15 August 2020, Saturday, 19:14
Sim Sim, Charter 97!

Time For Change: European Parliament Sends Clear Signals To Lukashenka, His Environment

Time For Change: European Parliament Sends Clear Signals To Lukashenka, His Environment

Sanctions against the Lukashenka regime are unavoidable.

Today, an online action took place in the European Parliament under the title “Time for Change. Solidarity with People in Belarus”, organized by the office of the European MP and former Prime Minister Minister of Lithuania Andrius Kubilius. The event was attended by members of the European Parliament, politicians, civil activists, journalists and musicians from Belarus, the correspondent of Charter97.org in Brussels reports.

Opening the meeting, Head of the Euronest delegation, former Prime Minister of Lithuania Andrius Kubilius said: “Yesterday, during the plenary session of the European Parliament, our messages were very clear. First, solidarity with the Belarusian people, but also - clear messages to Lukashenka and his surroundings: if the Belarusian people will not have the right to express their want for change, if candidates, major competitors will stay in prison, if political prisoners will not be allowed to go out of prison, then of course we will speak about sanctions, personal sanctions, which will be unavoidable.”

Andrius Kubilius also addressed to Belarusians: “Do not be afraid to struggle for changes! Long Live Belarus! To the victory together!”

MEP from Germany Michael Gahler also supported Belarusians who are fighting for their rights: “You are not forgotten. You are part of Europe. We have noted your aspirations.” The MEP demanded immediate release of all political prisoners, and to allow potential candidates to stand in the election.

MEP from Romania Siegfried Mureșan said:

“I would like to express full solidarity with the people of Belarus, who are speaking up, who are fighting for the European values, for their rights, for democratic rights, for freedom to express themselves, for freedom of the press. This is the right thing to do, and we are by your side.”

The European Parliament Special Rapporteur on Belarus Petras Auštrevičius has noted:

“Lukashenka wants to be a leader, to be a boss of this country. But people don’t like it. People want to have a change, a difference choice. The European Union should adhere to a relevant policy to support, to facilitate democratization in Belarus. “No democracy - no economy” - it’s a clear message from my side.

German MEP Viola von Cramon-Taubadel has supported Belarusians, who are fighting for their rights. “You are part of our European family,” the MEP said.

“After 26 years of having one president in office, now it’s the time for change. And now it is time for having a real kind of an election. We did everything, and we will do everything at least to make sure we see a full-fledged ODIHR OSCE mission to Belarus, no matter whether there is coronavirus or not. This is the demand, the crucial point that our European Union High Representative can implement, and this is what the president of your country should accept.

And the second thing, which was already mentioned by all my colleagues, is the immediate release of all political prisoners, either activists or candidates themselves. There is no acceptance from our side to see people without any criminal background sitting in custody, being tortured in the KGB manner, this is absolutely unbelievable seeing it happening in the center of Europe,” the MEP said.

Lithuanian MEP Rasa Yuknevičienė has addressed to Belarusians in English and in Belarusian:

“Lukashenka must understand that there cannot be a dictatorship in the middle of the European continent. It’s 21st century,” the former Minister of Defence of Lithuania said.

President of the “Viasna” human rights center Ales Bialiatski, speaking at the online solidarity action, has noted the following:

“We are very grateful for the attention that the deputies of the European Parliament in recent weeks have given to the tragic situation with human rights that is unfolding now during the election campaign in Belarus.

This election campaign once again, but very clearly, showed how much the Belarusian society, millions of Belarusian citizens really want democratic changes.

But the authorities are trying to keep their powers in any way. And almost once the legitimate government has now turned into a clique that contrasts its actions with the desires of the Belarusian people.

We have now seen for two months how the election campaign is going, how precinct commissions are formed (and they have already been formed), where almost none of the representatives of democratic political parties or teams of candidates, alternative to Lukashenka, have been allowed to.

It is already evident that mass fraud is being prepared. The authorities are afraid that these falsifications will cause even greater discontent of the Belarusian people. Now they have unfolded the mass repressions that take place in Belarus almost every day, ahead of time, preventively.

According to Belarusian human rights activists, in the last two months alone, 21 people have become political prisoners, and they are awaiting criminal sentences in prisons, in difficult conditions. 129 people were convicted administratively. Moreover, both members of the teams of potential candidates, political activists, and ordinary citizens fall under these repressions.

Some of the convicts, such as Pavel Seviarynets, received a total of more than 100 days in prison. 252 people were fined. They also went through the courts and the sums of these fines amount to tens of thousands of euros.

But the attention paid by the European Parliament, European deputies, and the European Commission to the situation in Belarus is very important for the fate of political prisoners.

We call for any legal pressure, to apply any legal tools so that there are no political prisoners in Belarus.

We remember that several dozen people after the 2010 elections were in prison, but the authorities were forced to release them after the European Union and the USA drew attention to this situation. We call for solidarity with those who are now under repression. People are kicked out of work, from school.

There is still a month left before the election. It is very important to do everything this month so that there are no political prisoners in Belarus,” the human rights activist has said.

