President Andrzej Duda is set to bring the issue the Polish minority in Belarus to the limelight.
The Polish leader sent a letter to US President Joe Biden, stating that the regime is tergeting representatives of the Polish minority as part of Belarusian society ‘with links to the transatlantic democratic institutions’. He urged the United States, the current presidency of the UN Security Council, to urgently address the topic at one of its upcoming meetings.
“Poland believes it necessary for the International community to undertake the serious steps in order to ensure that individual liberties, democratic freedoms and human rights – including those of national minorities in Belarus are protected. As history has shown, lack of attention and action in such cases may eventually lead to further deterioration,” the letter reads.
The President informed OSCE Secretary-General Helga Schmid and OSCE High Commissioner for National Minorities Kairat Abdrakhmanov of the current situation; in turn, the two officials promised to take action within the umbrella of the Organisation of Cooperation and Security in Europe.
“The President also raised this issue to the United Nations. He spoke with the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet, who assured him that she would take a public stance on the persecution of Poles in Belarus and launch UN actions on that issue. On Thursday, the President also spoke with Estonian President Kersti Kaljulaid; Estonia is a non-permanent member of the UN Security Council in 2020-2021. President Kaljulaid affirmed that she would seek to address these issues at the UN Security Council,” the presidential press service reports.
On March 26, Andrzej Duda got in touch with the CoE Secretary General Marija Pejczinović Burić and received assurances that next week’s meeting of the Committee of Ministers of the CoE will discuss possible actions to be taken and the stance of the Council of Europe on the matter.
Earlier, Poland called on Lithuania and Latvia to impose joint economic sanctions on Belarus.
Last week, the Belarusian Prosecutor General’s Office initiated a criminal case against Andżelika Borys, Chairperson of the Union of Poles in Belarus (UPB), and other members of the organisation.
They are charged under Art. 130-3 of the Criminal Code (‘deliberate actions aimed at inciting national and religious hatred according to national, religious, language, other social affiliation, as well as through justifying Nazism, which were committed by a group of persons’). According to them, the Polish activists’ recent aсtivity, i.e. holding some events, is relevant to ‘the rehabilitation of Nazism and justifying the genocide of the Belarusian people’.
On March 25, homes of some members of the Union of Poles in Belarus were raided as part of the criminal case. Belarusian security officers made unexpected visits to Hrodna-based journalist and UPB member Andrzej Poczobut (he was later detained and taken to Minsk for interrogation); Maria Tiszkowska, the director of the UPB public school in Vaukavysk; Irena Biernacka, the head of the Lida branch of the Union. The police also came to the Polish public school and the headquarters of the Union of Poles in Hrodna. The search of the office lasted eight hours, from 9 am to 5 pm. A day before, the Belarusian authorities sentenced Andżelika Borys to 15 days of administrative arrest.
In early March, a diplomatic conflict broke out between Warsaw and Minsk over this year’s commemorating the so called Cursed Soldiers by a number of Polish organisations in Belarus.