Dr Charles Tannock

Member of the European Parliament for London

Belarus - arrest of Ales Bialatski, human rights defender

Delivered in Plenary - 15th September 2011

Mr President

The current situation in Belarus is truly deplorable. Given that it is twenty years since the collapse of the Soviet Union, the fact that Lukashenko to this day, and on the continent of Europe, deems appropriate the use of brutal force, persecution and harassment in order to quash peaceful dissidence within his country can no longer be tolerated.

The behaviour of the Minsk regime last year post-elections was also deplorable. It is therefore the strong desire of this House and my Group, the ECR, that Belarus should follow the path of all former Soviet European countries, that democracy is allowed to reign and that eventually it can rejoin the European family of nations where it truly belongs.

It is clear from the size of the protest that took place after the elections that the general Belarusian public is more than ready for this to happen, but in order for such a transition to take place the message that the EU must give out it is a strong and united one.

The ECR Group believes that not only must we continue with our discussions with the democratic opposition in order to strengthen a sense of common accountability, we must also demonstrate through our actions, including targeted sanctions against the regime, that the situation will not be allowed to prevail.

We therefore call on the international community as a whole to freeze financial assistance to the regime until all those who have been detained unlawfully for opposing it human rights defenders such as the case today of Ales Bialiatski, opposition leaders and journalists, as well as presidential candidates, and all their supporters are immediately released and cleared of all charges.

It was sad today not to have Belarus MPs with us at the first meeting of the Euronest Parliamentary Assembly, as Belarus as a country, with its cultured and educated people, amounts to so much more than Lukashenko and his thuggish henchmen.