Forty Activists Arrested on Human Rights Day

Belarusian human rights activists were arrested by the police while distributing flyers on the 60th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. The police confiscated the flyers and registered the details of the activists’ passports before releasing them an hour later. All previous talk of the country’s democratisation seems hollow in the light of todays arrests.

On the 10th December 2008, it is the 60th anniversary of the UN’s Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Belarusian human rights activists celebrated this in central Minsk by distributing flyers with information about the Declaration. The police retaliated by arresting 27 activists and confiscating the flyers. Later in the day, a further 13 people were arrested.

Six of those arrested, Ales Bialiatski, Uladzimir Labkovitj, Sergej Sys, Irina Tolstik, Maina Statkevitj and Alena Matsekevitj hold prominent positions in the human rights organisation Viasna. The rest were young people from the opposition party Belarusian People’s Front, BNP. All were held at the police station for an hour. The police took note of their passport details after which they were released.

They gave no reason, only that they were following orders. I suppose the authorities do not want a scandal, says Ales Bialiatski, chairman of Viasna after the release.

Recently, Belarus has allowed two oppositional newspapers to be published through the state-owned distribution network, and taken other measures to convince the west that the country is on the road to democracy.

In October the EU lifted travel restrictions for 40 Belarusian politicians and civil servants, among them the dictator Alexander Lukashenka. Those on the list have not been able to travel through EU countries since the Belarusian presidential election in 2006. The opinion of the Swedish Helsinki Committee is that today’s arrests show clearly that Belarus does not take the democratic process seriously.

Categories: News.
Tags: Universal Declaration of Human Rights and Viasna.
Regions: Belarus.