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European External Action Service (EEAS)

Belarus: Statement by High Representative Josep Borrell on the International Day of Solidarity with Political Prisoners

European External Action Service (EEAS)

EEAS Press Team

Today we mark the International Day of Solidarity with Political Prisoners in Belarus, in memory of political prisoner Vitold Ashurak who died in the ҆kloŇ≠ penal colony No. 17 on 21 May 2021. The cause and circumstances of his death have still not been investigated.

Since the summer of 2020, the Lukashenko regime has made over 40,000 politically motivated arrests and pursued at least 12 000 politically motivated criminal cases. There are now almost 1500 political prisoners.

The recent OSCE Moscow Mechanism report on Belarus documents that numerous political prisoners are incarcerated in appalling conditions and exposed to ill-treatment and torture. Those with serious disabilities and life-threatening conditions are being denied proper medical assistance. On 7 May, blogger Mikalai Klimovich, suffering from a serious heart condition, died in prison. His "crime" was to have published a caricature of Lukashenko on social media.

The space for civil society has been severely restricted by Lukashenko regime and to-date over 1,283 non-governmental entities having been forced to liquidate. This, coupled with the regime's intensified repression has made any political debate and any expression of political opposition impossible.

Systematic, widespread and gross human rights violations have been and are being committed in Belarus, which may amount to crimes against humanity, as stated by the UN Human Right Commissioner's most recent report on Belarus.

Lukashenko also continues to undermine Belarus' independence and sovereignty by subduing the country to Russia and collaborating with Russia's illegal aggression against Ukraine. He brutally persecutes Belarusians for anti-war statements and for supporting Ukraine.

On this day of solidarity, the EU demands Belarus to live up to its international obligations, and reiterates its demand for the immediate and unconditional release of all political prisoners. The EU stands firmly by the Belarusian people and will continue to work for justice for victims and accountability for perpetrators.

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