Such a plea has been made by Belarusian political and public activists.
A discussion “Belarus – The Unsolved Case” was held on August 4 in the framework of the International Day of Solidarity with Belarus in the Belarusian House in Warsaw. Among the participants of the event are: the wife of the political prisoner Mikalai Statkevich, Maryna Adamovich, leaders of the organizing committee for creation of Belaruski Rukh (Belarusian Movement) party Vatslau Areshka and Vintsuk Vyachorka, a Russian human rights activist, a representative of the Working group on investment of the Committee of the International Control over the Human rights situation in Belarus Volha Zakharava. Besides, Iryna Krasouskaya, the leader of “We Remember” initiative, the widow of Anatoly Krasouski, a businessman and public leader abducted in Belarus, has made a statement through Skype.
First of all, participants of “Belarus – The Unsolved Case” expressed concern over certain “moderating” the policy of the European Union towards the dictatorship in Belarus. According to them, there are no grounds for such actions at present – the situation in the country has not improved, and the situation of political prisoners has worsened.
Maryna Adamovich named all the political prisoners of Belarus, who are staying in prisons at the moment, and stated:
- We cannot share the optimism of some European officials, who state about some positive changes in Belarus today. Release of the human rights activist Ales Bialiatski should not inspire hope and consolation to anyone, if for no other reason than because Ales is not completely free, he still has a criminal record, he is under preventive supervision, which could turn into defensive one any moment, and bring him into prison again. I would not like to make such predictions, but the entire experience of the present situation in our country demonstrates that such a threat exists.
A democracy should be able to defend itself. To see “positive signals” and try to open new dialogues is a mistake (to say the least of it, I am sure).
Mikalai has been staying behind the bars for 3 years and 8 months already. He is in prison for 2 years and 8 months out of this term. For the last half a year he is in a solitary confinement call. He spends 23 hours a day in a small closed room, which has no direct solar illumination.
The situation of other political prisoners is not becoming easier. Ihar Alinevich has survived a rather hard transfer into another colony. Eduard Lobau will be placed under a preventive supervision in case he is released on December 18. Yauhen Vaskovich stays in a punishment cell all the time. The terms of imprisonment of Mikalai Statkevich, Ihar Alinevich, Yauhen Vaskovich, Artsyom Prakapenka are still so long that one cannot but be appalled by them….
Strangely enough, in the last year it has become fashionable for Europeans not to tell the number of political prisoners in our country. It is used by Makei and other representatives of the regime. The exact number and concrete names should be named, otherwise the authorities would release one person, and Europeans would be happily placated that we “do not have any political prisoners” any more.
When someone tells me today that “we should talk to Lukashenka, as otherwise he would be in the sphere of influence of Russia,” it seems to me that the experience of Ukraine, Moldova and Georgia should teach us that the opposite things should be done: it is better to defend those, who really want to be in the sphere of Europe’s influence.
In his final statement in the court Mikalai Statkevich said: “Do not offer money for our release, otherwise there would be new hostages.” Hostages should not be bought from terrorists. Soon a new “presidential election” would be held in our country. It means that there would be new victims, new convicts. Representatives of the democratic community share the responsibility for that. It is very important for us for the topic of Belarus not to pass from view of European politicians, even against the background of the terrible events in Ukraine, – the wife of the political prisoner said.
The leader of “We Remember” initiative, the widow of the businessman abducted in Belarus, Iryna Krasouskaya (Irina Krasovskaya), has noted that this year, September 16, marks 15 years from the day when he husband was abducted, together with Vice Speaker of the Belarusian parliament, the head of the Central Election Committee Viktar Hanchar. There is a high possibility that after this term expires, the case related to the abduction of these people would be closed by the official authorities.
- It is important for the cases of the forcibly abducted oppositionists in Belarus not to be forgotten. These people have given their lives for freedom of our country. Viktar Hanchar and Anatoly Krasouski went missing 15 years ago – they were abducted and murdered, as well as Yury Zakharanka, as well as Dzmitry Zavadski.
People, who are suspected of being involved in their kidnapping, still remain in power. There is no real investigation, as there is no political will for that. The proofs, that Belarusian officials had been involved in abductions and assassination of the oppositions, emerged back in 2001. The authorities are not going to investigate their own crimes. As long as there is a dictatorship in Belarus, there is no hope to find out the truth for us.
Every three months I receive a letter from the Investigation Committee of Belarus. It reads that the investigation is allegedly continued, but everything else is secrecy of investigation. And the same has been repeating for 15 years. We used all possible international mechanisms, in order to find out the truth. In particular, we have won the case against Belarus at the Human Rights Committee of the UN. However, none of the decisions of the Committee has been complied with.
That is why now we should remind citizens of Belarus and the world that opposition leaders had been abducted in Belarus, the memory about them should remain with us. Dictators come and go, and period of limitations is not used to crimes related to abductions,” Krasouskaya said.
A Russian human rights activist Olga Zakharova noted how dangerous European politicians’ “flirting” with Alyaksandr Lukashenka is.
