WARSAW, 6 April 2001 - The OSCE Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR) deplores the response by the Belarusian authorities to the 25 March 2001 peaceful demonstrations, which were marked by disproportionate use of force by security forces, arrests, and prison sentences or high administrative fines handed down to participants and organizers of the demonstrations.
"The ODIHR is deeply concerned about this further deterioration in the political climate in Belarus in the run-up to the presidential elections," ODIHR Director Gérard Stoudmann said. "We call on the authorities to review, in accordance with the rule of law, the cases of those imprisoned or fined in connection with the 25 March demonstrations. We also call on the authorities to ensure that the freedom of Belarusian citizens to peacefully participate in rallies and to freely express their political opinions will be fully guaranteed in the future."
Robust and active civic participation in the electoral process is a key element of a democratic election as outlined in OSCE commitments. Therefore, respect for freedom of expression and peaceful assembly is particularly important in view of the upcoming presidential elections. "We urge the Government of Belarus to create the conditions necessary for the conduct of democratic elections," Mr. Stoudmann added.
In this context, the ODIHR also calls on the Government to reconsider the Presidential Decree of 12 March 2001, which imposes far-reaching restrictions on international democratization and human rights assistance to Belarus. The decree will, inter alia, severely hamper the ability of domestic observers to monitor the presidential elections.
For further information, contact Jens-Hagen Eschenbacher, spokesperson, ODIHR, tel.: +48-22-5200600 or +48-603 683 122 (mobile).