Dear Mr. Minster,
We would like to thank the Government of Latvia and you personally for your support of the democratic movement in Belarus for many years.
Knowing that you are going to visit Minsk, we would like to remind you about the continuing human rights violations in Belarus. For many years, the two main conditions for improving relations between the European Union and Belarus were the release of all political prisoners and a proper investigation of political disappearances.
Four prominent politicians and activists disappeared in Belarus just before the second presidential election in 2001: Yuri Zakharenko, former Interior Minister; Victor Gonchar, former Vice Speaker of Parliament; Anatoly Krasovsky, a businessman who financed the opposition; and Dmitry Zavadsky, a journalist.
In 2004, based on investigatory work carried out by the Special Rapporteur Christos Pourgourides of the Parliamentary Assembly of Council of Europe, Resolution 1371 (2004) “Disappeared persons in Belarus” concluded
“[A] proper investigation of the disappearances has not been carried out by the competent Belarusian authorities. On the contrary, the information gathered by the rapporteur leads it to believe that steps were taken at the highest level of the state to actively cover up the true circumstances of the disappearances and to suspect that senior officials of the state may themselves be involved in these disappearances……… it [is] hard to believe that the above could have taken place without the knowledge of the President.”
In 2004, four high ranking officials suspected in organizing disappearances of political opponents and mentioned in the Report were put on visa ban lists in the European Union, United States, and Canada. In 2006, Lukashenka was added to these sanctions lists.
Despite numerous resolutions of international organizations including the United Nations Human Rights Committee, the United Nations Working Group on Enforced and Involuntary Disappearances, the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, and the Inter-Parliamentary Union demanding an investigation of these cases, the Government of Belarus continues to ignore these demands.
Mr. Minister, during your upcoming visit to Minsk we would like to ask you to raise the question of fulfilling the demands of the UN Human Rights Committee and other international institutions to investigate the cases of political disappearances in Belarus as well as to release all political prisoners.
We also would like to ask the Government of Latvia in its capacity as President of the Council of the European Union to remind Belarus authorities that respect for Human Rights remains the precondition for normalizing relations with the European Union and the rest of the democratic world. Without justice for political prisoners and the disappeared there will not be a future for free and independent Belarus.