Updated at 13:35,15-07-2024

EU views only six Belrusians as political prisoners, rights defender says

Tanya Korovenkova, BelaPAN

The European Union views only six citizens of Belarus as political prisoners, Valyantsin Stefanovich, deputy chairman of a human rights organization called Vyasna (Spring), told European Radio for Belarus on Monday evening with reference to the ambassador of an EU country.

According to Mr. Stefanovich, the ambassador had an informal meeting with a group of Belarusian human rights defenders earlier in the day.

The EU has never officially stated how many Belarusians it considers to be political prisoners, but reports had it that it demanded the release of nine imprisoned opponents of Alyaksandr Lukashenka as prisoners of conscience.

According to Vyasna, there are 11 political prisoners in Belarus.

When reached by BelaPAN for comment on Tuesday, the Delegation of the European Union to Belarus would not name the Belarusians viewed by Brussels as political prisoners.

"The lists of political prisoners may differ, for different reasons," the Delegation’s spokesperson said. "First, the lists may differ between human rights organisations, based abroad or established in Belarus. Second, the number may differ from one period to another. The main point for the EU is anyway that all the political prisoners are released, that no new political prisoner appears, and that the human rights situation improves. Third, the EU takes into account different points of view, listens to experts, monitors trials, and makes its own assessment of the situation and takes its decision autonomously."

The European Union is constantly monitoring the political, economic and social situation in Belarus, with a close eye on the human rights situation, and the situation of political prisoners, the Delegation said.

"The continued existence of political prisoners in Belarus is a major concern for the EU which calls for their unconditional release," the spokesperson said. "The EU remains also concerned and calls on the Belarusian authorities to improve democracy, rule of law and human rights, including the right for all to a fair trial, not resorting to politically motivated harassment, prosecution and trial, and respecting the detainees' rights."