2021.07.15

European Commission to allocate Lithuania 10 million euros to resolve migrant crisis

During a recent sitting at the European Parliament Committee on Foreign Affairs and Committee on Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs, there was a lengthy discussion of the situation regarding the transportation of illegal migrants from Belarus across the Lithuanian border.

Participating European Commissioner Ylva Johansson from Sweden said that the arrival of migrants crossing the border from Belarus to Lithuania illegally has increased by a factor of 22, with the situation worsening by the week. Most of the migrants are from Iraq, Congo and Cameroon. “The EU imposed sanctions on Belarus and expanded them, and the Lukashenko regime responded. It appears that the Belarusian government is aiding the illegal migrants and that this is a response to Lithuania’s actions in defending Belarusian civil society,” the European Commissioner said.

Based on available information, it can be noted that the migrants are arriving from Istanbul and Baghdad to Minsk via commercial flight, with the Belarusians organising several flights a day and then transporting the migrants to the Belarusian-Lithuanian border, where they continue to cross it in unmonitored location. They then request asylum. “This is a difficult situation, and so it is important for us to show solidarity with Lithuania,” said European commissioner Y. Johansson.

According to Johansson, the European Commission is prepared to offer financial support, and in order to assist with resolving the illegal migrant crisis, 10 million euros are to be allocated from various programmes. Furthermore, there are to be discussions held on suspending the visa regime with Belarus, with Johansson stating that migrants should not become a political tool and that Lithuania must receive the EU’s support. Lithuanian Minister of Interior Affairs Agnė Bilotaitėsaid that this influx of illegal migrants is a hybrid attack against Lithuania, and indeed all of the European Union.

“Illegal migration is exploited as a weapon, and its scale has increased dramatically,” she said, as she believes that this is happening due to Lithuania’s active support to Belarusian civil society, adding “It’s a war against the entire EU and Western democracies.” The minister introduced the situation in-depth at the Lithuanian-Belarusian border and presented documentary evidence on how the Belarusian regime is assisting the migrants in reaching Belarus. Most of the arriving migrants come without documents and with one-way tickets, but a tourism agency with ties to the Belarusian regime’s administration issues them visas at Minsk Airport. Furthermore, traces of border crossing and such are concealed. According to the minister, Belarus’ border guards do not cooperate with Lithuanian institutions and do not perform any investigations of illegal crossings across the Belarusian-Lithuanian border.

She also introduced the measures that Lithuania has employed in seeking to contain the situation on the EU’s border. Member of the European Parliament Rasa Juknevičienė, who initiated the discussions on this issue, noted that this is no simple case of migration but a hybrid attack supported by the Kremlin and perpetrated by Lukashenko against not only Lithuania but all of the European Union. “People are thrown across the border like bombs in an effort to assault a neighbouring country’s sovereignty. In Lithuania, we link this attack to not only the Lukashenko regime’s revenge for our support to democratic forces but also to the looming Russian-Belarusian military exercises Zapad 2021,” said the MEP. According to Juknevičienė, their scenario had numerous hybrid warfare elements during similar exercises two years ago.

“There is a high likelihood that this year, numerous non-conventional measures will be employed. This also includes artificially inflated migrant flows, live disinformation in EU languages, and various proxy structures within countries,” she said. Also, the MEP pointed out, migrants, that is to say, human beings from distant countries, are being exploited as a tool. “You have to be blunt about this. Lukashenko’s team is working alongside the Kremlin in creating transportation chains for illegal migrants. They are as if a component part of the military complex and can be promptly leveraged for attacks against neighbouring countries, and information has surfaced that there is also close cooperation with Iranian special services,” the MEP pointed out.

She emphasised that the EU must inspect the situation in-depth, particularly with regards to security and defence. “If analysis and prompt solutions are not employed, far larger attacks could occur in the future against any EU country. If we are talking about strategic security autonomy, this is precisely where the EU should be able to predict threats and have the capacity to defend itself,” said Juknevičienė. According to the MEP, if Lithuania fails, it will be a sign to Lukashenko-type dictators that they can use this sort of weapon at an even wider scope, and at a larger scale. The session included the director of the European Border and Coast Guard Agency FRONTEX Fabrice Leggeri, who introduced which measures the agency has turned to in response to this crisis, as well as European External Action Service representative Luc Devigne, with statements also from other MEPs.

