Norway appreciates the High Commissioner’s timely report on the situation in Belarus.
As reflected in her report, the situation continues to give cause for grave concern. While some of those detained following the demonstrations after the presidential election last December have been released, numerous people remain in detention. Among them are leading representatives of the opposition, some of whom have been sentenced to several years in prison. We once again call on the Belarusian authorities to release all political prisoners.
Norway regrets the failure of Belarus to co-operate on the implementation of the so-called Moscow Mechanism in the framework of the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe. This is a useful OSCE tool of co-operation and dialogue. Although the international Rapporteur was not allowed entry to the country, his report could still be an important contribution for further dialogue and co-operation between Belarus and the international community. We therefore urge the government of Belarus to address the concerns raised in the report and to implement its recommendations.
A leading human rights activist, Mr Ales Bialiatski of the Human Rights Centre ‘Viasna’, risks several years in prison after his detention on charges of tax evasion. The charges are based on information on bank transfers from international co-operation partners. This money was not for Mr Bialiatski personally, but financial support for fully legitimate human rights activities. Hence, we consider the allegations of income tax evasion against Mr Bialiatski as groundless and call for his immediate relase.
This summer also brought the disturbing news of two new executions in Belarus, the only European country that continues to carry out death penalties. These executions are another setback to bringing Belarus closer to the European community of values. Norway urges Belarusian authorities to put an immediate end to the use of capital punishment.
We call on Belarusian authorities to end the policy of self-isolation, harassment of peaceful protesters, imprisonment of political opponents, harassment of lawyers who defend the opposition activists, and renewed executions. This policy contravenes the international obligations of Belarus and runs counter to the aspirations of the Belarusian people to fully become part of the European family.