The Lukashenka regime now holds more than 1,000 political prisoners, Antony Blinken, US Secretary of State, said in Thursday’s statement with reference to Belarusian human rights defenders.
“The United States calls again for the immediate and unconditional release of all political prisoners, recognising it as a necessary step for Belarus to emerge from its political crisis. We will continue to work for justice for victims and accountability for perpetrators,” the statement reads.
Since August 2020, the United States, in coordination with allies and partners, has imposed five rounds of sanctions on officials and supporters of the brutal Lukashenka regime, Blinken recalled. According to him, those sanctions will remain in place ‘until the authorities cease their relentless repression of the Belarusian people, including by unconditionally releasing all political prisoners’.
“Many of these prisoners – and those who have been previously held and released, as well as those forced to flee the country – have been subjected to reprehensible conditions. Harsh treatment, including torture, in prisons and detention facilities has been extensively documented. Some political prisoners suffer from serious illnesses and disabilities and have been denied necessary qualified medical care or deliberately abused to worsen their conditions. They often are unable to find adequate legal representation due to the regime’s reprisals against defense lawyers. Dozens of lawyers have been stripped of their law licenses – and sometimes jailed themselves – because they dared to represent prisoners or opposition figures,” Antony Blinken stressed.
The US side called on Belarus to meet its commitments as a participating state of the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe and its international legal obligations to respect human rights and fundamental freedoms; the top diplomat also reiterated that the United States would stand with the people of Belarus as they seek ‘a future based on the rule of law and accountable, democratic government’.
On January 27, the Belarusian human rights community recognised 12 more people as political prisoners, and their number in Belarus totalled to 1,007.