In his January 16 statement voiced in the Congress Richard Durbin has expressed his solidarity with Belarusian political prisoners again.
“3 years ago, the country of Belarus held a presidential election that marked – instead of finally joining the rest of democratic Europe – a brutal crackdown on freedom of expression and basic democratic principles. There was a glimmer of hope that perhaps this would finally be an opportunity for the Belarusian people to freely choose their own president in an honest and open election. No longer would the Belarusian people have to endure under the ‘Last Dictator of Europe’, strongman Alexander Lukashenko,” he said.
Tragically, those hopes were quickly dashed when Lukashenko simply claimed another term as president amid elections described by international monitors as seriously flawed, Mr Durbin stated.
“On election night, December 19, 2010, hundreds of Belarusian citizens were beaten and arrested by KGB henchman – that is right, Belarus still has a KGB security service – for having the nerve to run in the election or peaceably demonstrate for an honest accounting of the election results. It was the worst crackdown in decades – although certainly not the first under Lukashenko’s iron first in which he uses a combination of repression, intimidation, and torture to cling to power,” the congresmen told his colleagues.
“Let me add with great irony and sadness that Russia is presently trying to strongarm our friends in Ukraine to join a Russia, Belarus, Kazakhstan trade bloc instead of letting it sign an association agreement with the European Union,” he stresses.
Mr Durbin also described in detail how the Belarusian authorities put pressure on the fprmer presidential candidates Andrey Sannikau, Mikalai Statkevich, human right defender Ales Bialiatski.
“But the perseverance we have seen from civil society groups and human rights defenders in Belarus has been deeply inspiring. Despite intimidation and threat, these activists continue to fight for their freedoms,” the congressman emphasizes.
“I can only hope their efforts come to fruition in 2015 when Belarus is slated to host its next presidential election. Until then, I will continue to stand in the Senate to call on Lukashenko to release the remaining political prisoners and stand with the people of Belarus in their quest for democracy and justice,” he said in conclusion.