This day a year ago saw fraudulent presidential elections in Belarus on 9 August 2020. This has also been a year of ongoing peaceful protests by Belarusian society demanding respect for its human rights and fundamental democratic freedoms that those elections had deprived it of.
It is with deep esteem and admiration that Latvia regards endurance and spiritual strength of the Belarusian people, with the non-violent assertion of their rights taking place under the conditions of open repression and lawlessness. Tens of thousands of Belarusians from all over the country and all walks of life have been detained in the short term only because they had courage to express their civic position, thousands have been placed under arrest, and more than six hundred have been recognised as political prisoners. People are being humiliated, tortured and killed.
Throughout the year, at variance with the international commitments of Belarus, Alexander Lukashenko’s regime has been purposefully cracking down on free media and non-governmental organisations, as well as intimidating, arresting and silencing independent journalists and civic activists. Human rights defenders and members of the opposition have been arrested or forced into exile.
By hijacking an aircraft of a European Union airlines this past 23 May as well as using illegal migration as a weapon against its neighbour, Lithuania, and the European Union, Lukashenko’s regime demonstrates that it has also become a threat to international security.
Since August 2020, Latvia, together with other EU Member States and like-minded international partners has been actively demanding that Belarus cease repression and abide by human rights principles. In response to violence and human rights violations, Latvia and the EU have been gradually to stepping up sanctions pressure on Belarus and are ready increasing them, including economic measures, if the Belarusian authorities do not change their attitude. Latvia supports both the work of the International Accountability Platform for Belarus on systematic documentation of human rights violations in Belarus and preserving evidence and of other international formats to hold accountable those who perpetrate human rights violations in Belarus.
Latvia is convinced that only the Belarusian society itself can decide its own future. The only solution is a comprehensive, inclusive and democratic national dialogue which includes a new presidential election in the presence of the OSCE international observers, unconditional release of all political prisoners, stopping of repression, and respect for human rights.
Latvia, in cooperation with non-governmental organisations – the Marta Centre, the Latvian Platform for Development Cooperation, the Latvian Association of Journalists, and their partners in Belarus – have been providing practical, medical, legal and psychological support for the members of Belarusian civil society and independent media, and will do that in future.
Latvia will continue supporting the efforts of the Belarusian society to build and live in a free, sovereign, prosperous and democratic Belarus, which respects fundamental democratic freedoms and human rights of its citizens and is a constructive partner in relations between states.