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Belarus: Political Prisoners

Question for Foreign and Commonwealth Office

UIN 65868, tabled on 28 February 2017

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs, what recent estimate he has made of the number of political prisoners in Belarus; and what representations he has made to his Belarusian counterpart on the reinstatement of the civil and political rights of former political prisoners in that country.

Answered on

7 March 2017

It is the longstanding policy of the UK to oppose the use of the death penalty in all circumstances as a matter of principle. We use every opportunity to call on Belarus to establish an immediate moratorium on the use of the death penalty, as a first step towards abolition. For example, the UK funded a landmark conference 'Abolition of the Death Penalty and Public Opinion' organised by the Council of Europe in co-operation with the Belarus Ministry of Foreign Affairs, in Minsk in December 2016.

Despite some positive developments, the overall human rights situation in Belarus remains marred by systematic violations. The last EU-Belarus Human Rights Dialogue took place in June 2016. The dialogue allowed for an extensive exchange of views on the situation of human rights both in Belarus and in the European Union. The next EU-Belarus Human Rights Dialogue will take place in June 2017.

The British Government remains concerned about restrictions on the rights to freedom of expression and of association, particularly the freedom of the media, which remains severely limited. We continue to urge the Belarusian authorities to eliminate all obstacles to the exercise of a free and independent media, including through the registration of new media outlets and the accreditation of journalists.

The Government does not currently recognise any prisoners in Belarus as being political prisoners. The release of political prisoners in August 2015 was a welcome step. We continue to urge the Government of Belarus to reinstate the full civil and political rights of released political prisoners.