2021.07.01

A. Kubilius. Belarus, not Mr Lukashenko, is the EU partner in the Eastern Partnership initiative

Illegitimate Mr Lukashenko has forged the elections and became an usurpator of power in Belarus.

The regime of Lukashenko is trying continuously and desperately to hold onto power by using repressions against the innocent Belarusians and by committing terroristic acts, fear-mongering, using mass propaganda and threats.

The decisions of Mr Lukashenko from the point of view of international law are null and void.

The recent statement of the Lukashenko regime on the so-called suspension of Belarus’ participation in the Eastern Partnership means the only thing: the dictator Lukashenko might be leaving the Eastern Partnership initiative, however neither he nor his illegitimate regime is in a position to remove Belarus from the EU Eastern Partnership policy and programmes.

Decisions of the illegitimate regime have no legal consequences. For the EU, its member states and institutions, Belarus remains the partner in the Eastern Partnership initiative. Similarly, any further decisions of Mr Lukashenko or his regime regarding Belarus will be null and void.

The decisions on the future of Belarus are in the hands of the people of Belarus. Only the people of Belarus by means of free and democratic elections can choose the path for their country.

We expect that the dictator Lukashenko will soon make one last right decision to leave Belarus. The international community and the EU in particular stands with the people of Belarus and is ready to assist them in a peaceful transition of power via democratic and free elections.

The European Parliament underlines that Belarus remains in the Eastern Partnership initiative and is ready to increase engagement with the democratic forces of Belarus. In the same spirit, the leaders of the democratic Belarus should be officially invited to represent Belarus in the forthcoming Eastern Partnership Summit, which will be held in Brussels in December 2021. The illegitimate declarations of the usurpator Lukashenko will have no impact on the status of Belarus in the Eastern Partnership initiative.

Andrius Kubilius, MEP

The Co-President of the Euronest Parliamentary Assembly

2021.06.02

Belarus: Four-action plan

After the past few weeks’ events pertaining to Belarus, everyone is naturally left with the question, ‘what next?’ What can the West do for the Lukashenko regime to be finally stopped, and the Belarusian people have restored what Lukashenko stole from them – their free and democratic elections?

How can we finally halt a regime, which, if it is not stopped in time, will turn from authoritarian to terrorist? How are Putin’s plans to realise a “creeping” annexation of Belarus, which would be no different to the Crimean occupation, to be stopped? All these questions demand clear answers, as well as clear actions, from the West. It is good that immediately after the aircraft hijacking, the European Union demonstrated atypical resolve, unity and effectiveness, and it is also good that new sanctions packages are in the pipeline. But it is worth considering further leverage, which could help finally resolve the Belarusian crisis.

In the short-term, I see four little-discussed key measures, which are described very briefly here:

– International tribunal against Lukashenko: It is entirely evident that Lukashenko’s actions, both the terrorist aircraft hijacking and the persecution of the Belarusian people, are in line with all traits of crimes punishable by international law. It is also clear that this will one day be deliberated on at some international tribunal. I International experts are already collecting evidence and testimonies of such crimes; however, the tribunal is needed sooner rather than later because only this can halt the so-far unstoppable crimes. Western democracies must urgently consider how to establish such a tribunal without waiting for United Nations approval, or where the Kremlin will leverage its veto right to block such decisions. Such decisions by Western democracies are necessary now not only to immediately put a stop to Lukashenko’s crimes, but also so that other leaders who are inclined toward authoritarianism and brutal persecution of the opposition are preventatively warned today about what awaits them if they follow Lukashenko’s example.

– “Belarusian sanctions” on Putin: Putin remains the single ally and supporter of Lukashenko, and it is only thanks to his support does Lukashenko continue to commit his crimes against the Belarusian people. Putin makes no effort to conceal his interest in ensuring that in return for this support, the illegitimate citizen Lukashenko will cede to him the remnants of Belarusian sovereignty, allowing Putin to fully realise his illegal creeping annexation of Belarus. Putin’s actions – both his support to the terrorist A. Lukashenko regime, and the plans for creeping annexation, are a severe attempt at Belarus’ sovereignty, which belongs not to the illegitimate Lukashenko, but to Belarus’ people. The West must immediately, clearly, and loudly indicate that it is prepared to impose the strongest sanctions on Russia if the Kremlin refuses to quickly retract its support for the criminal Lukashenko regime, and if the Kremlin does not abandon its plans to realise the illegal annexation of Belarus. Putin must realise that “Belarusian sanctions” will be just as painful as the “Ukrainian sanctions” the Kremlin was met with following the Crimean and Donetsk occupations in 2014.

