russia to refrain from any “interference, covert or overt, in Belarus following the election, and call on EU institutions and member states to vigilantly counter any Russian actions in this regard.”

They continue, "We call on the EU to support a peaceful transition of power, and engage in a dialogue with the Belarusian opposition and civil society with a view to launch a new electoral process, under the supervision of a new Electoral Commission, a body that can be trusted by all the parties. It is the right of the people of Belarus to elect their own political representatives."

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