Press release

Belarus: Freedom House Condemns Persecution of Coordination Council

A criminal probe signals the regime’s refusal to seek a peaceful resolution of the present crisis.

In response to the launch of a criminal investigation against the Coordination Council, which unites a broad spectrum of civic and political leaders calling for dialogue and peaceful negotiations with the government to resolve the current post election crisis in Belarus, Freedom House issued the following statement:

“We are outraged by the launch of criminal proceedings against members of the Coordination Council, which has formed with the sole objective of facilitating a peaceful dialogue with the current government of Belarus,” said Marc Behrendt, director of Europe and Eurasia programs at Freedom House. “The decision to prosecute Coordination Council members on charges of attempting to seize power and undermine Belarusian national security is a clear indication of outgoing president Alyaksandr Lukashenka’s refusal to seek a peaceful resolution to the present crisis. In addition to political representatives, the council is composed of prominent cultural and artistic figures, business leaders, former officials, trade union representatives, civic activists, and human rights defenders, distinguished in their commitment to peacefully and lawfully represent the voice of the Belarusian people. The Belarusian authorities should immediately drop all criminal charges against Coordination Council members, release all individuals detained on political grounds, and enter a good-faith dialogue with the people of Belarus regarding free and fair elections.”

Background:

On August 20, the prosecutor general of Belarus launched a criminal inquiry against members of the Coordination Council, alleging that its activities are “unconstitutional” and “aimed at seizing power and undermining the national security of Belarus.” The creation of the Coordination Council was announced by former presidential candidate Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya on August 18, with the aim of ensuring a peaceful resolution of the political crisis that followed the government’s brutal and disproportionate use of force against people nonviolently protesting the deeply flawed August 9 presidential election. The council includes several dozen prominent civic leaders, among them former minister of culture Pavel Latushka and Sviatlana Aleksiyevich, winner of the 2015 Nobel Prize in Literature. If found guilty, Coordination Council members could face up to five years in prison.

Belarus is rated Not Free in Freedom in the World 2020 and Not Free in Freedom on the Net 2019, and is categorized as a Consolidated Authoritarian Regime in Nations in Transit 2020.