– J. Biden’s pressure on Putin: On June 16, a meeting is planned between President of the United States Joe Biden and Putin, and this is a good opportunity to relay a unified message from the West to Putin’s regime: hands off Belarus! Also, off Ukraine and A. Navalny! Equally, consequences (sanctions) must be clearly presented in case the Kremlin pretends that it failed to hear or understand the call to cease being an enabler of Lukashenko’s crimes. As of late, the Kremlin has understood the polite talks from the West, the diplomatic manoeuvres and attempts to perceive a soul in Putin’s eyes as a sign of Western weakness, which incites even greater aggression from the Kremlin. It is time for the West to learn to talk to the Kremlin in a firm language of principles, and the Belarusian crisis is a litmus test for the West.

– Western (European Union) leadership: one of the main troubles for the West, highlighted during the protracted Belarus crisis, is a clear deficit in leadership. After reviewing all the European Union institutions in my mind, I cannot find any institutional heads or their subordinates who could be described as leaders who would take to 24/7 solving of the Belarus crisis, and the same can be said of the EU member states. Greater movement only occurs if something special happens in Belarus, such as an aeroplane hijacking. In such a case, leadership, coordination and efficiency surface, however, to solve the Belarus crisis, we need long-term Western leadership, not a one-off. We need joint European Union and US efforts to resolve the Belarus crisis. Even the much smaller scale Georgian political crisis required the personal efforts of European Council President Charles Michel to resolve, and such leadership is also needed to resolve the Belarus crisis. This four-action plan is necessary not only for suffering Belarus. It is also needed for the European Union and indeed the entire West, so that we may finally be freed from torturous political despair.

The article was published in www.15min.lt 

2021.05.23

Statement of MEP A. Kubilius: Dictator Lukashenko has initiated an act of the State terrorism and aggression against EU citizens and EU private company

On 23 May 2021, at noon, Belarus Air Force fighter jets have hijacked the Ryanair flight FR4978 originating from Athens and bound for Vilnius with 171 passengers on board, including the journalist Roman Protasevich, who was detained by the Belarus authorities after the passenger plane was forced to land in Belarus by the order of A. Lukashenko.

This is a direct violation of the Chicago Convention on the International Civil Aviation. Dictator Lukashenko has initiated an act of the State terrorism and aggression against the EU citizens and the EU private company.

Roman should be freed immediately and allowed to continue his travel.

Extraordinary meetings of the UN Security Council and the EU European Council have to be called immediately to launch an international investigation of the acts of State terrorism in Belarus.

Andrius Kubilius is the Co-President of the Euronest Parliamentary Assembly  

2021.03.23

For Our Freedom and Yours – Declaration in Support of Free and Democratic Belarus

Since the fraudulent elections of 9 August 2020, the people of Belarus, gathering by hundreds of thousands in peaceful rallies all over Belarus and in exile, have been demanding freedom for Belarus. Alexander Lukashenko and his regime stole the victory of Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya, rigged the elections and launched a brutal struggle against his own people.

The illegitimate regime of Lukashenko is practising a mere brutality by repressing tens of thousands of peaceful demonstrators, using a torture on the innocent people, which has resulted in traumas of many citizens and deaths of Alexander Taraikovsky, Alexander Vikhor, Nikita Krivtsov, Kanstantsin Shyshmakou, Hienadz Shutau, Denis Kuznetsov, Roman Bondarenko and others.

There are nearly 300 political prisoners in Belarus. Maryia Kalesnikava, Viktar Babaryka, Siarhei Tsikhanouski, Mikola Statkevich, Paval Sieviaryniec, Ihar Losik and many, many others remain in prison for their dream to see Belarus free again.

