EU officials praise Belarus for release of political prisoners News
EU officials praise Belarus for release of political prisoners

[JURIST] EU officials on Saturday praised Belarus’ president for his release of political prisoners. High Representative/Vice President Federica Mogherini and Commissioner for European Neighbourhood Policy and Enlargement Negotiations, Johannes Hahn stated [text], “this is a long-sought step forward” and that “[t]oday’s releases represent important progress in the efforts towards the improvement of relations between the EU and Belarus.” The releases included former opposition presidential candidate Nikolai Statkevich, who spent nearly five years in prison before his release.

Belarus has faced continued scrutiny over human rights abuses. In June UN Special Rapporteur on Belarus Miklos Haraszti warned [JURIST report] that Belarus continues to sentence and imprison political opponents of the government. In March 2014 he called for the country to end its use of the death penalty, reiterating earlier statements [JURIST reports] and citing politically motivated courts and the lack of fair trials. In 2011 former UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay suggested a need for UN intervention [JURIST report] in Belarus and demanded the nation free non-violent political prisoners. Although Belarus is an active member of the UN and has ratified many of its human rights policies, Pillay noted a sharp deterioration in human rights since the 2010 disputed re-election of President Alexander Lukashenko [BBC profile], who has been in power since 1994.