24 January 2011
In the face of the continued detention of four presidential candidates and 28 activists of the democratic forces in Belarus, Luis Ayala, Secretary General of the Socialist International, travelled to Belarus to meet with social democratic parties, opposition forces and civil rights movements on 19-20 January 2011 in Minsk, and to assess the situation which deteriorated after the violent repression of protests following the December presidential elections. Currently a total of 48 activists, 32 under arrest and 16 under suspicion, are facing charges of “organizing mass riots” presented by the government against the opposition. According to Art. 293, parts 1 and 2 of the Criminal Code of the Republic of Belarus, the organisation of mass riots is punishable with 5 to 15 years of imprisonment and the participation in mass riots with 3-8 years.
During the different talks with the Belarusian Social Democratic Party Narodnaya Hramada, the Belarusian Social Democratic Party Hramada, the United Civil Party, the Civic campaign “Tell the Truth”, Representatives of Alyaksai Mihalevich, the “Human Rights Center”, the Human Rights Center “Viasna”, the Belarusian Helsinki Committee, and the Committee to protect the repressed “Solidarity”, the discussions focused on the irregularities during the presidential elections, the violence used against the post-election rally of the opposition on December 19 and its consequences, the situation regarding human rights (about 700 activists were arrested), and the demands made to the authorities.
Mikalai Statkevich, Chair of the BSDP-NH and presidential candidate, who remains in custody on politically motivated charges
The four presidential candidates still in custody are: social democrat Mikalai Statkevich (from BSDP-NH), Alyaksei Mihalevich, Vladimir Nyaklyayeu, and Andrei Sannikov. The activists accused are: Aliaksandr Arastovich, Aliaksandr Atroshchankau, Dzimitry Bandarenka, Artyom Breus, Andrei Fedarkevich, Aliaksandr Fiaduta, Ivan Gaponov, Iryna Khalip, Uladzimir Khamichenka, Aliaksandr Klaskouski, Uladzimir Kobets, Aleh Korban, Mikita Likhavid, Anatol Liabedzka, Uladzimir Loban, Aliaksandr Malchanau, Siarhei Martsaleu, Dzimtry Miadzvedz, Dzmitry Novik, Nasta Palazhanka, Anatol Paulau, Andrei Pazniak, Natallia Radzina, Pavel Seviarynets, Siarhei Vazniak, and Pavel Vinahradau. The following activists are under suspicion: Dzmitry Apishau, Dzmitry Bulanau, Anton Davydzenka, Aleh H., Usevalad Kavalenka, Ryhor Kastusiou (presidential candidate), Siarhei Kliuyeu, Mikita Krasnou, Aliaksandr Kviatkevich, Aliaksandr Malchanu, Andrei Mikalayeu, Leanid Navitski, Vasil Parfainkou, Dszmitry Uss (presidential candidate), Illia Vasilevich, and Borys Haretski.
In a press conference held in Minsk on 20 January 2011, Luis Ayala qualified the government’s response to the protests after the elections as unacceptable, underlining that the presidential candidates and other activists had been detained for over a month in KGB prisons and had been prevented from access to their families and lawyers. He urged for their immediate release on behalf of the Socialist International. Although elections should be an open process, this was the second time that presidential candidates were arrested after elections in Belarus. He stressed that Belarus had to choose between moving forward to democracy and respect for human rights, or a further deterioration in their relations with the international community as a consequence of their disregard and increased violations of those rights.
The Socialist International has expressed its deep concern over the developments in two letters addressed to president Lukashenko, the first on 21 December 2010, where the SI called for “the immediate and unconditional release of all those detained and an end to the use of violence against and abuse of those citizens exercising their democratic rights”, and the second on 7 January 2011, where the SI reiterated its call for an end to the continued imprisonment and the release of leaders and members of the political parties and organisations arbitrarily arrested, highlighting concern over those in urgent need of medical treatment and whose continued detention seriously endangers their health.