On the occasion of 25 March, the Freedom Day of Belarus, we, undersigned, stand in solidarity with Democratic Belarus and express our full support for the enormous sacrifice and courage of the people of Belarus, our closest neighbour.

We invite all parliaments in Europe, U.S., Canada and other countries to organise groups “For democratic Belarus” and keep coordinating our efforts within this framework.

We, undersigned, invite the leaders of the EU, its Member States, G7 and partner countries, as well as international organisations to take bold leadership and initiate a process for a peaceful transition of power through the new elections in Belarus. This effort made by international community should lead to ending the terror and repressions in Belarus, freeing all detainees and political prisoners, and setting a course forholding free and democratic elections in the coming months before 9 August 2021.

Andrius Kubilius, Co-Chair, on behalf of the Informal Group of Friends of Democratic Belarus in the European Parliament

Andrzej Halicki, Co-Chair, on behalf of the Informal Group of Friends of Democratic Belarus in the European Parliament

Žygimantas Pavilionis, Chair, on behalf of the Informal Group of Friends of Democratic Belarus in the Lithuanian Parliament,

Olexey Honcharenko, Chair, on behalf of the Informal Group of Friends of Democratic Belarus in the Ukrainian Parliament,

Robert Tyszkiewicz, Chair, on behalf of the Informal Group of Friends of Democraticp Belarus in the Polish Parliament

2020.12.02

Belarus: MEPs strongly condemn the continuous human rights violations by state authorities

MEPs and experts discussed the international efforts to investigate human rights abuses and seek justice for victims in Belarus, on Tuesday afternoon.

During the debate, Professor Dr. Wolfgang Benedek presented the content of the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe’s (OSCE) new report under the Moscow Mechanism on alleged human rights violations in Belarus following the fraudulent presidential elections on 9 August.

Members expressed their deep concern over the findings, which clearly point to a continuous brutal crackdown by states authorities and security forces on peaceful protesters, arbitrary mass arrests of demonstrators, civil society representatives and independent journalists, documented torture of detainees and several other severe human rights abuses.

They also conveyed their genuine appreciation for the Belarusian citizens, including human rights defenders, who continue to work on collecting and documenting witness statements and evidence of the brutality on the ground.

“The European Parliament should support a Belarus justice hub, under its democracy support programmes. This hub, as it was already referred to in Parliament’s resolution, could include a centre to collect evidence, and an international panel of law experts to assist with investigations in international and domestic courts, including when it comes to the matter of applying universal jurisdiction in torture cases”, said Andrius Kubilius (EPP, LT), Chair of the delegation to the Euronest Parliamentary Assembly.

A new sanctions regime needed

MEPs also heard testimonies from Anaïs Marin, UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Belarus, and Eugenia Andreyuk, human rights lawyer and expert on the International Committee on Investigation of Torture.

Most of the participants stressed the need for the EU to keep pushing for an international investigation of the crimes committed by the Belarusian state and to set up and support new mechanisms to help victims with criminal proceedings, in cooperation with international law experts.

They also called on the EU to start moving from words to action, including by finally putting in place a global human rights sanctions regime, in order to target individual perpetrators in Belarus with sanctions. All the regime officials responsible for grave crimes must be brought to justice, MEPs underlined.

Members also called on the Belarusian authorities to start cooperating with international representatives and organisations, such as the OSCE and the UN Special Rapporteur.

For all the interventions in full, you can watch the debate again here. (01.12.2020)

The debate was organised by the Foreign Affairs Committee and the Subcommittee on Human Rights in association with the delegations for relations with Belarus and the Euronest Parliamentary Assembly.

EP information

2020.11.27

Time to act for the EU: five point plan for democratic Belarus

Since the fraudulent presidential election of the 9th of August 2020, the Belarusian people over nearly four months are in the midst of their fight for freedom and democracy. The political situation in Belarus, a country, which is in the heart of Europe, is deplorable and reminds us the horrors of 1937-1944. The only difference is that Belarus today is under the occupation by the Lukashenko regime, which is systemically using torture, violence and a wild-scale terror against Belarusian citizens.

