The British and German Foreign Ministers call for sanctions against Belarus.
By WILLIAM HAGUE AND GUIDO WESTERWELLE
The world has looked on with growing horror as, over the last six weeks, the regime in Belarus has ruthlessly and systematically sought to dismantle the country's civil society and emerging opposition.
The violence on the night of the Dec. 19 presidential election was shocking. But while the attention of the world's media has since turned to focus on other events, the repression in Belarus has continued.
Four presidential candidates and numerous political and civil society activists remain in detention; we have no independent verification of their well-being. Many of them face years in prison on charges of organizing riots, when there is mounting evidence that the election-night violence was staged by the authorities themselves. We have seen curiously stilted recantations delivered by detained opposition activists and broadcast by the state media. We can only speculate as to what prompted them to change their tune overnight.
The regime is also pursuing other means of prosecuting those Belarusians who have dared to raise an independent voice. Every day homes and offices across Belarus are being raided and trashed. More than 200 people have been taken in for interrogation by the Belarusian secret service; this is in addition to the 700 who were arrested on the night of Dec. 19. We hear reports of lawyers being disbarred from practice for speaking up about the abuses to which their clients have been subjected. We are about to see mass expulsions from universities of those students who joined the protests, as happened following the last presidential election in 2006.