Instead of meeting with Lukashenka’s “deputies”, the MEPs met with human rights defenders.
On February 26, representatives of the Belarusian human rights community met with the deputy group of the European Parliament - Deputy Head of the European Parliament’s delegation on relations with Belarus Karin Karlsbro (Sweden) and European Parliament’s permanent rapporteur on Belarus Piatras Austriavicius (Lithuania).
Human rights activists from the Belarusian Helsinki Committee, the BAJ, the Lawtrend Center for Legal Transformation, the REP trade union, and the Office for the Rights of Persons with Disabilities took part in the meeting. The Human Rights Center Viasna was represented by Valiantsin Stefanovich.
He began the meeting and presented a general picture of the latest human rights situation in Belarus. According to the human rights activist, Belarusians are now living in relatively dramatic times, which began with the processes of deepened integration with Russia. Valiantsin Stefanovich brought to the attention of the European parliamentarians the situation with the administrative prosecution of participants in peaceful assemblies, which human rights activists have been observing for several months. During this time, more than 100 people were brought to administrative responsibility for participating in peaceful protests.
“In this situation, we believe it is very important to demonstrate support for the sovereignty of Belarus, because strengthening the role of Russia and its presence here will mean a worsening of the situation with human rights,” the human rights activist said.
Separately, Valiantsin Stefanovich dwelt on new political prisoners: Belarusian human rights activists recognized anarchists Mikita Yemialyanau and Ivan Komar as political prisoners in connection with the clearly disproportionate and harsh sentence against them, they demand a review of their criminal case and the annulment of the verdict, and they hope that during the consideration of the appeal the Minsk City Court hears the demands of human rights defenders.
Also, Valiantsin Stefanovich dwelt on the issue of the death penalty, as literally now - during the visit of the delegation of the European Parliament - at an away meeting in Slutsk of the Minsk Regional Court the prosecutor demanded the death penalty for one of the defendants in the criminal case.
“If the death penalty is imposed, this will be the third sentence this year. To date, four people have been sentenced to death in Belarus, in two cases the sentences have already entered into legal force,” he stressed.
In addition, the human rights activist noted that no changes are expected in the electoral law, and most likely the presidential "elections" this year will be held according to the usual scenario. However, for human rights defenders, the background on which these “elections” will be held is very important:
“No political repression and the emergence of new political prisoners is unacceptable for us, and the authorities should understand and know this.”
At the end of the speech, Valiantsin Stefanovich noted that, unfortunately, there were no positive changes in the field of human rights.
Other human rights defenders spoke in the areas in which they directly work.
Interestingly, the delegation of the European Parliament canceled the meeting with Belarusian “deputies” 15 minutes before its planned start.