The fight for democracy in Belarus is real. It is in the courtyards and streets, widespread all over Belarus. This is a Democratic Belarus Revolution. Revolution of dignity and consciousness. This Revolution has its heroes, which are the people of Belarus, and one enemy, a tyrannical Lukashenko regime, which has plunged itself in the massive repressions all over the country. Just over three months, Belarus have overpassed a number of 30 000 people imprisoned, which is constantly increasing, peaking to over 1000 people per day. These detentions are followed by the reports of torture, rape and kidnappings. At least, ten persons of the peaceful protests – Raman Bandarenka, Alexander Taraikovsky, Gennadiyd Shutov, Alexander Vikhor, Mikita Kryutsou, Denis Kuznetsov, Stanislav Chur, Alexei Demidov, Alexander Budnitsky, Konstantin Shishmakov – have been found dead since 9th of August 2020.

Up until now, the response of the EU to the legitimate demands of Democratic Belarus is clearly not sufficient. The inaction of EU and its institutions undermines the credibility of the western community to defend democracy in the heart of Europe. The EU yet has to realise that its policy on Belarus is a geopolitical litmus test for the future of democracy in the whole European continent. The failure to effectively support the changes in Belarus will only bring even wider negative implications and will work hand in hand for Putin’s regime, which is repeating Lukashenko’s experience by systemically targeting and oppressing the opposition in Russia.

Yet, it is not too late for the international community and the EU to come into the play and to liberate Belarus from the occupation. The EU can develop a comprehensive and ambitious plan to support and rebuild the institutions of Democratic Belarus.

The EU has many policy instruments as its disposal, which can and must be deployed immediately to stop the repressions in Belarus and to start a peaceful transition of power.

Action One: International Compact for Democracy At the international level, the EU can use the opportunity to boost its cooperation with the world leaders, including with the US President-elect, to defend democracy globally. The Summit for Democracy, as a new international compact, could be an opportunity for the international partners to renew commitments on defending human rights and standing against dictatorships. This is, especially, important in the eastern part of the European continent, where the people are courageously demanding changes and a genuine transformation towards democracy.

Action Two: Fully fledged policy dialogue with representatives of Democratic Belarus At the EU and national level, the determination of the European Parliament is another opportunity for the EU to act. The Parliament is ready to engage and urgently organise a fact-finding mission of MEPs to meet with Ms Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya in Vilnius and with representatives from the Coordination Council in Warsaw, to structure the demands of Democratic Belarus. This would help the European Parliament to prepare for the launching of the High-Level mission to engage with the Government of Belarus, leaders of Russia, the United States, and, most importantly, with leaders of the EU and its Member States, to work together to stop repressions of the Belarusian people, to free political prisoners and to prepare for the new elections. The EU has yet not fully used the potential of its democracy support toolbox available for the mediation needs, capacity building and electoral support for a peaceful transition of power in Belarus.

Action Three: International Tribunal of the crimes committed by Lukashenko regime The EU should be much more active in contributing, without delay, to the international investigation of the crimes of Lukashenko regime and assist the establishment of International Tribunal for this purpose. In particular, the EU can support the establishment of the evidence collection centre and the EU taskforce or panel of the international law experts to assist the international investigation of cases (Belarus Justice Hub). The European Parliament is holding hearings and meetings of its committees, working groups and delegations, but this is not enough. We need a leadership of this process internationally and nationally, for example, to coordinate domestic proceedings of applying the universal jurisdiction in the cases against torture. The instruments provided under the European Network for investigation and prosecution of genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes (Eurojust) initiative should be also used more actively. The EU must be actively supporting and contributing to the international investigation in cooperation with the UN Human Rights Council, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, the OSCE Moscow mechanism, Belarus Justice Hub, the UN Convention against Torture, to name a few organisations and initiatives among many widely recognised international instruments of justice.

Action Four: EU reform and investment support plan for Democratic Belarus The EU has to finalise, as soon as possible, a multi-billion-euro EU reform and investment support plan for Democratic Belarus, which will include reform and investment capacity building measures coordinated by the EU task-force, organisation of the international donor event with G7 and IFIs, provision of the EU external investment support instruments (EU Guarantee Instrument, EU pipeline project investment platform) as well as the proposals for national platform of investments in Democratic Belarus (coordination of investment assistance, EU macro-financial assistance, private and public investments, compact for reforms in cooperation with IFIs, IMF and national promotional institutions).

