Media Contact: Neil Simon
WASHINGTON---Leaders of the Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe (U.S. Helsinki Commission) today expressed deep concerns with a “campaign of repression” in Belarus that has gone unchecked since the December elections there.
“The rapidly deteriorating situation in Belarus warrants a firm response from the United States, the European Union and others committed to the principles enshrined in the Helsinki Final Act,” said U.S. Senator Benjamin L. Cardin (D-MD), who as Commission Chairman led a delegation to Belarus in 2009 that raised a wide range of human rights concerns and secured the release of a jailed U.S. citizen. “The campaign of repression in Minsk must be reversed, beginning with the immediate and unconditional release of imprisoned journalists and opposition activists.”
The United States and the European Union are currently considering imposing stronger sanctions on Belarus in response to the continued repression seen in Minsk.
“Last month President Lukashenka reaffirmed his commitment to core OSCE principles at the Astana Summit, but within weeks his regime launched a full frontal assault on free media and civil society,” said Co-Chairman Congressman Alcee L. Hastings (D-FL), who personally knows some of those imprisoned in Belarus. “The time has come for Lukashenka to reign in the KGB and security services, release prisoners, cease raids against independent media and democratic activists and pursue meaningful engagement with the OSCE.”
More than 700 people, including a majority of opposition presidential candidates, were arrested after a rally in Minsk following the Dec. 19 election.