Over the course of March 2017, mass peaceful protests of citizens as a reaction to the adoption of the Presidential Decree No. 3 “On preventing social dependency” have been taking place in Belarus. In disregard of the Constitutional provisions on freedom of speech and assembly, in many cities around Belarus, mass arbitrary arrests with excessive use of force against protesting citizens, civic activists, politicians, human rights defenders, as well as journalists covering socially significant events, have taken place almost daily. To date, more than 260 people have been fined or arrested.
“There is no possible justification for the recent repressive actions by the Belarusian authorities against the peaceful protesters. As a result, the recently revived EU-Belarus cooperation may soon be put on ice. These developments are dangerous both for the Belarusian society and the Eastern Partnership region as a whole,” comments Ulad Vialichka, EaP CSF Country Facilitator for Belarus.
Dovile Sukyte, EaP CSF Steering Committee Co-chair adds: “In its relations with the citizens, the Belarusian government should strive for the dialogue and cooperation, similar to the ambition demonstrated in its relations with the EU.”
The EaP CSF Steering Committee joins the demands to the Belarusian authorities outlined in the Statement of the Belarusian National Platform issued on 14 March 2017:
- To immediately abandon the practice of repressive measures against citizens peacefully expressing their protest, including civic activists, politicians, human rights defenders, other representatives of civil society;
- To identify those responsible for violations of the constitutional rights of citizens and bring them to justice in accordance with law; to take measures to prevent future violations of the constitutional rights of citizens and international obligations of the Republic of Belarus in the field of freedoms of expression, assembly and speech;
- To stop detentions and other measures aimed at hindering professional activities of journalists and independent media;
- To immediately release all those arrested and detained in relation to the peaceful protests against Decree No. 3, and repeal the judicial decisions to bring these people to administrative responsibility.
The Steering Committee urges the Belarusian authorities to demonstrate tolerance, refrain from using violence and repressive measures against participants of the peaceful demonstrations scheduled for 25 March 2017 in Minsk and other cities of the country, as well as to remain open to the dialogue with peaceful demonstrators.
The SC also calls on the EU institutions and governments of the EU member states to:
- To closely monitor the situation with violations of citizens’ rights and freedoms in Belarus, explicitly express their attitude towards the actions of the Belarusian authorities’
- To take necessary measures to prevent further escalation of the situation, use all possible formats and tools in the context of the EU-Belarus relations to guarantee the government’s respect for the constitutional rights and freedoms of citizens;
- To act as moderators in facilitating the dialogue between the Belarusian authorities and civil society.
In its turn, the EaP Civil Society Forum will continue to monitor the situation, and together with the representatives of the Belarusian civil society will assess the consequences of this social and political crisis for the EU-Belarus relations and for the conditions of the civic activists, civil society and media’s activity.