Action Five: Going operational with Democratic Belarus Representation Office (DBRO) The EU, in cooperation with the European Parliament, should act together with Ms Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya and the Coordination Council to establish without delay in Brussels the Democratic Belarus Representation Office (DBRO), which would coordinate at the EU level the dialogue mediation, policy advocacy and strategic communication needs. The European Parliament, in cooperation with EU institutions and partners, could be ready to support DBRO with democracy support, EU thematic and international support programmes. The DBRO should be given full credentials to work with the EU institutions in order to promote the interests of Democratic Belarus.

At the operational level, the EU must act quickly with the provision of EU financial support to victims of repressions, independent media, workers and their families participating in the national strike throughout Belarus. The EU can assist in organising workshops with European trade unions, facilitating the exchange of experience with colleagues from other countries having similar repressive circumstances, for example of Polish Solidarnosc and a role played there by the trade unions.

The EU institutions must work intensively in the preparation of the EU-led mediation roadmap with international leaders and to elaborate without delay the EU non-recognition policy of Lukashenko regime (as is the case with EU policy on Crimean occupation). The EU must act quickly to engage with representatives of Democratic Belarus institutions via the policy instruments of a political dialogue. The EU can do more in providing targeted sectoral economic sanctions, banning Lukashenko’s Belarus from international sport and culture events, as well as establishing a comprehensive list of Lukashenko regime mercenaries who would be subject to a wide spectrum of sanctions and, in particular, to a wide-scale EU visa ban, forbidding the entry to the EU for everyone who participated in the repressions of Belarusian people.

Finally, the EU can be more active in area of public diplomacy. It can initiate public awareness campaigns and international events, such as the meetings with international trade unions, student, media and human rights organisations. It can organise, for example, Free Belarus Forum in cooperation with the World Belarus Congress, as well as thematic events, such as Students Forum, Free Media Forum, Trade Unions Forum and Human Rights Forum to express our unwavering support to Belarus.

2020.11.14

To the Memory of Roman Bondarenko

Statement of LT EPP delegation in European Parliament

Few days ago Belarus lost another young soul, a fighter for a free Belarus, artist and former soldier, a 31 year old Roman Bondarenko, who was beaten to death by Lukashenkos men in balaclavas, after being taken from his homesquare of Peramen (Square of Change).

Roman was beaten, because he defended symbols of national flag, which were rised by local people and were attacked by criminals in balaclavas.

He could not stand the injustice, torture and repressions, cynically spread by the regime of Lukashenko in the streets and courtyards of his city Minsk and other places all over Belarus.

Roman went into the street, close to his apartment, to defend his dream of a free Belarus and was bruttaly killed.

How many deaths yet we have to witness for the international community to wake-up and take action to end a systemic brutal violence and torture of Lukashenko and his regime against the innocent people in Belarus?

The name of Roman Bondarenko should stay with us as a symbol of personal commitment to freedom, democracy and human dignity. And as a powerful reminder to us, that we cannot stay silent.

Members of European Parliament (Lithuanian delegation in EPP Group)

Rasa Juknevičienė

Andrius Kubilius

Aušra Maldeikienė

Liudas Mažylis

2020.10.20

Atrocities in Belarus: Members demand an end to impunity for regime crimes

MEPs and experts discussed the latest developments in Belarus, including possible international legal paths to bring regime officials guilty of human rights violations to justice, on Friday.

During the debate, most of the invited speakers outlined the unprecedented and large-scale continuous repression of the Belarusian people, affecting almost all sectors of society, including vulnerable groups such as children and the elderly. Belarusian human rights defenders called on the European Parliament to support the monitoring, documenting and investigations of human rights violations in the country. They also called for further targeted EU sanctions and the initiation of universal criminal jurisdiction cases, in order to fight impunity.

The international community needs to be united on Belarus

Speakers from international and regional organisations dealing with human rights issues presented the ongoing and planned initiatives regarding the monitoring of the situation and stressed the necessity for coordination and synergy within the international community to really help the people of Belarus with standing up for their rights. Elected parliamentarians have a particular responsibility in this respect and must take the lead in contributing meaningfully to this effort.

Some of the guest speakers called on the European Parliament and the EU as a whole to explore all possible international legal paths to end impunity for the ongoing regime crimes in Belarus, including applying universal criminal jurisdictions to bring perpetrators to justice.

