Foreign minister Uri Rosenthal has condemned the violence that followed the recent presidential election in Belarus. The mistreatment and arrest of a number of opposition leaders, human rights defenders and demonstrators are cause for serious concern. 'I urge the authorities in Belarus to release the detainees immediately,' Mr Rosenthal said. 'Subjecting opposition leaders to violence and imprisonment is unacceptable.'
This afternoon the OSCE's Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights presented its initial findings on the conduct of the presidential election, identifying serious shortcomings. In particular, the way in which votes were counted raised questions, according to the OSCE. Mr Rosenthal responded by saying, 'I find it extremely regrettable that once again these elections have not been free and fair.'
The Netherlands is working hard at EU level to promote rights and freedoms and democratisation in Belarus. Given the conduct of the election and the resulting violence, the Netherlands will maintain its critical stance within the EU on the Union's future relationship with Belarus.