Thank you Chair and Foreign Minister Liimets, for convening this meeting on the situation in Belarus, which is a cause of serious concern.
It has been more than a year now since the 2020 elections. They were neither free nor fair, and, as a consequence, the Belarusian people were deprived of their basic and fundamental democratic rights.
The political crisis in Belarus goes on and on: systematic repression, threats and violence continue unabatedly. The regime has stabilized its power through fear, massive repression and through the unscrupulous support from Moscow.
A constantly growing number of political detainees – now more than 670 – languish in the regime’s prisons – and tens of thousands of Belarusians had to leave their home country. They are fleeing from persecution and a growing sense of despair in a country, where the government treats its own people as if they were enemies.
We call for the immediate release of all unlawfully detained people. This includes Maria Kolesnikova and Maksim Znak, both of whom have been convicted to lengthy sentences on spurious charges. In fact, they are political prisoners. Their imprisonment is a mockery of the rule of law.
Equally shocking is the forced diversion of an international flight, in order to arrest journalist Roman Protasevich and his partner. This irresponsible and deplorable act put 132 passengers and crew members at risk. This is another violation of international law.
Sadly, the regime’s repression against its own people is just one example of how Minsk abuses ordinary people for its political ends. The regime also plays a cynical game and endangers refugees and migrants by trafficking them across the border with the EU in order to put pressure on neighboring countries. This orchestrated campaign has already resulted in the several deaths on the border.
We are convinced that the Human Rights Council as well as the Security Council need to continue to shine a spotlight on the situation in Belarus. As far as the Human rights Council is concerned the work of the Special Rapporteur on Belarus is indispensable in this regard. And the same is true of the International Accountability Platform on Belarus that Germany is proud to support.
The European Union has reacted firmly and speedily by imposing measures on those responsible. Our message is clear: we are going after the perpetrators while standing by the Belarusian people. To be clear: the people of Belarus are not targeted by these measures.
Additionally, the German government has launched an Action Plan “Civil Society Belarus”. Among others victims of torture, detainees and those seeking to flee from political persecution were supported and will be supports by these measures.
While these measures address some effects of the persisting crackdown in Belarus it remains clear that there is only one sustainable solution to the crisis and it is simple and straightforward: I urge the Belarusian authorities to finally engage with and listen to their own people, and to heed the aspirations of the people to democracy and human rights.
We call on Minsk to start a genuine and inclusive national dialogue and to engage with the OSCE. The OSCE stands ready to assist in finding a way out of the impasse.
Germany will continue to stand with the people of Belarus in these times of crisis and will support them, where possible, to restore their democratic rights.
I thank you for your attention.