The outrageous actions of the Lukashenko regime in Belarus are once again in the spotlight. I've joined the solidarity campaign #WeStandBYyou to raise awareness of political prisoners in Belarus. Read on to find out more.
The recent actions of the Belarussian Government in arresting journalist Roman Protasevich are shocking. It once again highlights the political climate in Belarus. Belarus is home to what is often called 'Europe's last Dictatorship', and the actions of the Lukashenko regime in the months following the latest election certainly back that up.
The presidential election on August 9th 2020 officially declared Lukashenko the winner, but the election was marred by violations and fraud. Internationally, the result has not been recognised and the election has been deemed undemocratic.
Post-election, there have been a large number of protests calling for new, democratic leadership and reform in the country. The meetings were peaceful and did not pose a threat to national or public security. Despite this, the demonstrators were attacked by special units of the Ministry of Internal Affairs who used disproportionate violence, riot gear and non-lethal weapons. Opposition leaders and journalists have been imprisoned, or have been forced into exile. Belarus is the only European country that still has the death penalty, so there is a real threat to the lives of these prisoners.
It is of utmost important that Parliamentarians throughout Europe continue to demand the release of these prisoners in Belarus who are being illegally detained. To show my support for these prisoners, I have joined the European-wide solidarity campaign #WeStandBYyou.
As part of the campaign, I am proud to 'adopt' Kanstantsin Svidunovich. Kanstantsin is a TV presenter and hosts 'Morning Espresso'. He has been detained since 24th March this year for allegedly being part of the ‘dancing protest case’ which was opened after a demonstration on September 13th 2020 in Brest. A gathering of people to sing and dance peacefully was dispersed by water cannon and dozens were detained. This was not a threat to national or public security and the people were attacked disproportionately. Freedom of assembly is a human right.
As well as raising awareness for Kanstantsin and other political prisoners in Belarus, I will also be writing to him in prison. I'm going to be encouraging my colleagues to do the same.
We need the strongest of international sanctions to be placed on the country. I welcome that the UK Government has notified all UK airlines to cease overflights of Belarusian airspace and to suspend the operating permit of the Belarusian airline BELAVIA with immediate effect. I hope further sanctions will be brought forward.
I condemn the politics of Belarus, which needs to be cleaned up and reformed in the light of a presidential election which was not considered open and fair. The people of Belarus have shown extreme courage and determination since the flawed election last year and I support them in their continued fight for a democratic and free society.