Estonia demands the release of political prisoners in Belarus
14 September 2011
At the congress of Belarusians living in Europe and the United States in Tallinn today, Foreign Minister Urmas Paet said that Estonia is concerned about human rights violations and the unsatisfactory state of democracy and the rule of law in Belarus. “Political prisoners must be released and rehabilitated. The repression and persecution of the representatives of civil society must be condemned, along with the political trials against the opposition and the restriction of freedom of the press,” Paet said.
According to the Estonian Foreign Minister, it will not be possible for the European Union to take any steps toward Belarus within the framework of the Eastern Partnership before all the political prisoners in Belarus are released.
Paet noted that the future democratic development of Belarus can only be assured through the help of civil society and the principles of the rule of law. “Therefore, international sanctions have been imposed against the Belarusian regime, which is restricting human rights and civil liberties. However, these sanctions are aimed at the regime, not at citizens,” he said.
For its part, Estonia will strive to provide all possible assistance to help the development of civil society in Belarus. Since 2008, Estonia has provided support for students who have not been able to study at university in Belarus for political reasons. “We have supported the European Humanities University of Belarus and developed contacts between Estonian and Belarusian universities,” Paet noted. He added that Estonia also supports Belarusian civil society through the Eastern Partnership Centre in Tallinn. “In order to simplify travel for Belarusians and increase people-to-people contacts, we have exempted Belarusian citizens from paying the state fee for long-term visas,” Paet said.
The fourth congress of the Belarusian diaspora in Europe and the United States, called Bridges of Solidarity with Belarus in the Nordic Region, is taking place in Tallinn today. It is being organised by the nongovernmental organisation New Way for Belarus in cooperation with the international “Show Europe, Show Belarus” project. This is an annual event that includes representatives of the Belarusian diaspora from the European Union and the United States, as well as the representatives of civil society and the opposition. The event takes place in a different European city every year. This year, it is Tallinn.
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