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Volume 447: debated on Thursday 22 June 2006

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what representations she has made to the Belarus Government following the statement of the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe that the presidential elections there were seriously flawed; what action the Government propose to take with EU partners on this matter; and if she will make a statement. (61239)

My right hon. Friend the then Minister for Europe (Mr. Alexander) made a statement on 20 March following the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE)/Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights International Election Observation Mission preliminary conclusions on the Belarusian election. He expressed our deep regret that the Belarusian authorities chose to conduct the elections in this way and the clear breach of its OSCE commitments. This statement has been brought to the attention of the Belarusian authorities.

The Government supported EU declarations on 20 and 22 March agreeing with the OSCE’s assessment of a fundamentally flawed election, deploring the arbitrary use of state power, the absence of a level playing field and the pattern of intimidation and harassment of the opposition. The EU urged the Belarusian authorities to allow the people of Belarus to exercise their right of assembly and freedom of expression in line with their OSCE commitments and called upon the Belarusian authorities to immediately release those currently detained for exercising their political rights. This declaration was brought to the attention of the Belarusian authorities during the OSCE Permanent Council meeting 23 March.

Under the UK presidency, the EU made it clear that it would be ready to take further restrictive measures against those responsible for the violations of international electoral standards. On 10 April, EU Foreign Ministers agreed a travel ban against 31 individuals deemed responsible for the fraudulent election and the subsequent crackdown on the opposition. On 18 May, EU Foreign Ministers agreed to impose further restrictive measures in the form of asset freezes on 36 individuals (including five people subject to earlier travel bans as a result of their involvement in the disappearances of opponents of the regime in 1999-2000 and the fraudulent parliamentary elections). Both the travel ban and asset freeze lists include Lukashenko.

Together with EU partners, we will continue to put pressure on the regime to improve its performance on democracy and human rights while maintaining contact with the Belarusian people by securing better-focussed EU assistance for civil society in Belarus.

The full texts of all three statements are available on the following websites: