Motion for a resolution - B9-0330/2021Motion for a resolution

MOTION FOR A RESOLUTION on systematic repression in Belarus and its consequences for European security following abductions from an EU civilian plane intercepted by the Belarusian authorities

7.6.2021 - (2021/2741(RSP))

to wind up the debate on the statements by the Council and the Commission
pursuant to Rule 132(2) of the Rules of Procedure

Helmut Scholz
on behalf of The Left Group

Procedure : 2021/2741(RSP)
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European Parliament resolution on systematic repression in Belarus and its consequences for European security following abductions from an EU civilian plane intercepted by the Belarusian authorities


The European Parliament,

 having regard to the report of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights of 15 February 2021 on the situation of human rights in Belarus in the context of the 2020 presidential election,

 having regard to the resolution of the UN Human Rights Council of 5 March 2021 on the situation of human rights in Belarus in the run-up to the 2020 presidential election and in its aftermath,

 having regard to the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) rapporteur’s report under the Moscow Mechanism on alleged human rights violations related to the presidential elections of 9 August 2020 in Belarus, published on 5 November 2020, and the recommendations contained therein,

 having regard to Rule 132(2) of its Rules of Procedure,

A. whereas the Belarusian security services and air traffic control agency forced Ryanair flight 4978, travelling from Athens to Vilnius, to land in Minsk, following an bomb threat which has since been contested; whereas this latest incident has resulted in ever increasing attention among the international public and criticism in a number of states;

B. whereas the forced landing of the Ryanair flight terrorised innocent passengers on board and violated fundamental safety norms of civil aviation in general;

C. whereas this incident is the latest in a series of political events which have raised grave concerns among a broad section of Belarusian society, many citizens and opposition forces which have been under growing pressure from the current Lukashenko regime for at least nine months; whereas it has to be seen in the context of general social, political and economic developments in Belarus, which have led to polarisation and deep splits in Belarusian society;

D. whereas the announcement of the election results on 9 August 2020 triggered mass protests contesting the legitimacy of the outcome; whereas both UN and OSCE investigations and conclusions confirmed reports about grave violations of human and democratic rights in Belarus in the run-up to the 2020 presidential election and in its aftermath, including numerous acts of torture; enforced disappearances; abductions and arbitrary expulsions, including the politically motivated arbitrary expulsion from the territory of Belarus of members of the Coordination Council; arbitrary arrests and detention, including of minors; acts of sexual and gender-based violence; arbitrary deprivation of life; attacks against and harassment, intimidation and arbitrary detention of members of the political opposition, including members of the Coordination Council, human rights defenders, civil society representatives, journalists and other media workers, and people seeking to peacefully exercise their civil and political rights; denial of the right to freedom of peaceful assembly; and denial of the right to freedom of opinion and expression, both online and offline, including through attacks on the media and the regular harassment of journalists while they exercise their legitimate functions in the context of assemblies, by revoking foreign media workers’ accreditations, blocking independent media websites and shutting down the Internet;

E. whereas according to the General Prosecutor’s Office, over the period from August 2020 to April 2021, more than three thousand criminal cases were initiated related to the organisation and conduct of illegal mass events and protests; whereas it also reported over 750 acts of alleged desecration of buildings and damage to property, approximately 600 insults to government officials, and more than 300 cases of violence or threats of its use against police officers; whereas estimates suggest that more than 300 people are being held as political prisoners and more than 30 000 people are reported as having been through a detention process; whereas there are many reports of alleged torture;

F. whereas in the context of the protests, journalists and social media activists and bloggers in particular have been routinely detained; whereas hundreds of journalists have been arrested, dozens have faced administrative detention and reportedly experienced violence and several have been fined; whereas journalists have been placed in pre-trial detention and faced criminal charges; whereas there have been numerous reports of the authorities revoking the accreditation of journalists, including foreign media correspondents, several of whom have been arrested and expelled from Belarus;

G. whereas the UN Human Rights Committee and other international human rights mechanisms have repeatedly highlighted the fact that multiple provisions of the Belarus legal framework contradict international norms and standards, and that they restrict freedom of expression both offline and online; whereas successive amendments to the Law on Mass Media have extended restrictions on licensing, content monitoring, and media warning and suspension procedures to online resources and outlets, and granted authorities broad discretionary powers to block websites without a court decision;

H. whereas additional amendments to media legislation in force were adopted in May 2021; whereas these amendments allow media outlets to be shut down without a court hearing; whereas journalists covering unauthorised events will be regarded as participants; whereas livestreaming (live broadcasting online) and the publishing of polls by non-accredited entities will be banned; whereas the list of reasons for refusing press accreditation has been extended, as has the list of kinds of content banned in the media; whereas all of these measures have been taken by the current ruling authorities in Belarus to curtail further the freedoms of the media, of expression and of assembly, as well as to cut transparency about state behaviour as a necessary precondition for the democratic functioning of a society;

I. whereas both Raman Pratasevich and his Russian girlfriend, Sofia Sapega, were arrested during the forced landing in Minsk of an Ryanair flight from Athens to Vilnius; whereas Pratasevich is an investigative journalist and was editor-in-chief of Warsaw-based Nexta Live, a social media channel that published information about the activities of the opposition and demonstrations and has become the favoured way of organising protests in Belarus; whereas Raman Pratasevich has refugee status in the EU;

J. whereas in a video posted online, Raman Pratasevich said he is in good health and acknowledged having played a role in organising mass protests in Minsk; whereas Pratasevich’s appearance on Belarusian state television was not reassuring, given the apparent bruising to his face and the strong likelihood that his appearance was not voluntary, and that the ‘confession’ had been made under duress; whereas such forced confessions are prohibited under the United Nations Convention against Torture;

K. whereas in response to the Ryanair flight’s forced landing, the EU imposed additional sanctions, including targeted economic sanctions;

L. whereas despite the repression against trade unionists and workers for their participation in protests, worker’s organisations have called for the economic sanctions against Belarusian enterprises to be lifted because they believe that such sanctions might lead to job losses, lower salaries and further restrictions of their labour rights;

1. Denounces the forced landing of Ryanair flight 4978 in Minsk on 23 May 2021 and calls on the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) to investigate this incident urgently; urges the Belarusian authorities to cooperate with international air transport institutions, in particular the ICAO, in investigating the events related to the landing of Ryanair flight 4978, with a view to fully clarifying what happened; notes the claims of the Belarusian authorities that they are prepared to do so;

2. Is concerned by the tendency of states to interfere in international air transport and its internationally agreed rules and standards for political reasons, recently by Belarus and previously by other states; reminds all states of their obligation to respect international law with regard to international rules on air transport; calls on the EU not apply double standards when reacting on such incidents;

3. Condemns the ongoing prosecutions against critical voices, protesters and civil society activists in Belarus; notes with deep concern the high number of criminal cases related to the organisation and conduct of illegal mass events and protests; calls on the Belarussian authorities to stop this practice immediately and to drastically change course; stresses that this policy undermines the basic norms and values of Belarusian society as well as its cohesiveness;

4. Calls on all forces in Belarus and the international community to explore ways for dialogue and mediation with the aim of returning to national dialogue between all political forces without excluding anyone on the way forward;

5. Calls on the Belarusian authorities to ensure full respect for human and democratic rights; expresses concern at the intention to postpone the elections to the regional boards of deputies by a year and a half until the end of 2023;

6. Condemns the ongoing prosecutions of journalists and other media workers; calls on the Belorussian authorities to ensure full respect for human rights, including freedom of the press and freedom of expression; notes with deep concern that the arrest of Raman Pratasevich and Sofia Sapega is a sign of an extremely worrying escalation in the crackdown against critical voices, including those living abroad; calls for the release of all journalists and media workers arrested in the context of the protests;

7. Calls on the authorities of Belarus to release Raman Pratasevich and Sofia Sapega immediately and to allow them to leave the country;

8. Calls for the urgent release of all political prisoners and all those arrested in the context of the post-election protests;

9. Reiterates its position of principle that international law has to be respected in its entirety, namely international human rights law and the provision of the UN Charter relating to the principles of international relations, including the sovereign right of the people to choose their future without foreign interference or procedures for imposing sanctions; rejects and denounces double standards in the assessment and application of those norms;

10. Notes the international support for the protesting civil society in Belarus striving to overcome the dead-end and find solution to the deep crisis;

11. Stresses that the spiral of imposing more and more sanctions is no reasonable alternative to the acceptance of the previous policy of the Lukashenko regime aimed at selectively balancing increased relations with the Russian Federation on one side and intensified relations with the EU on the other, with the only aim of ensuring the continuation of the regime’s political power; notes that both policies have failed and have resulted in ever growing regional tensions and repression within Belarus;

12. Calls on the EU to work together with the OSCE and the UN towards ending the confrontation within Belarus and returning to a national dialogue; urges all international partners to respect the right of the Belarusian people to decide their path of development free from any external pressure and interference;

13. Expresses concern at the negative impact of the economic sanctions already imposed or planned by the EU for the whole Belarusian people; therefore rejects economic sanctions; stresses that they risk deepening the rift in Belarusian society, contributing to the worsening of the social situation of many people in the country, and that they will not contribute to returning to democracy and reconciliation in Belarusian society;

14. Recognises targeted restrictive measures on responsible politicians or other persons found guilty of violating human rights and responsible for the oppression those striving for a pluralistic democratic society and debate, exercising their political and social rights, including strikes and freedom of expression;

15. Expresses concern at the rising tensions in the region; deplores statements and policies of Lithuania and Poland which fuel confrontation in the region; calls on all parties involved to exercise restraint and to stop fuelling the internal conflict in Belarus;

16. Calls on the EU to respect the lasting wish of a majority of people in Belarus to continue the cooperation and the friendly and mutually advantageous relations of their sovereign state with both the EU and all its Member States and with the Russian Federation: recalls that relations between Belarus and Russia are deeply rooted in particular in the experiences of the 20th century and had an influence on the transition processes that started in all newly independent states of the former USSR after the dissolution of the Soviet-Union: stresses that these aspects continue to have an influence on these societies in transition, and influence the concrete expectations and rights of citizens to determine the future of their state and society;

17. Underlines the need for the reorientation of EU’s Eastern Partnership policy; calls for an end to policies which force the countries of the region to choose between cooperating either with the EU or the Russian Federation; recalls that Belarus, long before the current conflict erupted, decided to establish a special relationship with the Russian Federation and cooperation within the Eurasian Economic Union;

18. Stresses the urgent need for a regional dialogue, including Russia and the EU, aimed at diminishing political tensions in the region, re-establishing trust and promoting mutually fruitful economic, trade and cultural relations and enabling all civil stakeholders to determine the own political and constitutional and legal structures;

19. Notes with great concern the military build-up at the borders between the EU and Russia; is concerned that the political instability in Belarus adds to the military confrontation between NATO and Russia; calls for the withdrawal of NATO forces from the borders of Russia and for a start to disarmament negotiations with a view to ending the military build-up in Europe and diminishing the rising danger of war;

20. Instructs its President to forward this resolution to the Council, the Commission, and the Vice-President of the Commission / High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, the parliaments and governments of the Member States, and the Government of Belarus.

Last updated: 8 June 2021
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