Belarus elections: Group leaders call for immediate release of opposition prisoners

/ Regarding the arrest of members of the opposition in view of the presidential elections in Belarus on 19 March 2006, the Conference of Presidents has, during its meeting on 16 March 2006, acknowledged the fact that a great number of politicians from the opposition party, journalists and NGO-activists in Belarus have been arrested.

The Conference of Presidents regrets these measures, which seriously question the democratic character of the forthcoming elections and contradicts all democratic principles.

The following members of the opposition parties are currently under arrest:

Siarhiej Malcyk

Viktar Sazonau

Vadzim Sarancukou

Andrej Pisalnik

Mikola Lemianouski

Alaksiej Trubkin

Siarzuk Hudzilin

Jauhien Vaukauviec

Ales Cyrejka

Vital Brouka

Vasil Leucanka

Tacciana Klimovic

Dzmitry Symanski

Ryhor Bakijevic

Anatol Labiedzka

Siarhiej Niarouny

Vincuk Viacorka

4 more persons have been arrested in Pinsk: Paviel Lachnovic,

6 more persons have been arrested in Svietlahorsk

The Conference of Presidents demands the immediate release of the arrested persons.

On 16 March, European Parliament President Josep Borrell made the following statement:

'Like the Council presidency, the European Parliament is extremely concerned at the reports of serious violations of candidates' rights in the presidential campaign in Belarus.

In the course of last year Parliament several times expressed its position on the situation in Belarus. In its most recent resolution, adopted on 16 February 2006, Parliament deplored "the continuing deterioration of the political situation and the continuing violations of the civil and human rights of the Belarusian people".

The MEPs strongly denounced the "indiscriminate attacks on the media, journalists, members of the opposition, human rights activists and minorities".

I vehemently condemn these actions, and I once more call, on behalf of the European Parliament, on the Belarusian authorities to respect international standards and comply with their undertaking, as entered into with the OSCE and the UN, to guarantee the equal rights of all candidates taking part in the campaign.

I deeply regret the refusal of the Belarusian authorities, contrary to what applied to the elections at the end of 2001, to grant the members of the ad hoc European Parliament and Council of Europe delegation the entry visa which would have enabled them to observe the presidential elections.

I once more remind the Belarusian authorities that any further progress in their country's relations with the EU will remain dependent on the advances made towards democratisation and internal reform, and, above all, on the holding of fair and transparent presidential elections.'