Demonstrators must be released, says Seibert
Following protests that targeted social wrongs there were a large number of arrests in Minsk, the capital of Belarus, and in other towns and cities. The German government has noted this development with concern, said government spokesperson Steffen Seibert on Monday at the government press conference.
Respecting democratic rights
"The Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) has already criticised the arbitrary detentions and unnecessary use of force against protestors, and the German government concurs with this criticism." Freedom of assembly and freedom of the press, as well as freedom of expression in public are democratic rights laid down by law, stressed the spokesperson.
The harsh line taken by local authorities against citizens who were peacefully exercising these rights raises the question of proportionality. "The German government calls on the government of Belarus to release demonstrators and journalists without delay."
The former Soviet Republic of Belarus became independent in 1991 when the Soviet Union collapsed. Since the presidential elections in 1994, the country has been ruled by President Alexander Lukashenko. Elections on 19 December 2010 that failed to comply with OSCE standards were followed by violent actions on the part of law enforcement agents on the evening of the election itself. More than 700 demonstrators were arrested. The EU imposed sanctions in response to the wave of repression against the opposition, the independent media and civil society. Following the largely repression-free presidential elections in 2016 most sanctions were lifted.