Shattering Hopes: Post-Election Crackdown in Belarus

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  1. Shattering Hopes
  2. A New Crackdown in Belarus - FPIF
  3. Navigation menu
  4. Political Situation

Following a widespread crackdown on political activists protesting a controversial presidential election criticized by United Nations [2] and European Union observers, [3] both Viasna's offices [4] and Bialatski's home have been repeatedly searched by state security forces. On 26 November , in accordance with a court ruling against Bialatski, the Minsk office of Viasna was confiscated and sealed by the Belarusian government. From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.

People in Need. Retrieved 3 June Kyiv Post. Retrieved We are very concerned about the health and well-being of Andrei Sannikov and Dmitry Bandarenka, as well as the health of Dashkevich and Bialiatski.

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They live under very bad conditions; they have restricted access to families, lawyers and foodparcels. The businessman Mikalai Autukhovich is already a long-serving political prisoner, who has just ended a hunger strike. Aleksander Lukashenko should not be allowed to continue his attempts at breaking the best of the Belarusian people.

Shattering Hopes

The regime continues the imprisoning anyone considered to oppose Lukashenko. Three more were convicted to seven years in prison for petty hooliganism in seriously flawed trials: Yauhen Vaskovich, Artsiom Prakapenka and Pavel Syramolatou. As the last country in Europe, Belarus still passes death sentences and now carries them out, too. Dzmitry Kanavalau and Uladzislau Kavalyou, were convicted for the April Subway bombings, and sentenced to death on 30 November.

A New Crackdown in Belarus - FPIF

There is reason to believe the two men were subject to an unfair trial bereft of evidence of their guilt. The issue has become more urgent and execution in Belarus must stop now. The goal was to end a peculiar anomaly whereby once the travel ban had been suspended in late it was far easier for government officials and the president to travel abroad than students or members of the opposition. After , there were regular and frequent meetings between EU and Belarusian officials, as well as bilateral meetings, especially with the leaders of Poland and Lithuania, the two main border states of the EU.

The opposition meanwhile protested what appeared to be a dramatic change of direction in Brussels to communicate directly with the Belarusian leadership rather than those struggling to deal with the iniquities of society.

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Almost the moment the Europeans suspended a travel ban placed on Lukashenka and most of the Belarusian hierarchy, the president visited the Vatican with his illegitimate son, Kolya. Several opposition leaders seemed prepared to give the regime a chance.

Most notable among them was Alyaksandr Milinkevich, the former leader of the Unified Democratic Forces, which disintegrated after the election. He subsequently founded the Movement for Freedom. Other leading politicians, such as Andrey Sannikau, leader of European Belarus, felt that Belarus belonged in Europe and expressed frustration that the EU had not reciprocated such a yearning.

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Rather it had decided to work with Lukashenka. Sannikau and others had surprising freedom to campaign during the election, but they were dismayed when several EU leaders appeared to favor a Lukashenka victory in the election. To most of the nine opposition candidates, this promise appeared to be directed toward Lukashenka, who was expected to win the election. The aftermath of the election horrified most Europeans. Several prominent figures condemned the brutality of the riot police and security forces, including German Chancellor Angela Merkel, as well as the leaders of other countries who had invested most in the democratization of Belarus, notably Poland, Sweden, and Lithuania.

Audronius Azubalis, Foreign Minister of the latter country, which became the chair of the OSCE on 1 January, requested that all political prisoners be released, and be allowed medical attention.

Political Situation

The EU threatened to reinstitute the travel ban on those responsible for the violence. Polish leaders have been particularly outspoken.

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  7. Poland has also acted unilaterally in demanding free travel for students from Belarus and other activists who oppose the Lukashenka regime. Implicit in this stance is a change of policy for the EU: to transfer the past support for the government directly to the opposition. In turn Sikorski has stated that the country will take steps to prevent travel by those Belarusian officials responsible for the crackdown. Presidential candidate Andrei Sannikau and his wife, the journalist Irina Khalip: beaten up by riot police in the brutal suppression of a post-election protest rally He not only demanded the immediate release of those imprisoned, but also that Belarus should repeat its presidential elections in order to prevent European sanctions and bring to justice those responsible for the brutality of December and subsequently.

    The Czech government has offered asylum to any members of the opposition facing persecution and has indicated that it will reduce visa charges for ordinary Belarusians. Given the somewhat bland regular pronouncements of the EU, these are strong statements indeed. The EU leaders feel betrayed by the actions of the Lukashenka regime, but what options does the EU have? What would a decision to re-impose the travel ban and support opposition groups and unofficial NGOs mean in practice?

    Is it possible to bring about changes in Belarusian society that would allow the country ultimately to join European structures? Yes, I think that, strategically speaking, Belarus should become a member of the European Union. It is an objective that will take at least 15 years of fundamental institutional reform, wide-ranging legal revisions and restructuring. That is if the EU wants to have Belarus. Today, that is far from clear. The first issue is the current status of the opposition.

    On 9 January, several parties and groups founded the National Coordinating Council , which intends to purse the release of political prisoners, returning Belarusian society to law and democracy, and introducing free elections. It is made up of a broad range of political parties, as well as the Belarusian Congress of Democratic Trade Unions and the Tell the Truth campaign. This is a promising move, but the opposition is facing formidable attacks from a government that has decided to dispense with restraints.

    Will the EU be able to unite on the issue of Belarus and maintain a consistent policy for the foreseeable future? Moreover, if a decision is made to cease contact with the regime of Lukashenka, will it be possible to resurrect the opposition and leading figures like former presidential candidates Uladzimir Nyaklayeu and Andrey Sannikau?

    There is little likelihood of any form of compromise between these politicians and Lukashenka, even should they be released. Moreover, Lukashenka is unlikely to make compromises on the issue of his legitimacy or to consider repeating the election. The critical question—as prior to the election—is the relationship between Belarus and Russia.

    Viva Belarus! Protest crackdown

    To what extent is the EU prepared to work with Russia on the issue of Belarus? Can common ground be found? And would the removal of Lukashenka weaken Belarusian sovereignty? The Russians opted for Lukashenka as the best option on the eve of the election, but they are hardly committed wholeheartedly to his long-term leadership.