VILNIUS, 5 August 2011 – The OSCE Chairperson-in-Office, Lithuanian Foreign Minister Audronius Ažubalis, today expressed deep concern over the continued worsening of the human rights situation in Belarus, citing the arrest of Aliaksandr (Ales) Bialiatski, President of the Belarus Human Rights Centre ‘Viasna’ on 4 August 2011 and the search of the NGO’s premises, as the latest example of persecution.
Ažubalis condemned actions by the Government of Belarus against civil society activists, human rights defenders and the political opposition.
“Trials of the participants in the December 19 demonstrations, systematic stifling of the media and freedom of assembly, and the continued persecution of opposition figures, non-governmental organizations and civil society, attest to the serious deterioration of the human rights situation in Belarus,” Ažubalis said.
“I call on the authorities to immediately and unconditionally release all political prisoners and civil society activists. Belarus must comply with its OSCE commitments on human rights and fundamental freedoms, which were reaffirmed at the highest level in December 2010, at the OSCE Summit in Astana.”
Ažubalis and OSCE Institutions have repeatedly called upon the Belarusian authorities to cease political persecutions, crackdowns on independent media, and release political prisoners. Ažubalis has repeatedly invited Belarus to enter into a constructive dialogue and allow the re-establishment of an OSCE presence in Minsk.
Since becoming OSCE Chairperson in January 2011, Ažubalis has met often with representatives of Belarusian civil society. In June in Vilnius he opened the House of United Belarus, a facility for Belarusian non-governmental organizations, academics and intellectuals, who wish to continue their work in exile.