Will Europe turn blind eye to another wave of persecution in Belarus?

Alyaksandr Lukashenka is trying to convince the West that he is the sole guarantor of the independence of Belarus. But will the international community turn the blind eye to human rights violations? Have criminal cases opened against trade unions and independent media gone unnoticed?

What is more important: the independence of Belarus and civil liberties? The Belarus authorities have launched a new campaign against civil society. However, there has been no criticism from the West. How long will Western governments remain silent? A number of experts have been looking for the answer at the OSCE conference in Warsaw. According to the organizers, journalists of TUT.BY portal and news agency BelaPAN as well as leaders of the independent trade union of electronic and radio industry (REP) were to be present at the event. However, they failed to come to Poland since submission to travel restrictions had been signed. This fact is also indicative of the human rights situation in Belarus. Andrey Bastunets, a representative of the Belarusian Association of Journalists, said.

“In addition to the so-called BelTA case, there are other issues of concern, i.e. opening criminal cases against bloggers, punishing journalists for work without accreditation. By the way, Belsat TV journalists are the main target of those who impose fines. In general, the mass media situation is rather tense,” he said.

Compared to the previous year, the number of detained participants in mass protests has been slightly improved. But it should be noted that fewer rallies have been held in 2018.

“The pressure is being exerted on civil, political and NGO activists, as well as trade unionists. All fields of civil liberties in Belarus are under pressure from the authorities, and the situation is not getting better,” former political prisoner Ales Byalyatski stressed.

One can see no end to persecution, but some EU representatives express their readiness to welcome Belarusian officials in the West. In the times of Russia’s annexing neighbours’ lands and waging a war against them, Alyaksandr Lukashenka managed to convince the West that he guarantees the independence and peace of Belarus.

“Lukashenka wants to maintain independence, but what kind of independence this has to be – that is the question. The independence of a democratic free state or that of an authoritarian country? If you want any changes in the future, you should not forget about human rights issues.” David Marples, professor at Alberta University (Canada), stressed.

However it would be unfair to say that the Western countries forgot about human rights violations in Belarus. The proof of that is the great interest in Belarusian issues at the annual OSCE conference.

“Belarus is always mentioned, because it the first country that lies between the EU and Russia. And if something bad happens, it will starts in Belarus,” Uladzimir Kobets, representative of the Belarusian House in Warsaw, said.

There will be no endless forgiveness of the Belarusian authorities’ stepping up pressure. According to experts, new political prisoners will be another point of no return. The independence of an authoritarian state is only its leader’s independence leader, not that of the country and its citizens. It cannot be secure. And it is not the independence that the Belarusian public figures were fighting for in 1991, the experts believe.


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