The United States is deeply concerned about the serious violations of human rights and fundamental freedoms in Belarus that run contrary to its commitments to the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, or OSCE, said U.S. Ambassador to the Permanent Council in Vienna Ian Kelly.
“We continue to have grave concerns regarding the ill treatment of political prisoners in Belarus.”
Since popular protests began against the deeply-flawed Presidential election of December 2010, the Government of Belarus has relentlessly cracked down on anyone publicly criticizing or protesting the election results, government practices, Belarusian leader Aleksandr Lukashenka or his rule.
Numerous political and human rights activists, political candidates, journalists and media workers have been intimidated, beaten, arrested, and imprisoned. Political activists and 2010 presidential candidates Andrei Sannikov and Mikola Statkevich have been imprisoned since peacefully protesting last December. Belarus has also severely restricted the activities and funding of non-governmental organizations.
The United States is concerned that new Belarusian legislation will further curb the free flow of information on the Internet inside Belarus. “The amendment enacted on January 6 adds administrative penalties for commercial entities that violate the Presidential Decree ‘On Measures to Improve the Use of the National Segment of the Internet,’” said Ambassador Kelly.
“The provisions in this amendment, along with recent [Belarusian] legislative amendments criminalizing foreign funding of [non-governmental organizations], can only have a further chilling effect on civil society and political discourse in Belarus.”
Ambassador Kelly emphasized that the United States remains committed to securing the release of all political prisoners immediately and unconditionally. The United States will continue to seek “to stop the harassment of members of the opposition, their families, and civil society, to include human right defenders, independent journalists, defense attorneys, and students.”