24 May 2021
Despite almost a year of unprecedented pro-democracy demonstrations in Belarus, the situation in the country is worsening and requires the urgent attention of the international community. The dictatorial regime continues to violently persecute demonstrators and members of the opposition, in the face of massive and sustained protests against the fraudulent victory claimed by Alexander Lukashenko after the presidential election in August 2020. Belarusians have been targeted for demonstrating and for their communications on social media, but also for such innocent actions as displaying or simply wearing colours associated with the protest movements. Meanwhile, those responsible for violence and brutality are able to escape justice, as police officers who have killed protesters have not faced any repercussions or reprimand for their actions, showing the extent to which the rule of law has been undermined in Belarus.
The Socialist International is particularly concerned by the situation faced by members of the leadership of its member party in Belarus, Narodnaya Hramada. These include Mikalai Statkevich, the party president, and Syarhei Sparysh, the general secretary. Additionally, three-quarters of the party’s presidium have been forced into exile as a result of persecution by the regime. Members of Narodnaya Hramada and other opposition politicians have been arrested and incarcerated for their political beliefs and convictions, facing false charges, inhumane conditions and daily violations of their human rights.
Mikalai Statkevich has been persecuted over many years as a result of his opposition to the Lukashenko regime. As a presidential candidate in 2010, he was arrested and imprisoned for five years, and in May 2020, prior to the last presidential elections, he was again arrested and imprisoned under harsh conditions, where he remains to this day. He is falsely accused of organising mass disorder, stopping the activities of the electoral commission and inciting hate, with the total absence of any presumption of innocence. He has been denied contact with his family throughout his latest period of imprisonment, causing additional pain and suffering, and it is likely that when he is tried the proceedings will be concealed by the authorities and take place in closed court. On 6 May 2021, Syarhei Sparysh was sentenced to six years in a penal colony on charges relating to using Telegram as a messaging channel, which he had nothing to do with. He has also been falsely accused of preparing for riots and obstructing the work of the electoral commission.
The Socialist International reiterates its call for the immediate release of Mikalai Statkevich, Syarhei Sparysh and all other political prisoners and prisoners of conscience in Belarus and urges the international community and its member parties to increase pressure on the Belarusian authorities. The only acceptable outcome in Belarus is for the will of the people to be heard and for free and fair elections to be held, with independent vote monitoring. Those responsible for state sponsored violence and violations of human rights must be brought to justice. We express our continued solidarity with Narodnaya Hramada, its members, the Belarusian opposition and all those citizens of Belarus who continue to bravely stand against the dictatorial and authoritarian regime.