Belarus: President Lukashenka Pardons Six Jailed Opposition Figures

President Aleksander Lukashenka has pardoned six imprisoned opposition figures, including Nikolai Statkevich who was jailed after running against him for the presidency in 2010. Lukashenka, is running for a fifth consecutive term in the presidential elections in October and has been at the helm since 1994, crushing all opposition activities.

The five others released are Mikalai Dziadok, Ihar Alinevich, Yury Rubtsou, Artsiom Prakapenka, and Yauhen Vaskovich. However their release does not provide for the restoration of their political and civil rights as the convictions are still in place. The convictions and unserved sentences mean that they are deprived of running in elections at all levels.

Two youth activists Vadzim Zharomski and Maksim Piakarski still remain incarcerated on politically motivated charges. Statkevich is the last to be released of a total of 10 politicians who were detained after running against Lukashenka in the 2010 elections branded as fraudulent by the West

Lukashenka’s decrees have the status of law, and in 2004, a referendum was held that led to a change in the constitution removing the two-term limit for the president. Freedom of the media, association, assembly and the right to a fair trial are severely limited in Belarus, often described in International media circles as “the last dictatorship in Europe”

”While Civil Rights Defenders welcomes the release of six political prisoners the absence of wide reaching reforms in the human rights landscape in Belarus is still a huge cause for concern”. We call on the Belarusian regime to revoke all draconian laws aimed at repressing civil society and to embrace full political pluralism and the restoration of human rights in the country,” said Joanna Kurosz, Programme Director for Eurasia at Civil Rights Defenders.