Freedom House: Closure of Swedish embassy warrants tough response
8:45, — Politics
The Lukashenka regime’s decision to force Sweden to close its embassy is the most recent example of the outrageous behavior of the government in Minsk.
The Lukashenka regime’s decision to force Sweden to close its embassy in Belarus for its support of human rights and alleged contact with opposition groups is the most recent example of the outrageous behavior of the government in Minsk and underscores the need to adopt stronger measures against Europe’s last dictatorship. Freedom House and the Center for European Policy Analysis (CEPA) urge other European countries to show solidarity with Sweden in its efforts to draw attention to human rights abuses in Belarus.
A mere five days after Lukashenka’s expulsion of the Swedish ambassador, this move marks the latest salvo by the autocrat in a series of diplomatic disputes over human rights issues, the most colorful of which was the teddy bear drop last month. On July 4, a pair of Swedish pilots unloaded 879 parachute-strapped teddy bears carrying pro-democracy messages over Minsk. Belarusian student Anton Suryapin was arrested for photographing the teddy bears and posting them to his personal website. Declared a prisoner of conscience by Amnesty International, he could face a seven-year jail sentence.
“In the light of the upcoming EU emergency meeting on August 10, we urge the governments of the EU member states to consider sending a clear message that European nations will stand in solidarity with the Belarusian people in supporting their fundamental rights and freedoms,” said Susan Corke, Freedom House director of programs for Eurasia. “However, the international community must be aware of the possible retaliation of the Lukashenka regime leading to further isolation of Belarusian citizens if the conflict escalates beyond Sweden.”
“Following the expulsion of the Polish ambassador earlier in the year, this latest act is a clear test of Western resolve – one that cannot be ignored,” said Peter B. Doran at CEPA.