Nordics and Baltics call for release of political prisoners in Belarus

The delegations of Latvia, Estonia, Lithuania, Denmark, Iceland, Norway, Finland and Sweden (NB8) on September 4 submitted a joint statement to the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (EPPA) on the situation in Belarus after the presidential election, offering strong support to democratic forces and calling for action from the Council of Europe.

"We call on the governments of the member states of the Council of Europe to support democratic reforms and democratic institutions in Belarus aimed at strengthening them, as well as supporting civil society, including the independent media. We also call on the Council of Europe to use its knowledge and experience to fully support Belarus in its efforts to achieve multi-opinion democracy and implement the necessary constitutional reforms in cooperation with other international partners,” said Inese Lībiņa-Egnere, Head of the Latvian Delegation to the EPPA.  

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In the statement, parliamentarians emphasized that the right to participate in free elections is one of the fundamental values ​​of democracy, while freedom of expression and assembly are fundamental human rights. It is also emphasized that the current actions of the Belarussian authorities violate internationally recognized human rights norms and democratic principles.

The statement expressed concern at the repression and violence against members of civil society and the independent media and called on the Belarussian authorities to put an immediate end to the use of force and persecution, and to release all political prisoners and illegal detainees and ensure respect for democratic principles, human rights and fundamental freedoms in accordance with the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the international and regional human rights agreements ratified by Belarus.

For its part, the Belarusian government has been urged to enter into an immediate dialogue with the opposition and civil society, to avoid further violence and to implement the changes that the Belarusian people consider desirable and necessary.

The Council of Europe was founded in 1949 and is the oldest political organization in Europe, uniting 47 European countries. The aim of the Council is to protect human rights, parliamentary democracy and the rule of law. Latvia became a member of the Council of Europe in 1995. Belarus was granted EPPA special guest status in 1993, but was revoked in 1996 following a referendum by President Alexander Lukashenko to increase the powers of the president, which EPPA considered undemocratic.

The NB8 format unites five Nordic countries - Denmark, Iceland, Norway, Finland and Sweden - and three Baltic countries - Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia.

Belarusian presidential candidate Svetlana Tikhanovskaya, whose victory was only denied by a coordinated official fraud perpetrated by Alexander Lukashenko and his cronies, is to address PACE's Committee on Political Affairs and Democracy by videoconference on 8 September 2020 during an exchange of views on the situation in Belarus following the 9 August Presidential election. A representative of the National Assembly of Belarus has also been invited to participate.

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