- The things done by Lukashenka now, and what he had been doing for 20 years in a row, neatly coincides with the practices of dictators worldwide. It is easy to predict what is to happen next, in case the present trend of his rapprochement with the West is to continue. I cannot say that it is a subtle game, but it is absolutely obvious that Lukashenka is trying to present himself as a mediator in the conflict of Russia with Ukraine now, to recognize or not to recognize the Crimean Peninsula’s annexation. But what absence of recognition could be discussed, when at the UN the dictator voted against the resolution on recognition of Crimea an occupied territory? There are documents and there are words, and we all understand what is weightier.
If Lukashenka gets money from the West “for reforms” again now, there would be no real changes again. Financial aid to any dictator preserves his regime. One can forget about human rights, political prisoners, abducted and murdered then, and haggle over some benefits again.
The strangest thing is that the West swallows this bait. I think the reason is that a dictatorship costs less than a democracy. For some reason people in the West believe that by paying money one can buy the needed policy of Lukashenka. But they have not succeeded in that in these 20 years.
Today one can predict increase of crackdown in Belarus. “The rehearsal” took place during the Ice Hockey World Championship in Minsk, when more than 200 persons were detained. The world ate the dust, and watched the championship. Now we are going to observe eviction of people from the country in the best case, arbitrary detentions and trumped-up cases. In the worst case, if there would be an international agreement to the fact that the terms of limitation in the cases of oppositionists disappeared in Belarus have expired, we are going to have new murders. Dictators always kill,” Zakharova is convinced.
A political scientist and a member of the organizing committee for creation of the Belaruski Rukh (Belarusian Movement) party Vatslau Areshka noted that today everyone should admit that Lukashenka’s regime is a criminal one:
- I would like to attract attention to the history of the Belarusian regime. Lukashenka started his rule with political pressure. Everything started with a crackdown on underground workers, then there was a beating of MPs, a referendum on extension and prolongation of presidential term. And it resulted in disappearances, in fact, political assassinations. And political assassinations, political pressure have become a hallmark of Lukashenka.
It could not be written off any way, in any situations and in any conversations.
I would like to remind to some of the so-called representatives of the Belarusian opposition who are trying to claim that Lukashenka could be a guarantor of independence, about his ability to negotiate. We have seen that many times. We have witnessed that for more than 15 years and more. In any situation we should proceed from the assumption that Lukashenka’s regime is a criminal regime, and he and his entourage are criminals.
Over the recent few years I happened to be engaged in the topic of purging. Lukashenka’s regime should be recognized a criminal regime, at least by all of us. We should collect materials on these crimes, we should prevent these criminals from fleeing, from hiding or buying some snug little job or avoiding punishment deserved by them.
Vintsuk Vyachorka, a politician, urged Belarusian oppositional politicians to change the approaches to Lukashenka’s regime as well:
- The events in Ukraine have demonstrated that now the fate of the post-Soviet nations hangs in the balance. They are squeezed between the European Union and the new Russian Empire. It is obvious it’s a situation of civilizational choice.
People like Lukashenka treat an extended hand not as a gesture of reconciliation, but as a weakness of the enemy. Some people hope that Lukashenka would suddenly become a situational keeper of Belarus’ independence. But Yanukovych had less skeletons in the closet, than Lukashenka, undoubtedly. And Yanukovych was dragged into Europe by all means! And the result is – he sold his fatherland, betrayed it, stabbed in back. Now he sits in Sochi. I think it is the best and most eloquent parallel to explain what attitude to the Belarusian regime should be used.
Today Ukrainians are fighting not only for their freedom, but for our freedom as well. I hope that they would be able to explain to major world decision-makers a lot about our country as well. Many mistakes have been done. However, it is not too late to return to the policy of firmness, coherence, unconditionality towards freedom and rehabilitation of political prisoners at least, as well as providing other minimal democratic standards.
Lukashenka or anyone else should not be allowed to carry out linguistic demagogy, substitution of notions. Elections, a parliament, multiparty system are impossible, they do not exist! There is no such electoral situation in Belarus.
Changes through a standard electoral procedure are impossible in Belarus. For instance, when I was in Poland in 1984, there was a local election, and “Solidarity” boycotted them. There was no real opportunity to participate in this election, nominate candidates, count votes and win. Poles went to the election only when the situation changed and they received an opportunity to win.
Some words about the responsibility of the Belarusian democratic forces. I think that today, in connection with the crisis of values experienced by the Belarusian society, one can speak about the institutional crisis of many structures. It concerns political parties, many NGOs, some mass media, which agree to work strictly in the niche, offered to them by the regime.
Recently I came across a large colourful leaflet published by one of the independent political parties. It was dedicated to the initiative “People’s Referendum”. It described only the social problems which allegedly concern the society. This large leaflet didn’t mention absence of elections in the country, existence of political prisoners, abducted politicians. Not a word about them.
It is obvious it is a system-level error. Such work with people is inexcusable. A new generation of people in their twenties has grown up, and due to their age they want to base themselves upon real values, they believe in a free, democratic, European Belarus.