OSCE Chairperson concerned about trials of protestors in Belarus and calls for monitors to observe

The FINANCIAL - VILNIUS. The OSCE Chairperson-in-Office, Lithuanian Foreign Minister Audronius Azubalis, expressed strong concern on February 17 that the courts in Belarus have started trials and the sentencing of people who participated in demonstrations last December.

He fully supports the intention of the OSCE Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR) to send observers to monitor future trials and urges the authorities to ensure that the observers can conduct their work.

"I would like to stress that freedom of assembly is a fundamental democratic right. Of particular concern is that parts of the first trial were held in camera. This is unacceptable. I am also concerned about reports of a number of defence lawyers having their licenses revoked. The OSCE needs to monitor such trials in the future to provide an independent assessment to our participating States," said Azubalis, adding that all participating States have made a commitment to accept the presence of trial monitors.

Two months ago, the heads of state and government of all OSCE participating States, including Belarusian President Lukashenko, adopted the Astana Declaration, which states that their commitments ":in the field of the human dimension are matters of direct and legitimate concern to all participating States and do not belong exclusively to the internal affairs of the State concerned. We value the important role played by civil society and free media in helping us to ensure full respect for human rights, fundamental freedoms, democracy, including free and fair elections, and the rule of law."

Two weeks ago, the OSCE Representative for Freedom of the Media also called for an end to the harassment of the media in Belarus and regretted the failure of the authorities to facilitate her visit to the country.

ODIHR observed the 19 December election and will issue its final report next week.


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