Freedom House, the Lithuanian Parliament and human rights defenders launch initiative to support Belarusian political prisoners

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Freedom House, in cooperation with the Lithuanian Parliament and Belarusian human rights defenders, launched the MP4Freedom initiative inviting Lithuanian MPs to become “godparents” of political prisoners in Belarus.“As neighbors, Lithuanians should care about the future of the Belarusian nation,” said Petras Austrevicius, deputy speaker of the Seimas, who championed the initiative on behalf of the Lithuanian Parliament.  “The idea behind this initiative is to encourage Lithuanian MPs to engage on the issue personally by becoming ‘godparents’ of political prisoners in Belarus.

Belarus is hosting Ice Hockey World Championship in May 2014 and it is not fair that some Belarusians will not have an opportunity to enjoy it due to the ongoing repressions in the country,” said Vytis Jurkonis, project director at Freedom House. “This initiative will serve as a sign of solidarity and moral support not only with the political prisoners in Belarus, but also their relatives, friends and colleagues.”

To make this initiative effective, Lithuanian MPs should address the Belarusian authorities and demand the release of political prisoners,” said Marina Lobava, the mother of a political prisoner Eduard Lobau. “MPs can write to the heads of detention facilities requesting information about the health of a particular political prisoner. They can also help by contacting the International Red Cross and facilitating its visits to prisons. International advocacy in the EU to keep the political prisoners issue on the foreign policy agenda towards Belarus is also necessary.

>Under this campaign, the participating Lithuanian parliamentarians, who represent the governing and opposition political parties alike, take the responsibility to follow the cases of particular political prisoners in Belarus, meet with their relatives, and speak publicly both at Lithuanian and international venues on human rights violations in Belarus. There are currently 10 political prisoners in Belarus, according to the Human Rights Center Viasna.

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