COPENHAGEN, 20 July 2012 (Русский) – The OSCE Parliamentary Assembly intends to send a full observation mission to the 23 September Belarus Parliamentary Elections.

President Riccardo Migliori called the mission "a crucial moment of our activity" in announcing the Belarus election observation in his inaugural address in Monaco. He appointed Italian MP Matteo Mecacci, chair of the OSCE PA human rights committee, to lead the observation mission in Belarus.

No OSCE PA elected official has been granted access to Belarus since 2010 when more than 50 parliamentarians observed the presidential election. The OSCE observation mission, led by British MP Tony Lloyd that year was critical of the lack of transparency during ballot counting and since then the OSCE PA has been exceedingly concerned about the freedom of movement in the country and the plight of political prisoners.

"We come into this election observation with an open mind and outstretched hand to our friends in Belarus," Mecacci said. "It is our hope that we witness marked improvement from the last election and that all people, including some now under house arrest or in prison, will be allowed to participate in the parliamentary election without intimidation or restrictions."

On 9 July the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly voted overwhelmingly to pass a resolution on Belarus that calls on the government to immediately and unconditionally release and exonerate all political prisoners in Belarus, reinstate legal licenses of lawyers who were disbarred for defending opposition and civil society representatives, and allow representatives of the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly to visit political prisoners incarcerated in Belarus.

OSCE PA Programme Director Anna Chernova participated in a Needs Assessment Mission 16-18 July with the OSCE Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights.

Officials in Minsk stated their willingness to co-operate with an OSCE election observation mission in line with the government's official invitation which welcomed OSCE observers without restrictions.

The Needs Assessment Mission met with election officials, parliamentarians, registered and unregistered political parties and movements, presidential administration, ministries of foreign affairs, information, and justice, as well as state media, independent journalists and non-governmental organizations.

The OSCE PA observed elections in Belarus in 1995, 2001, 2004, 2006, 2008 and 2010.