Updated at 11:50,16-10-2017

EP views 11 citizens of Belarus as political prisoners

Tanya Korovenkova, BelaPAN

Minsk, 10 March. The European Parliament views 11 citizens of Belarus as political prisoners, Filip Kaczmarek, chairman of the European Parliament`s Delegation for Relations with Belarus, says in his reply to BelaPAN’s inquiry.

"The official number of political prisoners is 11," Dr. Kaczmarek says, without giving their names. He calls for their release and exoneration, noting that "without this step the EU-Belarus relations will not ameliorate."

Following an informal meeting with the ambassador of an EU country on February 17, Valyantsin Stefanovich, deputy chairman of a human rights organization called Vyasna (Spring), told European Radio for Belarus that the European Union viewed the imprisonment of only six citizens of Belarus as politically motivated.

The EU has never officially stated how many Belarusians it considers to be political prisoners, but reports had it that it demanded the release of nine imprisoned opponents of Alyaksandr Lukashenka as prisoners of conscience.

According to Vyasna, there are 11 political prisoners in Belarus. They include Mikalay Statkevich, Ales Byalyatski, Mikalay Awtukhovich, Eduard Lobaw, Mikalay Dzyadok, Ihar Alinevich, Andrey Haydukow, Vasil Parfyankow, Uladzimir Yaromenak, Yawhen Vaskovich, and Artsyom Prakapenka.

When reached by BelaPAN for comment on February 18, the Delegation of the European Union to Belarus would not name the Belarusians viewed by Brussels as political prisoners.

"The lists of political prisoners may differ, for different reasons," the Delegation’s spokesperson said. "First, the lists may differ between human rights organisations, based abroad or established in Belarus. Second, the number may differ from one period to another. The main point for the EU is anyway that all the political prisoners are released, that no new political prisoner appears, and that the human rights situation improves. Third, the EU takes into account different points of view, listens to experts, monitors trials, and makes its own assessment of the situation and takes its decision autonomously."

Although the United States has also repeatedly demanded freedom for the political prisoners in Belarus, the US embassy in Minsk does not say who they are.

In its recently released 2013 Country Reports on Human Rights Practices, the US Department of State says that the political prisoners in Belarus are Mikalay Statkevich, Zmitser Dashkevich, Mikalay Awtukhovich, Alyaksandr Frantskevich, Vasil Parfyankow, Paval Sevyarynets, Eduard Lobaw, Ales Byalyatski, and Uladzimir Yaromenak. Messrs. Dashkevich, Frantskevich and Sevyarynets had been freed prior to the publication of the report.