Leonidas Donskis, author: Mr President, this is not the first time that we in this House are condemning the ongoing harassment and systematic persecution of Belarusian human rights defenders, democratic opposition, free media and civil society activists in Lukashenko’s Belarus. Contempt for human worth, dignity, liberty and human rights has become an inescapable aspect of Lukashenko’s authoritarian regime.
Yet this time we are dealing with something extraordinary. The criminalisation of dissent and the use of the criminal penal code to intimidate the opposition seem to have reached a climax in the case of Ales Bialatski, a prominent human rights defender, head of the Viasna Human Rights Centre, who was arrested on 4 August 2011 and charged on 14 August for concealment of profits on a particularly large scale.
It is obvious that the regime is trying to see how far it can go in violating human rights and abusing civil liberties. At the same time, the regime is testing the limits of our political sensitivity and moral commitment. If we stop reacting and using harsh words, if we adopt a complacent stance ascribing the views on civil liberties and human rights to the specificity of Belarusian society, or if we succumb to a sort of fatalistic attitude to Lukashenko’s regime, the story is over. We and humanity at large will be on the losing side and the regime will impose its logic on us.
That is why we have to react to this outrageous injustice even more strongly than we did before. We have to admit the shameful fact that charges have been brought against Ales Bialatski using personal data on him sent by the Lithuanian and Polish authorities on the basis of the implementation of a bilateral legal aid agreement. I cannot speak on behalf of Poland – that is not up to me – but I can speak as a Lithuanian: I am truly sorry for what has happened in Lithuania in the Ministry of Justice. Even so, it does not absolve Belarusian authorities from their responsibilities. We should not create an illusion that they can get away from this story with some ambivalent reactions or technical errors in the EU. Ales Bialatski must, and will, be released.