Updated at 11:50,16-10-2017

Opposition politician, rights defender question European Parliament rapporteur`s recommendations

By Syarhey Karalevich, BelaPAN

A leading opposition politician and a human rights defender have questioned recommendations made by Justas Paleckis, the European Parliament`s rapporteur on Belarus.

In his draft report, which is expected to be debated by the European Parliament this fall, Mr. Paleckis suggests that the European Union suspend the visa ban against key Belarusian officials.

The Lithuanian politician insists in the report that the human rights situation in Belarus improved in 2012.

Anatol Lyabedzka, leader of the United Civic Party (UCP), told BelaPAN on Tuesday that Mr. Paleckis was too optimistic about the situation in Belarus. "I don`t understand what facts and what monitoring such conclusions are based on. Absurd arrests continue, trials take place, demonstrations are banned in the country," he said.

Mr. Lyabedzka stressed that the proposal to suspend the sanctions against the Belarusian officials should be backed up with specific arguments.

Minsk should release and exonerate all political prisoners and hold free and fair elections before any sanctions could be suspended, he stressed.

The UCP chairman said that opposition forces would attempt to influence the report`s final version. He noted that the UCP would like the European Parliament`s document to motivate the Belarusian authorities to make steps toward democracy rather than encourage them to continue their crackdown on political opponents.
Human rights defender Valyantsin Stefanovich echoed the opinion, describing the report as too rosy. "Political prisoners remain in prison, no improvements have been made in the sphere of freedom of association, peaceful assembly, the media," he said.

Mr. Stefanovich warned that Minsk should not expect significant concessions on the part of the European Union if it failed to free all political prisoners.

Syarhey Haydukevch, leader of the Liberal Democratic Party, said that the organization opposed sanctions against Belarusian officials and supported a dialogue between Minsk and the EU. "Belarus and the EU need a step-by-step strategy of relations. I don’t defend anyone but only care about the country`s citizens," he said.