Other experts highlighted the fact that there are some examples of international criminal jurisdiction being exercised in the past, while stressing that the possibilities for the international community to act against Belarus depends on what kind of treaties the country has ratified and its readiness to cooperate.

Parliament will continue working with its international partners

Members underlined the importance of a strong united stance by the EU, its member states and institutions, and of the EU’s continued leading role in the efforts of the international community to stop the ongoing brutal repressions and bring perpetrators to justice. They also stressed that the European Parliament could continue to build on the long-standing contacts it has with its international partners and human rights defenders, civil society organisations and independent media in Belarus, in order to support the country’s democratic forces.

Responsible parliamentary bodies will now consider concrete follow-up on the ideas put forward during the meeting and further ways on how to use the available structures and resources to meaningfully support the Belarusian people in their fight for democratic change and justice.

You can watch the debate again here (16.10.2020)

The debate was organised by the Foreign Affairs Committee and the Subcommittee on Human Rights together with the delegations for relations with Belarus and the Euronest Parliamentary Assembly.

Quotes

“The level of brutality used to suppress peaceful protests has been increasing again, as we heard in the testimonies of the Belarusian human rights defenders. The serious human rights violations that are being committed in Belarus cannot go unpunished. The perpetrators, from the leadership to masked thugs on the streets, must know that they will be brought to justice for their deeds. I look forward to continuing our joint efforts to engage with the independent voices of Belarus for a peaceful transition to democracy”, said David McAllister (EPP, DE), Chair of Parliament’s Foreign Affairs Committee.

“The fight against impunity for human rights abuses and violations becomes more universal. Nobody can hide, nobody can escape the responsibility that comes with acts of violence and torture. It is our willingness to actively support and cooperate with international and regional investigative tools and mechanisms. It is clear that there is a strong desire from Parliament for immediate action in favour of justice and accountability in Belarus.”, said Maria Arena (S&D, BE), Chair of Parliament’s Subcommittee on Human Rights.

“Sadly, regime violence and repression are now “business as usual” in Belarus. In the past months, peaceful protesters, women, students, strikers, civil society activists and independent journalists have been harassed, arrested and detained by the thousands. We have received numerous reports of appalling police brutality and torture in prisons. It is high time for the EU to step up its work in helping the Belarusian democratic forces more concretely, because at the moment, the Union is not doing enough”, said Robert Biedroń (S&D, PL), Chair of Parliament’s delegation for relations with Belarus.

“The European Parliament has always been at the frontline when it comes to defending and promoting human rights. Therefore, it is all the more important that we assume a leadership role when it comes to shaping a dialogue with all the main stakeholders involved in international investigations of crimes committed against the people of Belarus. In this way, we need to focus on our next step actions to support a systematic collection of evidence, the cooperation with international law experts, including working with national experts in the context of universal jurisdiction, and cooperate with the future European Observatory to fight impunity”, said Andrius Kubilius (EPP, LT), Chair of Parliament’s delegation to the Euronest Parliamentary Assembly.

2020.10.08

MEP urging Minister Linkevičius on Schengen visa-ban to violent law informant officers of Belarus

Members of the European Parliament Andrius Kubilius and Rasa Juknevičienė have addressed Lithuanian Minister of Foreign Affairs Linas Linkevičius, urging him to take initiative and ensure that Lithuania would impose visa-ban sanctions, barring the issuing of Schengen Zone visas to a whole list of regular officers and other individuals having participated or participating in the criminal violence against Belarus’ citizens.

“The continuing violence in Belarusian cities against peaceful protesters by police and other special services is a grave concern for all of us. We are convinced that such violence is criminal and the international community must evaluate it by the strictest means possible without delay because only this can halt the continuation of such crimes,” the letter’s author MEP A. Kubilius says, “This goal could be achieved if the sanctioned individuals lists included not just 40 or 120 leaders in the Belarussian police and other special services, but also a broad list (several or a dozen hundred) of regular officers and other individuals who directly perpetrated crimes on the streets. Human rights defenders in Belarus have already compiled lists of individuals perpetrating such crimes, these lists are regularly renewed, supplemented and verified.” The letter reminds that EU institutions have finally arranged a list of sanctions on officials in the Belarussian administration (40 individuals), although A. Lukashenko himself was not included in it.

