Belarus, the cases of Ales Michalevic and Natalia Radin
Delivered in Plenary - 10th March 2011
The fact that in Belarus President Lukashenko’s secret police is still called the KGB tells us all that we need to know about his mentality and methods. Twenty years after the collapse of the Soviet Union he remains the archetypal homo sovieticus , a strong man whose addiction to power is as strong as his instincts for crushing dissent.
Lukashenko used the KGB, or uses the KGB, as a political tool to silence the popular protest, including the cases of Ales Mikhalevic and Natalia Radina, that followed yet another disappointingly rigged presidential election in December last year. More than 700 people were arrested. Stories abound of opposition activists being abducted, detained extrajudicially, and then tortured mentally and psychologically by the KGB.
Belarus matters to us so much because it is a European country and has become a Cuba on our own doorstep. If the EU is to have any moral force in the world with regard to promoting democracy, human rights and the rule of law, it must surely start in Europe itself, our own continent. I do not dispute the need to engage with the Lukashenko regime. An empty chair policy would be counter-productive with the EU, but we need to increase support to the opposition in Belarus and tighten EU smart sanctions on Lukashenko and his KGB cronies.