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Abuses Continue in Belarus

A former opposition presidential candidate Mikola Statkevich sits in a cage during a court session in Minsk, Belarus, Thursday, May 26, 2011.

The United States is concerned about the treatment of political prisoners in Belarus.

The United States is concerned about the treatment of political prisoners in Belarus.

Abuses Continue in Belarus
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On May 4, former presidential candidate Nikolai Statkevich was sentenced to harsher prison conditions and increased security measures for alleged violations of prison rules. Mr. Statkevich is serving a six-year sentence related to his participation in peaceful protests following the December 2010 presidential elections.

The United States is also concerned by the April 30 denial of Mikalai Dziadok's appeal of a February court decision that extended his prison term by one year for alleged prison rules violations. Mr. Dziadok was scheduled to be released in March 2015.

In response to international pressure, President Aleksandr Lukashenko’s government has released some political prisoners. For example, between January and September 2011 and again in August and September 2012, Belarusian authorities released, pardoned, or reclassified the offenses as less serious for several of the detainees facing riot charges from events following the December 2010 election. According to the Department of State’s Annual Country Reports on Human Rights Practices and non-governmental organization reports, many of them had to admit guilt as a condition of their release. In April 2012, Belarusian authorities released former opposition presidential candidate Andrei Sannikau and his aide, convicted in connection with the peaceful protests in 2010.

But, according to the State Department and NGO reports, once released, such individuals remain subject to police supervision, and their civil and political rights are not fully restored. Some have also been forbidden, without explanation, from leaving Belarus.

The United States renews its call on the government of Belarus to release all political prisoners immediately and unconditionally and to restore fully their political and civil rights.