“Understanding that it could be difficult to expect that at the EU level, a unanimous agreement will be achieved for at least such sanctions to be imposed on such a broad range of individuals, we are of the firm belief that under such circumstances, Lithuania can and must take the initiative independently and in doing so, set an example for the rest of Europe,” MEP R. Juknevičienė says, “The existing Schengen Zone rules and the legal provisions in Lithuania for the Magnitsky Sanctions (the Law on Foreigners’ Legal Status) could be the legal basis for such an initiative.”

The letter’s authors indicate that such individuals would lose the right of entry into Lithuanian territory. Based on the Schengen Information System (SIS II) regulation Nr. 1987/2006 Article 24 and Visa Information System (VIS) regulation Nr. 767/2009 Article 12, the relevant services in all Schengen Zone countries would be automatically notified of Lithuania making such a decision, if such individuals sought to receive a Schengen Zone visa, making the request to the consular services of countries other than Lithuania. Contingent on the creation of such “Lithuanian” sanctions, the MEPs propose that the minister address other fellow foreign ministers for Schengen Zone countries, urging other countries to also not issue such perpetrators visas.

While the other EU countries’ relevant services are not restricted by Lithuania’s decision to not issue visas, the members of the European Parliament are convinced that other EU countries would respect Lithuania’s decision.

Read the letter:

Dear Minister,

The continuing violence in Belarusian cities against peaceful protesters by police and other special services is a grave concern for all of us. We are convinced that such violence is criminal and the international community must evaluate it by the strictest means possible without delay because only this can halt the continuation of such crimes. We view positively the fact that the European Union’s institutions have finally arranged a sanctions list of senior Belarussian administration officials (40 individuals), albeit it is regretful that A. Lukashenko was not included in the list. We also view positively that Lithuania, together with the other Baltic States, announced a far longer list of individuals under sanctions (128 individuals), which includes a wider number of institutional heads who have perpetrated crimes.

However, we are concerned that with sanctions lists only including the heads of institutions and organisations, the main important goal will not be achieved of ensuring an immediate halt to the continuing violence on the streets of Belarussian cities and towns. This goal could be achieved if the sanctions lists would include a wide range of regular officers and other individuals who directly perpetrated crimes on the streets.

Human rights defenders in Belarus have already compiled lists of individuals perpetrating such crimes, these lists are regularly renewed, supplemented and verified. We are convinced that if in the near future, it is declared that these individuals will at the very least face visa-ban sanctions, this could have a significant impact on both these individuals and others’ further behaviour. It is likely that in such a case, it would be possible to ensure that most regular police and other special service officers would refuse to continue participating in criminal activities and fulfil the criminal commands of their leadership.

Understanding that it could be difficult to expect that at the EU level, a unanimous agreement will be achieved for at least such sanctions to be imposed on such a broad range of individuals, we are of the firm belief that under such circumstances, Lithuania can and must take the initiative independently and in doing so, set an example for the rest of Europe. We are convinced that the existing Schengen Zone rules and the legal provisions of the Magnitsky Sanctions (the Law on Foreigners’ Legal Status) allow Lithuania to unilaterally (or together with the other Baltic States) take the initiative and impose a national ban on issuing Schengen visas to the entire list of such individuals.

They would lose the right of entering Lithuanian territory. Based on the Schengen Information System (SIS II) regulation Nr. 1987/2006 Article 24 and Visa Information System (VIS) regulation Nr. 767/2009 Article 12, the relevant services in all Schengen Zone countries would be automatically notified of Lithuania making such a decision, if such individuals sought to receive a Schengen Zone visa, making the request to the consular services of countries other than Lithuania. Based on the rules of the Schengen Zone, the decision made in Lithuania to not issue visas to such individuals would not be mandatory to other Schengen Zone countries – if such individuals make the request, other countries will be able to issue them Schengen Zone visas even while being informed about Lithuania’s decision in regards to said individuals. However, we are convinced that the absolute majority of citizens and politicians in Schengen Zone countries, just like the citizens and politicians of Lithuania, are outraged and horrified by the crimes of the Lukashenko regime and are prepared to do everything for these crimes to finally be stopped.

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