Editor-in-Chief at Charter97.org website Natallia Radzina spoke about the situation with the freedom of speech in Belarus, and listed the sanctions that are necessary to be imposed on the Belarusian authorities:

- Today we are witnessing in Belarus another attempt by dictator Lukashenka to usurp power. Realizing that the vast majority of the people hate him, that his rating is only 3%, Lukashenka unleashed reprisals against the opposition before the so-called “election”. Presidential candidates, opposition leaders and activists, as well as bloggers, are in prisons under fabricated criminal allegations. The detainees are subjected to pressure and torture.

The names of the arrested bloggers: Siarhei Tsikhanouski, Aliaksandr Kabanau, Siarhei Piatrukhin, Dzmitry Kazlou, Vladimir Tsyhankovich, Ihar Losik, Uladzimir Niaronski. The authorities are afraid of these bloggers because they have become an alternative to the media, which are under pressure. These bloggers were not afraid to tell the truth, expose the authorities, conduct investigations, tell how the Belarusians actually live, and mobilize people.

The pressure on the traditional media continues. The largest independent website, Charter97.org, is still blocked. It should be noted that the blocking of the Charter’97 was a rehearsal of the authorities before a large-scale mopping-up of independent media, as well as a test for Europe and the USA, which they failed. If the West then imposed sanctions for blocking a popular independent site, today we would not have such a deplorable situation with free speech in the country. The editors offices are being blackmailed with threats to take away accreditation for working in Belarus, warnings to independent media are issued even for covering the situation with the incidence of the coronavirus. There is evidence of journalists about the pressure on the editors of independent media by the KGB (a recent example is a statement by Radio Svaboda journalist Ihar Ilyash). Journalists are arrested and beaten during demonstrations, as it happened in Hantsavichy, and detained during online reporting.

There is a threat that the authorities will block not only independent sites, but also social networks. The general Internet cutoff in the country is also likely. This was already practiced during one of the actions in Minsk, when the A1 operator turned off mobile Internet to users.

Today it is necessary:

- to renew the EU and US sanctions against Belarusian officials responsible for repression and political persecution;

- to terminate of financial assistance to state bodies of Belarus;

- to stop trade relations with Belarusian state enterprises;

- to impose sanctions against Lukashenka’s High Technology Park for censorship of the media, and pressure on freedom of speech,” said Natallia Radzina.

Leader of the European Belarus civil campaign Andrei Sannikov said that sanctions against dictators save lives and help change the situation for the better:

- First of all, I would like to thank Prime Minister Kubilius personally for the organization of this very important for us event. I was thinking today that in the European parliament, in the Council of the European Union, in the European commission of each convocation there are politicians and officials whom I have the privilege to know for many years. They are very well aware of the situation in Belarus, have no illusions about the regime of Lukashenka. But somehow, after every reset, the memory files of the European Union are being erased. And that’s exactly what happened in February of 2016, when the European Union lifted sanctions against 170 officials, sorry, 170 criminals of the Belarusian regime.

It’s a very strange thing when political prisoners, people who openly, legally, and peacefully express their views, are being punished, are kept in prison, and those who are torturing them, who are beating them, are being pardoned, they can travel to Europe, like the former Interior Minister Kuliashou, or the former Interior Minister Shunevich, or the former KGB Chief Zaitsau - and Statkevich and Seviarynets are still in prison, as they were that time. They are tortured by executors.

We keep telling our friends in Europe, that any softening of the position regarding the Lukashenka regime leads to more repression, more brutality against the citizens of Belarus. Moreover, when the European Union lifts sanctions, the repressions become invisible outside Belarus. They are visible for us, but not for the world around us. Because these facts are ignored. They are very much felt by political prisoners themselves, their families, relatives, children, and friends. But they are hidden from the outside world. The only way to save lives under the Lukashenka regime is to impose sanctions.

As a person whose life was saved by sanctions, I can tell you one thing - sanctions do work. As a person who was in prison due to the Lukashenka regime, I can tell you: political prisoners are being tortured in prisons of Belarus. They are being slowly killed in prisons of Belarus. They are deprived of normal conditions for existence, of food, of sleep, or any decent sanitary conditions, even of water. As we learnt from Volha Nikalaychyk who was just released, they did the same to women. They add humiliation to brutality when it concerns women. There is no justice in Belarus, and there is no judicial system. The only justice may come from the international community, namely from the EU, in the form of sanctions.

I have a very simple suggestion. First of all, this regime really understands only the language of sanctions. I have a very simple and specific suggestion how to introduce sanctions without formally introducing sanctions. I took the example of the form of the US visa, there is the following question: “Have you ever committed, ordered, incited, assisted or otherwise participated in torture?” The same concerns political killings, the same concerns religious freedoms, the same provisions can be applied in the Schengen visa form concerning the falsification of elections.If such items are in the visa form, this will immediately lead to the adoption of appropriate measures against criminals.

I completely agree with Prime Minister Kubilius, who set these three points yesterday, which are very important for us and for Europe today.This is solidarity with the citizens of Belarus; this is a strong message to the nomenclature that they will be considered criminals; and this is the mobilization of Europe in defense of the independence and democracy of Belarus. Everybody in Belarus knows the words “Long live Belarus”, these are sacred words for us. With the same pride I want to hear: “Long live Europe!” and “Long Live Europe in Belarus!”