The Committee on Political Affairs and Democracy made the following statement:
“The committee welcomes the Assembly decision to award the first ever Václav Havel Human Rights Prize, which honours outstanding civil society action in defence of human rights, to Belarusian human rights activist Ales Bialiatski, and believes that he is a symbol of all human rights defenders facing repression in Belarus.
Following a hearing on 2 October in Strasbourg with the participation of Natallia Radzina, Editor-in-chief of the independent Belarusian news site Charter97.org and Aliaksandr Lahviniec, Vice-Chairperson of the Movement for Freedom, the committee is deeply concerned about the conditions of political prisoners and allegations of violence, torture and forced psychiatric treatment. It once again urges the Belarusian government to immediately and unconditionally release the eleven political prisoners who remain in jail.
Furthermore, the committee reiterates that any opening of constructive dialogue between the Parliamentary Assembly and the Belarusian authorities should remain conditional on the release of political prisoners and on a moratorium on the use of the death penalty, as well as on substantial, tangible and verifiable progress in terms of respect for the democratic values and principles upheld by the Council of Europe, as stressed in Assembly Resolution 1857.
Finally, the committee underlines that such dialogue must systematically include Belarusian civil society, which also needs to be fully involved in the preparation of the forthcoming Council of Europe Action Plan on Belarus”.