Why does the West not notice political prisoners in Belarus?
What kind of dialogue can there be with those who keep political prisoners? The Freedom to Political Prisoners forum addressed the Minsk Dialogue conference participants with the demand not to ignore the problems of human rights violations in Belarus. According to activists, the release of all prisoners of conscience in Belarus must be laid it down as a condition for a dialogue with the authorities.
No handshakes so long as there are political prisoners. A meeting of the Freedom to Political Prisoners forum was held in Minsk. Public figures, politicians and some human rights activists are outraged by the holding of the Minsk Dialogue amid active political persecution, Belsat reports.
Minsk Dialogue is taking place in a situation when there are 9 political prisoners in Belarus, and two more people – Komlik and Fiadynich – are waiting for a sentence of up to seven years in prison," – BCD co-chairman Pavel Seviarynets says.
The authorities are not talking about the release of political prisoners, as they were doing before, when the West put it as a condition for the warming of relations. Instead, the pressure on prisoners is only increasing.
"We see that pressure is being put on Avatarau, on Valavik, on other people who are sitting in our prisons. And what is the reason for that? They constantly get into punishment cells, they do not receive letters, there is no help, no contact with close relatives," – human rights activist Aleh Vouchek says.
Forum participants criticized Viasna and the Belarusian Helsinki Committee’ take, which recognizes the presence of only two political prisoners in Belarus.
"If we do not raise the topic of political prisoners now, including at the Minsk Dialogue, then, of course, this will contribute to the legitimization of the persecution of people for political reasons," Vasil Zavadski from the Taimakt social and information institution says.
"These are the people, who cannot be called unprofessional, so, obviously, it’s not done unintentionally. Perhaps there is some connection, the agreements of the European Union, our authorities, this part of the organizations," Yury Vauchok says.
On the back of the Minsk Dialogue, state television channels are boasting of European grants, which the state will receive.
"The European Union is ready to allocate Belarus about 120 million euros as technical grants. Minsk received access to funds for the implementation of cross-border cooperation projects with Poland, Ukraine and the Baltic countries. Its size is 283 million euros," – ONT channel says.
The fact that the official Minsk is primarily interested in money is not news. The question is different: why are Western officials ready to meet Lukashenka halfway?
Dzmitry Bandarenka from European Belarus is sure: Minsk Dialogue is nothing more than an attempt to whiten Lukashenka and find finance.
"This conference is like a vegetarian conference, which is held, pardon the expression, in a slaughterhouse. The analogy is acceptable, as what dialogue we can talk about in a dictatorial country, where Lukashenka has killed or sent to prison all the dialogue initiators and political rivals," – he says.