Saturday, June 25, 2005

The Twilight of Tyranny?

Two reports from Radio Free Europe suggest time may be running out on Belarussian dictator, Alexander Lukashenka. (It couldn't come too soon!)

1) In an open letter to Belarusian President Alyaksandr Lukashenka published on 23 June at, the Council for Promoting Civil Society and Human Rights (SSRIGOPCh) under Russian President Vladimir Putin expressed its concern about "the unfavorable situation with civic rights and freedoms" in Belarus. The council, which is an advisory body whose head is appointed by Putin, said that Belarus has virtually no independent "sociopolitical media," nongovernmental and human rights organizations are being gradually liquidated by the administration, and electoral legislation does not ensure " legitimate results of the expression of the people's will."

The council also pointed to "overtly unfriendly steps" that are being taken by the Belarusian government against Russia, including squeezing Russian electronic media from Belarus's information sphere and censuring their programs, confiscating Russian commodities at Belarusian border checkpoints, and infringing on the rights of Russians who are in conflict with the Belarusian legal system. "The council is very influential but it does not reflect the state policy [stance]," SSRIGOPCh member Sergei Markov told RFE/RL's Belarus Service.

Council of Europe Parliamentary Assembly (PACE) deputy Christos Pourgourides said on 23 June that the Russian government is "bound to abandon Alyaksandr Lukashenka pretty soon," Belapan reported. He added that Lukashenka will "have no legs to stand on" without Russia's support. The previous day, the PACE subcommittee on Belarus adopted a resolution urging Russia to "make any political or financial assistance to the government of Belarus conditional on respect for the human rights and civil liberties of the people of Belarus."

It also approved a draft memorandum criticizing the Belarusian authorities over the ongoing crackdown on political opponents and independent media outlets and calling for specific steps to unseat the Lukashenka regime. The Belarusian Foreign Ministry said in response that PACE does not have an impartial view of the situation in Belarus and lacks any tools to influence it.