Europe’s top security body, the Vienna-based OSCE, has urged the release of all political prisoners in Belarus, including more than 400 people arrested on July 6 at country-wide rallies against President Alexander Lukashenko’s regime.

The decision, taken on July 9 in Belgrade at the annual session of the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly, called for “the release of all persons detained in connection with the demonstrations, who must be considered political prisoners”.

The OSCE’s Ad Hoc Working Group on Belarus, formed to encourage dialogue with Minsk, called on the Belarusian authorities to release former presidential candidates and other opposition activists imprisoned in the recent protests and after last December’s post-election protest.  

According to the opposition newspaper Naviny Belarus News, Belarusian officials present at the meeting argued that the resolution might reduce the possibility of dialogue with Belarus to zero, that the situation in the country was stable and predictable and that there was no need for such a resolution.

The OSCE parliamentarians also pressed for an independent, international investigation of claims by some Belarus detainees who had fled the country that they were tortured in prison. The resolution called for all political prisoners to be allowed legal counsel, family visits and medical care.

Reporters Without Borders (RSF) said the almost daily mass arrests of journalists during the “silent protests” in Minsk and other Belarusian cities must stop at once. “The Lukashenko regime is showing its true face as its political isolation and the country’s economic decline accelerates. But the solution is not unbridled repression, which will just exacerbate the tension. The government must heed the international community’s attempts to make it see reason.”

[The July/August of The Global Journal features a look at the indomitable democratic opposition in Belarus, Europe's last Soviet style dictatorship.]