125 Cities Across the Globe for a Free Belarus
Published: 21 March 2010
Solidarity and support from European civil society is crucial for democratic forces in Belarus. Belarus is indeed the last Eastern European country that has not joined the Free World after the breakdown of the totalitarian Socialist camp. It is one of the few countries of the region that have not joined the NATO and the EU and where the situation with democracy and human rights is still much worse than in other European countries.
Apart from that, Belarus is also one of the least known countries in the West. Actions like the one organized by the Young European Federalists are probably even more important than uncountable resolutions by the OSCE and the European Parliament. It is important not only to appeal to European politicians to have a firm position on Belarus, but also to inform the society in the EU about problems in its closest neighbour Belarus.
On the night of 18th March 2010 the Young European Federalists, political movement active in most European countries, and its global partners protested against Europe's last standing dictatorship. The event was dedicated to the fourth anniversary of the disputed presidential elections in Belarus. The fifth consecutive "Free Belarus Action" took place in 125 cities on four continents, including cities in almost all European countries, including Belarus. The Young European Federalists' collected signatures in the streets and posed with with signs reading "Give the people of Belarus a voice" in protest against Lukashenka's dictatorship. The current Belarus political regime has deprived 10 million Belarusian citizens deprived of fundamental human rights, including the right to free speech.
"Free Belarus means: when Belarus is free from the death penalty, celebrates good human rights, there is freedom of speech for all its citizens, freedom of press and NGOs and a process where the freedom of electing one's leadership in the elections is truly democratic – only then can we speak of a united, strong, and fair Europe," said JEF-Europe President Philippe Adriaenssens. "The European Union that JEF believes in is one with a clear foreign policy – not one turning a blind eye to human rights violations happening at its doorstep." "Actions speak louder than words," continued Free Belarus Action coordinator Elisabeth Velle," yet every year we hope it will be the last time we have to organise this action.'' "Condemning a regime is not enough. The European Union should do everything in its power to support civil society within the Belarusian borders, make sure that the next general elections are under full observation of election monitors and guarantee the freedom of the press and political opinion.
Moreover, it is time that the suspension of sanctions on Lukashenko and his officials were lifted. Europe must send out the message that its core values do not allow it to silently tolerate human rights violations and that it in no way supports Belarusian dictatorship." "We urge European Commission Vice-President and High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Catherine Ashton to foster greater co-operation between Member States and European Institutions, and to assist Europe in releasing the people of Belarus from the dictatorial grip.
This way, Belarus can be on its way to join the democracies of Europe," concluded Adriaenssens. For participating in the action, three young Russian activists, also associated with the youth branch of the Yabloko (The Russian United Democratic Party), were arrested and imprisoned in the Russian cit of Omsk. Facing an unexpected early morning wakeup call in a harsh Russian prison, the three campaigners of conscious now face a number of augmented charges, including vandalism and public disorder, which considering that no statues were damaged or public unrest was caused, is somewhat ludicrous.