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23 March 2006

The Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Belarus, Adrian Severin, issued the following statement today:

“The Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Belarus, Adrian Severin, reiterates his strong condemnation of the numerous human rights violations committed by the Belarusian Government against the independent press, opposition candidates and their supporters, and human rights defenders, on the occasion of the presidential election in Belarus.

The Special Rapporteur notes with regret that according to the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) and the European Parliament (EP) ad hoc delegation which monitored the Belarusian presidential election of 19 March, the latter failed to meet international electoral standards, because of arbitrary use of state power, widespread detentions, and persistent disregard for the basic rights of freedom of assembly, association and expression. Serious allegations of fraud were also raised. The EP ad hoc delegation stated that Alexander Lukashenka cannot be recognized as the legitimate president of Belarus, as the elections were not free, fair or democratic and called for a re-run of the elections, as well as for an extension of European Union sanctions against Belarus.

The Special Rapporteur is also deeply concerned about the detention of numerous citizens peacefully demonstrating against the electoral results. On 20 March 2006, some 10,000 people gathered in Oktyabrskaya Ploshcad to oppose the results of the presidential elections. According to local reports, many citizens heading there were stopped by riot police agents who checked their identity documents and prevented them from joining the demonstrators; and over 100 citizens were arrested by state security forces, including the two sons of Presidential candidate Alexander Milinkevich. On 21 March 2006, political opponents Anatoly Lebedko, Alexander Dobrovolsky, and Alexei Yanukiyevich, were also arrested. Three Georgian nationals -- Malkhaz Songulashvili, Bishop of the Baptist Church; Basil Kobakhidze, Archipriest of the Orthodox Church and Vladimer Gogiashvili, head of the Religious Liberty Association -- were also detained on 20 March, then deported on 22 March, for taking part in opposition protests.

The Special Rapporteur calls on the Government of Belarus to release immediately and unconditionally all political prisoners, and to bring all violations of freedom of expression and of the right of peaceful assembly to an immediate end.
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