United States ready to join EU in restrictive measures if election is unfair
The United States once more is calling on the Belarus government to stop repressing opposition parties and civil society in the run-up to the March 19 presidential election. (See related article.)
Acting State Department spokesman Tom Casey cited several examples in which the government of Belarus failed to respect the rights of its citizens and warned that the United States is ready, along with the European Union, “to take further restrictive measures against the responsible individuals if the elections are not conducted in accord with Belarus's international obligations and its OSCE [Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe] commitments.”
He also cited the International Election Observation Mission’s interim report on the presidential election in Belarus, which is available on the Web site of the OSCE’s Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights, in English and Russian.
Following is the State Department statement:
U.S. Department of State
Office of the Spokesman
March 13, 2006
Statement by Tom Casey, Acting Spokesman
With less than a week to go before March 19 presidential elections in Belarus, the United States calls again on the Belarusian government to cease repression of political campaigns and civil society groups, and to respect the rights of Belarusian citizens. On March 7 and 8, police detained twelve aides to opposition candidate Aleksandr Milinkevich, including senior campaign officials Vintsuk Vyachorka and Anatoly Lebedko, allegedly for organizing unsanctioned rallies. These incidents come in the aftermath of the March 2 beating and detention of opposition candidate Aleksandr Kozulin, as well as a number of his supporters and journalists. Activists from the non-partisan civic group Partnership have been in detention since February 21.The latest interim report of the OSCE/ODIHR Election Observation Mission details harassment of opposition campaigns, and civil society activists, including detentions and seizure of materials. We are also concerned about reports that a number of Belarusian and Ukrainian citizens were detained after a Milinkevich rally yesterday.
The United States shares these concerns and joins the European Union in its readiness to take further restrictive measures against the responsible individuals if the elections are not conducted in accord with Belarus's international obligations and its OSCE commitments.