Updated at 16:11,02-12-2016

OSCE Parliamentary Assembly urges Minsk to release all political prisoners

The OSCE Parliamentary Assembly on Saturday adopted a resolution calling on the Belarusian government to immediately and unconditionally release and exonerate all political prisoners.

The resolution contains a list of individuals whom the Assembly views as political prisoners. The list features 13 names, including Ihar Alinevich, Mikalay Statkevich, Paval Sevyarynets, Ales Byalyatski, Syarhey Kavalenka, Zmitser Dashkevich, Mikalay Awtukhovich, Eduard Lobaw, Mikalay Dzyadok, Alyaksandr Frantskevich, Pavel Syramalotaw, Artsyom Prakapenka and Yawhen Vaskovich.

The Assembly recommended that the International Ice Hockey Federation suspend its plan to hold the 2014 world championship in Minsk until the Belarusian authorities release all political prisoners.

The resolution also called on the Belarusian government to allow representatives of the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly to visit political prisoners incarcerated in Belarus; suspend the domiciliary arrest imposed on political prisoners released from prison, including Iryna Khalip and Uladzimir Nyaklyayew; respect freedom of movement of citizens, including political activists, in Belarus and abroad; reconsider registration applications by the Belarusian Christian Democracy party and Vyasna, a human rights organization; stop the harassment and persecution of civil society, trade unions, independent media and human rights defenders; implement the recommendations of the International Labor Organization with regard to trade unions; respect its OSCE commitments, including the 1990 Copenhagen Document, in particular with regard to the upcoming parliamentary elections; annul convictions and pending charges against journalists for activities connected with their profession; and allow an unrestricted public debate on key social and political issues.

The Assembly condemned the executions of Uladzislaw Kavalyow and Dzmitry Kanavalaw, sentenced to death for their alleged involvement in the April 2011 subway bombing in Minsk, "through a trial that fell short of international standards for rule of law".

"Parliamentarians held a serious debate about the human rights situation in Belarus and, in the end, a large majority of the members of the human rights committee decided it would be wrong to host an international ice hockey tournament in Minsk with all the attention and revenue that would bring to Belarus while political opponents remain unjustly imprisoned," Neil Simon, communications director for the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly, commented to BelaPAN. "Supporters of this resolution sought to send a clear message to the Lukashenka government that to uphold its international commitments, political prisoners should be released at once."